My Watermark is the Toronto Harbour of Lake Ontario.
My Toronto Harbour story is something I experience almost everyday on my morning bike commute to work.
I work down near Jarvis street and I live in Roncesvalles, so it's a really natural commute route. Whether I’m running or cycling to head west or east along the harbour front. I’ve spent many years going through that area and it's been really amazing to see the evolution of that space, and to see how engaged the public is with the water front. Particularly with all the development happening there.
I can also remember a bunch of summers biking down the Sunnyside Amusement Pavilion and going swimming out there as well, despite the fact that it’s Lake Ontario and it’s freezing.
It’s actually really interesting when the pavilion was built in 1982, the idea was that everybody would go swimming down there, and it would be great. And that whole plan lasted for about three years. And because it was so cold and nobody was going swimming in the pavilion they decided to build what is now the Gus Ryder Pool next door.
But you still see it in the summertime, that there are some people who want still want the nice heated pool. And then you have people who say no, I live on the shore of Lake Ontario and they would rather swim in the lake. And that’s something I’ve always strongly believed in is living near a body of water because it's a sign that there's life there and there will be vitality.
My husband actually grew up on a cottage near Algonquin Park, so he's a very hearty swimmer. Where a I grew up in warmer, smaller bodies of water or at local pools in chlorinated water. Where when you get out your whole body feels gross from all the chlorine. Swimming in Lake Ontario is not for the faint or weak of heart, in that it’s really cold.
But it’s really refreshing and nice to be able to do it on a whim and not worry about the pool being open. For example, the first day of spring me and my husband biked out to the beaches. It was warm enough on the Easter weekend that if I didn’t have a 20km bike ride home I would have totally went in for a dip.
I don’t remember the first time I went for a swim in the harbour, but it’s something that’s always been important to me. Especially living near water my whole life. I want others to have the same accessibility and use out of the water as I have had over the years. And it’s something people have been doing in Toronto for generations.
To me the concept of the harbour is a little obscure in away. I haven’t swam in the lake but I have taken ferries across Lake Ontario to the Toronto Islands. So I have technically been on the harbour but I think half the time I’m on the harbour I don’t realise it. We often forget where we are in the rush of the everyday. So recognizing spaces like the harbour front is important.
To me it’s about being spontaneous and hopping on a bike or street car and heading down to the water. That's something me and my husband love to do, just hop on the ferry and go for a bike ride on the Islands.
I also love being a historian of the water and seeing how the harbour and its uses have changed over time. From a recreational standpoint, in the water they would often do ice-boat races. Which looks really weird, because you have these boats racing in the dead of winter across sections of the harbour, it’s very obscure.
It goes back to again how people have changed the way we use the water. Sometimes I will walk down to Sugar Beach and I always pay attention to when the Redpath Sugar boat pulls into the harbour. And the first thing you notice is not the giant boat, but you notice the smell of burnt sugar.
The industrialization of the harbour front has been an important part of Toronto's History. But now that we’re in a post-industrial city I think we often forget that there is still that industrial impact here. Even though most of the businesses at the harbour front are now gone. Redpath is one of the only ones remaining from the remnants of that culture into the harbour.