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Toronto: Scenes From A City: The Leslie Spit

Toronto: Scenes From A City: The Leslie Spit

One of my favourite places to go bike riding is the Leslie Spit, also known as Tommy Thompson Park. The Spit is mostly man-made and extends about 5 km into Lake Ontario, covering over 500 hectares of area. It has been a work-in-progress since the late 1950s and is a secret paradise for nature enthusiasts, birders,and bikers, such as myself. Biking, blading or walking, you don’t really feel you are that far out into the lake until you reach the tip of the Spit. It’s then you see just how far out you’ve travelled.

Lilies

Blanket of water lilies

One of the reasons you don’t feel the distance is the stunning variety of flora and fauna that grace the Spit. Protected as a conservation area (no motor vehicles other than conservation authority ones are permitted), this unique creation is rife with migratory birds, and ground life as diverse as snakes, rabbits and groundhogs. I have heard there are coyote on the Spit but I’ve never seen one. There are also lovely little marshy Edens ticked in parts of the Spit where water lilies bloom, bullrushes gently bend to soft breezes and ducks bob in bliss, preening while they paddle.

Peace in the city

Peace in the city

While the journey through the meandering paved roads and dirt paths is gloriously peaceful and filled with the sounds of birds, the real cherry on the cake is the final destination: the Light House. This is the beacon out in the lake where walkers and riders all gather to admire the views and breezes. You actually look in to the Toronto Islands as you are now on the south side of them. 

City in the trees

City in the trees

Of course, there are the magnificent views of the Toronto skyline that you can only really appreciate from out in the lake or on the islands. It’s also out in this area where you will discover the rookeries and nesting areas for seagulls, terns and cormorants. While it may be tempting to wander in and have a closer look at the gull nesting areas, be warned: they are officially off-limits to people and you will be attacked on site by hundreds of gulls whose main weapon of defence is white-washing interlopers. Think about it.

The birds! Cormies on the wing.

The birds! Cormies on the wing.

The skies are filled with birds. It’s like an avian freeway with flocks and trails of gulls and cormorants on flight sorties to find food for their young. An interesting fact about the cormorants is their poop is acidic and toxic. I recall being on the Spit at least 15 years ago and seeing the beginnings of the cormorants nesting in the great, bushy trees at the end of the peninsula. There may have been a dozen or so in those days. These days those original trees are long gone, having fallen victim to the caustic sauce produced by the beautiful black birds, who now number in the hundreds.

The lonely lighthouse

The lonely lighthouse

If you’ve never visited this urban oasis, do yourself a favour and get out your best walking shoes or wheels and explore. The entrance is at the foot of Leslie Street. It truly is a place to escape the hectic hum, heat and haze of the big city—in the big city.

All photos by Andrew Vail.

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Andrew Vails writing career began in Halifax when he was but a child. In Grade 4, he wrote and produced his own series of comic books entitled “Freaky The Frog”, the on-going tale of a little misfit frog and his pals of the pond. Marvel Comics never came knocking but Andrew knew he loved to create and tell stories. Since then, Andrew has worked in advertising, PR and publicity; has interviewed politicians, rock stars and very interesting yet not-so-famous movers and shakers. He has published articles in a variety of local and national magazines and websites. Andrew is currently working on the project queer50.com.


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