Let’s Convert Island Airport Lands to Parkland

Updated: Jul 16

Press Release – For Immediate Release

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Porter Airlines plane landing at the Toronto Island Airport

A new group of civic minded Torontonians are proposing a bold new move on Toronto’s waterfront. Parks Not Planes is calling for the 215 acres of the Island Airport lands to be combined with the rest of the Toronto Island Park, creating a magnificent park on our waterfront – a park as large as New York’s iconic Central Park.


Parks Not Planes wants Toronto to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand the Island Park for everyone.


The Airport’s Days are Numbered

The City of Toronto’s rent-free lease of City‑owned lands to Ports Toronto, the operator of the Island Airport, ends on June 30, 2033, with no right to renew[1]. Those lands comprise ~20% of the Airport lands[2], and without a renewal, the Airport cannot operate.


The Island Airport has a decades-long history of failed airlines[3] and the current main tenant, City Express operated STOL aircraft from the Island Airport from 1984, but ceased operating in 1991, when it became bankrupt. Air Ontario commenced its STOL service from the Airport in 1990, but also failed to find enough business. Its traffic declined steadily, with 2001 levels approximating 90,000, and 2002 levels projected at 80,000. Porter Airlines, was incurring significant losses[4] even before its lengthy pandemic shutdown. It has threatened to leave the Island Airport, and is commencing jet operations at Pearson Airport.


A Dire Need for More Parkland

The waterfront development boom of the past two decades has brought thousands more residents to Toronto’s downtown core, and those who live in these high-rise buildings have precious little access to green space. People from all over Toronto and beyond flocking to Toronto Island. An expanded Island Park would create much more space for people to stroll, enjoy wildlife, picnic, swim, go canoeing and kayaking, or just sit and enjoy the magnificent Toronto skyline.


The dire shortage of parkland in downtown Toronto was confirmed by the City in its 2019 Parkland Strategy report.


When the decision is made to convert the airports lands into a park, the high wire fence separating the airport from the Island Park will be torn down and an 800 acre park will emerge. The park will be 6 kilometers in length, stretching from the Western Gap to the Eastern Gap. It will be surrounded by water with inlets and lagoons. Hanlan’s Beach will stretch from Gibraltar Point to the Western Gap, the longest beach in the GTA. There will be space for people to stroll, enjoy wildlife, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, canoeing, kayaking and small sailboats or just sitting and enjoying the skyline.


A Game-changer

Closing the Airport would allow pedestrian access to the Island via the already - existing tunnel and relieve the long line-ups and crush of passengers on the ferries and private water taxis in the high-season.


A Win for the Environment

The environmental benefits of closing the Island Airport are indisputable: improved air quality, noise reduction, and wildlife preservation. And the message from Glasgow’s COP26 climate conference is clear: we can’t go back to business as usual. Reducing our reliance on air travel is crucial to cutting our carbon emissions.


A Win for Social Justice

For centuries, the Toronto Islands were occupied by the Mississaugas of the Credit, continuing well into the 1790s when Toronto was established as a town. The City of Toronto is drawing up a new Master Plan for the Toronto Island Park, and there is keen public support for highlighting the Island’s Indigenous heritage. Inviting the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation into the design process for the Airport lands would be an important gesture toward reparation for the historic wrongs of colonialism.


A Win for Safety

There are long-standing safety issues at the Island Airport related to its short runway[5], the impossibility of prompt emergency access[6] and the proximity of many tall buildings.


FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Angelo Bertolas

abertolas@outlook.com

416 371 1555


Brian Iler

biler@ilercampbell.com

416-835-4384



 

[1] An agreement among the City, Ports Toronto, and Transport Canada, called the Tripartite Agreement, is, essentially, a lease of those lands. It can be found here.


[2] The City’s lands are coloured green in this plan:


[3] City Express operated STOL aircraft from the Island Airport from 1984, but ceased operating in 1991, when it became bankrupt. Air Ontario commenced its STOL service from the Airport in 1990, but also failed to find enough business. Its traffic declined steadily, with 2001 levels approximating 90,000, and 2002 levels projected at 80,000.


[4] As reported in the Globe and Mail on June 2, 2021,

Robert Deluce, Porter’s founder, told Nieuport chief executive officer Neil Pakey in a letter dated Dec. 21, 2018, that the airline was forecast to lose almost $40-million in 2018.


[5] Transport Canada has confirmed extended runway safety areas will be required at the Island Airport. The Toronto Boaters’ Alliance report illustrates the difficulty in complying with that requirement.


[6] This letter, from two City Councillors in 2015, sets out the concerns.


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