The Toronto Island Master Plan is being co-created with Indigenous rightsholders, local stakeholders and the general public. The ideas, thoughts and other feedback we receive during the engagement process will feed directly into the planning process and help to shape the Master Plan. This page documents progress on the Master Plan and includes engagement summaries, reports and other updates on the project.
Follow our progress as we build the Toronto Island Park Master Plan together.
There are seven key components to building the Master Plan: Drivers of Change, Vision, Values, Guiding Principles, Big Moves, Actions and Concept Options. Each component continuously feeds into one another, influencing the overall Plan.
A ‘Driver of Change’ is an underlying challenge or opportunity that is driving the need for improvements to the Toronto Island Park. They are the reasons ‘why’ the Master Plan will be developed and will form the foundation of the Plan.
Based on community engagement so far, the draft Drivers of Change are:
Since time immemorial, the Island has been a place of escape, respite, and healing. It is also a place for family and friends that supports a wide range of diverse users (the Indigenous community, families, newcomers, LGBTQ2S+) and experiences (hiking, biking, picnicking, days at the amusement park, lazy afternoons at the beach). It is important that the Island Master Plan creates opportunities to tell the story of the Island while reinforcing its existing character as a waterfront destination park that is safe and welcoming for all.
The Island is an important Indigenous place, and has been for millennia. For the Michi Saagiig, it was simply known as Mnisiing, meaning “on the islands.” Later, they were collectively known as Aiionwatha or Hiawatha’s Island. It was long considered a place of healing and ceremony for Indigenous people. But this rich history and living culture is not reflected in Toronto Island Park as it exists today. The Master Plan process provides an opportunity to restore the Toronto Islands as an Indigenous place through storytelling and ceremony and by incorporating Indigenous approaches to land stewardship and placekeeping.
Currently, programming on the Island occurs mainly during the summer months, limiting opportunities for all-seasons enjoyment of the park. There is also limited information and no centralized location for promoting and informing Island users about available programming, either for planning purposes online or once people get to the Island. Expanding programming opportunities is impacted by the difficulties vendors experience accessing the island and a complicated permitting process that is not tailored to specific conditions on the Island or to event size. In addition, existing lease agreements limit opportunities to expand food and beverage options.
Reaching the island is difficult in all seasons, from both a transportation and equity perspective. This is especially true during the winter months and for people with low-incomes or who live far from downtown. This can present a significant barrier to many people accessing the island. Circulation and getting around the island itself and reaching its many points of interest and destinations is also challenging since on Island transportation options are limited.
Finding your way around the Island’s 330 Hectares of parkland is difficult because wayfinding and signage throughout the park is limited and not well coordinated. In addition, there is no way for park users to access comprehensive information about programming, ferry schedules, flooding, beach conditions, etc. This can be further complicated by intermittent cell service or WIFI on much of the island.
Delivery of efficient and effective park operations on the Island are challenged by the lack of a system-wide approach and coordination between different City divisions overseeing various park management activities and functions. This can make event management especially difficult for third-party events and permit holders.
Most facilities on the Island, including but not limited to ferry docks, washrooms, and concession buildings, were built decades ago and many are in a deteriorating state. The lack of winterization of facilities also limits opportunities for winter use of the Island.
The Island’s amenities include its beaches, internal waterways, amusement park, bike and canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals, sporting facilities, and food and beverage options are a major part of the park’s draw in the summertime, but not all of them are created equal. Some, like the Island’s tennis courts, are significantly underutilized, while others, like the food and beverage options, lack diversity and are not meeting the needs of existing users.
Toronto Island is essentially a sandbar and has always been subject and vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature. It is a dynamic environment that is constantly changing. The recent high lake effect has led to flooding and erosion, which has significantly impacted Torontonians’ ability to use and enjoy the Island, and further degradation from these impacts needs to be mitigated. Park users are not aware of their impacts on the Island’s sensitive ecosystems, such as sand dunes and forested areas. The Island Master Plan should address these impacts and ensure that Island users understand their role as stewards of this important park.
One of the defining features of the Island is the access it provides to water and the views across Lake Ontario or towards the city skyline. Recent flooding and erosion (especially in the last five years), has resulted in significant impacts to the beaches and natural and engineered shorelines of the Island. This has limited beach access, boardwalks and other shoreline areas across the Islands, limiting park users’ ability to enjoy them.
The population of downtown Toronto is growing at a pace that far exceeds the rate of growth for the city as a whole, with 10,000 residents added each year. According to the City’s new TOcore Downtown Secondary Plan, downtown could nearly double in size by 2041, to reach a population of 475,000. TOcore and City’s Parkland Strategy have also identified that downtown Toronto is highly parkland deficient and have further linked population growth with increased demand and use of parks. As Toronto and its downtown grow, the park system needs to expand with it.
Further, changing demographics and most recently the global pandemic are giving rise to new trends and use patterns that can also be seen to be influencing the Toronto Islands. These changes and trends need to be better understood to inform decisions around improving island services and experiences. Toronto’s park system will need to expand and improve as the city grows to ensure that parkland is accessible, functional, connected, and resilient as is addressing new trends for services and amenities.
For many years, the Island has inspired artists, writers, composers, musicians, photographers and creative people from all walks of life. Today, it is home to a rich artist community complete with recording studios, artists residency programs and outdoor galleries, and it continues to serve as a backdrop and inspiration for creative people from around Toronto and beyond. The Master Plan presents an opportunity to celebrate and support the arts and culture community to continue to be a source of inspiration and contribute to the Island’s unique character and identity.
The ‘Vision’ is an aspirational statement that describes what Toronto Island Park will become in the short and long term future. It will answer the question, “Where do you see Toronto Island Park in five, ten, and many years to come?”
The Vision statement will be developed in Phase One of the engagement process from February to April 2021. Updates will be posted here.
Values are the fundamental collective beliefs that the Master Plan will eventually embody. They will be high-level statements that will guide the development of the Master Plan. The Values will be developed through Phase One of the process and will be posted here.
The ‘Guiding Principles’ are similar to the Values, except that they are more directed and defined statements that will guide the direction of what Toronto Island Park will become. Based on community engagement so far, here are the preliminary Guiding Principles.
The Master Plan will ensure that Toronto Island Park becomes:
Outcomes of the Phase One engagement process from February to April 2021 will inform the final Guiding Principles. Updates will be posted here.
‘Big Moves’ are strategic directions and actions. They will be based on site investigation and public engagement and will be informed by the Vision, Values, and Guiding Principles to identify future outcomes and concepts of the Master Plan. The Big Moves will be developed during Phase Two, based on the outcomes of Phase One. Updates will be posted here.
Concept plans are multiple design options that capture the Vision, Values, Guiding Principles, and Big Moves. They will be developed during Phase Two, based on the outcomes of Phase One. Updates will be posted here.
The preferred concept plan is the final draft of the Master Plan and will be developed in Phase Three. Updates will be posted here.
Presentations and summary reports from all public engagement opportunities will be posted here in reverse chronological order.
Research and studies of the Toronto Island Park are important to the development of the Toronto Island Master Plan. Updates will be posted here when they are available.
While we aim to provide fully accessible content, there is no text alternative available for some of the content on this site. If you require alternate formats or need assistance understanding our maps, drawings, or any other content, please contact Lori Ellis at 647-427–5331or email@example.com.