Should you find yourself fortunate enough to be spending the Labour Day weekend in our fair city, consider a trip to Tommy Thompson Park. While most people looking to escape go north, far north, to places where â€œTorontoâ€ is considered by some near-profanity, travel south, along Leslie Street, to where it turns into the Leslie Street Spit. Here, the rubble and remains of forgotten buildings merge with wilderness to create the city’s most surreal park.
Stretching out about five kilometers from the mainland, the unique environment feels like some kind of unsanctioned playground with incredible views of the cityscape. To the east, because of the slope of the city, a great swath of the urban forest’s green canopy goes on uninterrupted with unseen houses below until it reaches the cluster buildings standing tall at Kingston Road and Victoria Park.
Travel to an edge of the peninsula to realize the true charm of the place. What you’ll find is what makes up most of the ground you’re standing on: broken concrete, rebar, and bricks, all victims of Toronto’s insatiable appetite for change. Unlike most parks, where common sense encourages visitors to leave a space as it was found, the Leslie Spit invites you to take part in the slow destruction of the waste and debris that make it up.
Bricks, softened and rounded by water over time, are like stones from a strange foreign land. They can brought home to be used as candle holders and as a memento for your trip. It’s interesting to think of a brick’s life — some marked with their creator’s stamp (for example, J Price). It may have been born out of the Don Valley to become part of a King Street structure and then finally laid to rest on the Spit. Cryptic messages and precarious towers made up from bricks, only days or even hours old, when found, reveal a connectedness with past visitors.
Wildlife is in abundance here. From the floating bridge, follow the trails of bubbles beavers leave as they sink underwater for minutes at a time. Earlier in the year, thousands of cormorants make an area on the west side their home. A bouquet put together from the wild flowers that grow here is sure to bring you good fortune upon your return home. If this is your intention, bring a wet cloth to wrap the stems with to prevent them from wilting.
At the southern tip sits a lighthouse atop a hill, a marker of sorts rewarding both cyclists and walkers for completing the journey. This elevated point offers the best view of the Leslie Spit and all that surrounds it. Despite being a place that is mostly wildlife and rubble, it’s not hard to imagine urban explorers finding adventure here.
Photos by Mathew Borrett