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Taking A Dump On The Spit

The Leslie Spit is a dump—literally. Also known as Tommy Thompson Park and the Outer Harbour East Headland, the human-made Spit is gradually and continually changing shape as the Toronto Port Authority still employs the southern side as an active dumping ground for non-toxic construction debris, which is how the whole thing was created in the first place.
Visitors to our remarkable accidental sanctuary are used to sharing the car-free, naturalized environment with eroded bricks and rusty steel rebar, erecting odd little sculptures and cairns amongst the slabs of broken sidewalk and ceramic floor tile. This year, however, we have a comment on what’s become of Vicki Keith Point; site of the Toronto harbour lighthouse.

It’s not the live dumping zone we object to, which is eventually slated to be parkland anyway. Actually, the colourful bricks ground down by erosion along the waterline are often quite beautiful, and they remind us how a dingy artificial breakwater can evolve into an environmentally significant and unique nature preserve that Torontonians can be proud of. Since last year, however, the land at the southernmost point around the lighthouse has become a wasteland of razor-sharp metal, carelessly dumped and scattered from trucks without a thought to the area’s utility.
Vicky Keith Point is the south extremity of the Leslie Spit, located almost five kilometers from the entrance of the park at the foot of Leslie Street. It is here where the Canadian marathon swimmer launched and landed her philanthropic solo swims across the lake, and Keith was honoured by the City of Toronto in 1998 when the terminus was named for her. The automated, solar-powered lighthouse and the road circling around it has become a landmark for park tourists, affording one of the best views of the city skyline as well as back over the Spit and out across the lake.
Last summer, the loop around the point was relatively clean and green, save for the rough edges of the waterline. Bikes could continue along the road and pedestrians could walk through the area without worrying too much about needing a tetanus shot. Since then, it’s become a shrapnel minefield, with twisted, serrated steel blocking the path of vulnerable bicycle tires and so many tapered curls of rebar underfoot that hikers are safer to stay away.
Which is sad. Granted, Vicki Keith Point is still part of the active disposal territory, yet logic would seem to dictate that the offal be dropped either at the edge of the waterline or elsewhere along the south shore rather than in a small area trafficked and obviously enjoyed by people. Being the southernmost point with one of the best views on the peninsula, it’s a natural draw for visitors, and it’s time for the dump trucks to leave it alone.
Here’s hoping the Toronto Port Authority will recognize the importance of this tiny plot and let it grow over so the public can better appreciate it—or at least dump the steel rods and shredded metal further down the shore for the sake of our tires and shins. And if you haven’t been down to the Spit before, make it a goal for this summer. It’s extraordinary.
Photos by Marc Lostracco


  • Hamish Grant

    Marc did anyone from Torontoist get in contact with the Port Authority about this for a reaction/statement?

  • Mark Dowling

    let’s hope the people stealing bell boxes and vases from cemetaries hear about this so they can take that metal instead!

  • Marc Lostracco

    No, the Port Authority doesn’t like me very much, but they aren’t technically doing anything wrong since the area around the point is still part of the legal dumping zone controlled by the TPA. I’m not calling for them to stop dumping in that area, which is primarily dumpland along the south side anyway, but rather just to stop dumping the debris around the base of the lighthouse where the road/bike path is.
    In previous years, there still were steel shards dropped along the shore by the lighthouse, but the area beneath it was kept clear. In the top photo, you can barely see it, but you’ll make out the debris field going right up against the base of the hill. In between the photo foreground and the hill is the roadway, and it’s currently virtually impassible by bicycle.
    The dumping won’t stop because that’s exactly the purpose of the area during the week, but what I’d like for them to do is be aware that people use the end of the Spit too, and that’s very important. Technically, the TPA doesn’t have to do anything and they could scatter the area with razor blades if they wanted, and I’m sure the truck drivers aren’t aware that perhaps it would be a better idea to deposit the fill a few metres down the shore.
    But, that’s part of what I find so fascinating about the Leslie Spit—a shared conservation area, construction zone and clean fill dump. When I’m there, it’s so interesting to remember that I’m walking or riding on top of old Toronto, dismantled and buried as a result of the massive development boom of the 60s and 70s and made into something beautiful. I even think the debris fields along the south shore are beautiful, in a bombed-out warzone kind of way. Where else can you see this and then turn around and see this? Awesome.

  • Jonathan

    I love the spit and ride my bike through it at least once a weekend. It’s a great place for riding as, unlike the Martin Goodman Trail, the road is actually wide enough to accommodate all the mixed activities people are using it for.
    I’ve noticed the debris encroaching toward the path at the point to and have stopped riding as close to the point as usual. It is still passable, but I agree it is getting a little too littered.
    An advance warning to people wanting to go to see the point, it’s not a short trip! The spit is very long and it can get very hot in the summer. It is worth the trip though and it’s another reminder that there’s more to the waterfront that Bathurst to Jarvis.

  • Carrie

    Yes, it is a long haul…about 4-5km from the entrance to the point. If you’re going to walk, have a ton of water with you and sunscreen! I wouldn’t do it without my bike, that’s for sure.

  • Metal Mania

    With all the scavengers downtown picking up beer & wine bottles up off the street; why couldn’t they have a sideline in scrap metal pick up a public place.
    Maybe Miller should put a lien on the dump for the scrap metal value for all those back taxes the Port Authority owes the citizens of Toronto. Deadbeats!