Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

The view from the Toronto Island Marina on Center Island is one of the most magnificent the city has to offer, especially at night when the CN tower hovers over a glittering skyline.

Until you turn around and look at the marina grounds.

The grounds are filled with discarded boats, some decades old, some filled with debris and plants growing out of the hull. A recent visit to the site found several dilapidated boats and even the cab of an old pickup and rotting rowboats and canoes that disintegrated on racks.

The site is located on publicly owned land rented by the city by the marina, and is a short walk from the ferry port on Center Island in the Toronto Islands, one of the city’s most popular and foreign tourist destinations.

The marina and its grounds are open to the public – there is even a restaurant and bar, mostly patronized by sailors and their visitors.

The grounds are an eye ulcer that has largely gone unnoticed by the general public, and it is one that sailors are reluctant to complain about; they like their bunks at the 350 boat dock and they will not make waves.

On June 10, city staff attended a meeting with naval personnel to inspect the property, confirm that the security measures discussed were implemented and verify that the work of clearing debris was completed, according to the city.

Those willing to speak on the record point to recent efforts to clean things up.

“They’ve done a tremendous amount of work cleaning up,” said boat owner Jamie Cummings, who lives on a boat at the marina from May to October. “It’s definitely an improvement. Hopefully they just keep doing it.”

The problem, according to Navy Chief Gordon Ballantyne, is “people and their stuff.”

The marina is only in operation in the summer. In winter, people pay to have their boats stored on site. In some cases, when owners become dissatisfied with sailing and the fees exceed the value of the boat, they never come back and leave the marina with the cost of having the abandoned vessel removed or destroyed.

In the past, it was possible to gift abandoned boats or sell them for a small fee to people who would invest in getting them back in the water. But there are fewer of those people around, and the price of an entry-level boat is now low enough that people would rather invest the thousands of dollars it can take to rehabilitate an old boat to buy a new one, Ballantyne says. .

Over the years, the grounds of the Toronto Islands Marina have become a dumping ground for old boats and boat parts, bicycles, trailers, batteries and even old propane tanks.

The mess has not gone unnoticed. Amidst stacks of five-star Google reviews, which often praise staff, a “local guide” wrote in 2019: “What a dump! It’s a real crossroads between (a) landfill and a marine burial ground (sic). Many vessels have been abandoned here to rot, and they’re doing pretty well, too. “

A fire at the site on May 21 attracted the attention of the Toronto Fire and city authorities.

Ballantyne said the fire started outdoors, possibly caused by a discarded cigarette, and traveled about 15 feet to include a stored dinghy and dock box, where owners store equipment such as life jackets.

“After reviewing the incident report from Toronto Fire Services, talking to the tenant and visiting the site, the city subsequently requested that the tenant comply with the implementation of security measures to prevent a similar incident in the future,” a city spokesman said. , in response to questions from Star.

“The tenant acknowledged the incident and shared the remedial actions they took, including clearing waste, providing additional cigarette waste containers, increased property inspections and a review of operating protocols.”

On June 10, city staff from parks, forestry and recreation and real estate business management attended a meeting with naval personnel to inspect the property, confirm that the security measures discussed were implemented and verify that waste clearing work was completed, according to the city. .

The marina is only in operation in the summer.  In some cases, when owners become dissatisfied with sailing, they never return, leaving the marina at the expense of having the abandoned vessel removed or destroyed.

grev. Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), said the issue has not been brought to the attention of his office by voters, but added that city staff will visit the site on a regular basis to check on the progress of the cleanup.

“… These lands are townhouses leased to the Toronto Island Marina and should be maintained in a way that is safe and enhances the island’s experience,” Cressy wrote in response to a Star question.

Ballantyne said abandoned and abandoned boats are a problem that many other marinas face.

He said the Toronto Island Marina has been trying to relocate the remains for about the past five years, but was interrupted by two years of flooding and the pandemic.

Many of the abandoned boats appear decades older than that.

Ballantyne said the marina was recently able to hire a company that destroys the boats on site, which is faster and cheaper than pulling full boats away. It also donated about 80 abandoned bicycles to a charity.

Ballantyne said the marina has also realized that the abandoned boats sit on valuable land that could be used to generate more revenue.

He said the marina is also in the process of tagging abandoned canoes and dinghies in order to remove them.

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering City Hall and municipal politics for Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF

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