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