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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Getting to Ireland Park

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Ireland Park

Ireland Park is a lovely, moving park recently created at the foot of Bathurst Street, at the south base of the Malting Silo buildings near the ferry to the island airport. Statues, monuments and an interpretive station commemorate the landing of thousands of desperate Irish immigrants, many of them sick, escaping the Irish famine in 1847. Spacing has written about the park both in our print magazine, before the park was opened, and online.

The weird thing, though, is there is no officially permitted way to actually get to the park.

Entrance to Ireland Park

The obvious entrance is along the quay from the foot of Bathurst Street. But there’s a prominent sign at this entrance saying “DANGER: KEEP OFF”, presumably because the quay is crumbling and considered unsafe. So to get to the park this way, you have to disobey a municipal sign and engage in behaviour officially deemed risky (although, really, the quay is in decent enough shape and doesn’t seem to offer any real danger).

Entrance to Ireland Park

There’s another entrance through a driveway, but this one is through a municipal urban forestry site and is even more forbidden, with a sign saying “Private Property: No Trespassing”.

The Malting Silo site, meanwhile, is thoroughly fenced off, so there is no access there.

It seems pretty bizarre to build a park but not provide any permitted way to actually get to it. In practical terms it’s easy to get there, of course — you just walk along the quay — but citizens shouldn’t have to break regulations in order to access their parkland.



  1. Hopefully this can be fixed soon – perhaps Spacing could usurp the Star’s Fixer on this one?

    I have a friend coming from Dublin next weekend and this is somewhere I was thinking of bringing her.

  2. Your map link goes somewhere else. The Live Search Maps bird’s eye view has a good view and is up-to-date (it looks like they did all of downtown this spring).

    Even before you trespass or flirt with danger, the walk down Eireann Quay/Bathurst Street isn’t so beautiful. The best solution is probably a wooden boardwalk (like the new ones at Harbourfront) along the east side of the Malting Silos, but that might not happen until they’re redeveloped.

  3. “…this one is through a municipal urban forestry site [with] a sign saying “Private Property: No Trespassing”.”

    Municipal private property? That would seem to be a contradiction in terms.

  4. Shhh, this is one of my favorite parks. Don’t tell people about it!

    In all seriousness, every weekend when I get a chance to go and sit there, someone always seems to comment on how surprised they are to see the park there…

  5. It’s always fascinating to see what officialdum thinks is unsafe. Clearly we need to give them all bikes, though that wouldn’t work because half their day would be spent commuting.
    Linking their employment to living within the City wouldn’t work – the police took that to Court on Charter grounds and they won, so that’s out unless someone has a whack of money to give to lawyers.
    Hmm, maybe we should paint a road green, tell folks it’s a place to “park” then put up our own tape and signs…
    And the City could say that they’re “greening” our roads and transport, maybe run some ads…

  6. The first time I tried to get down to Ireland Park, I rode down to the foot of Bathurst St., and it seemed like I couldn’t get in. Rode back up to Queen’s Quay to see if I had to go around the Silos, but of course that’s all fenced off too….so I gave up and kept riding east…

    Next time, I found the shortcut through the Toronto Forestry gate, though I wasn’t sure I was supposed to be there.

    I also had some older people (of Irish descent, looking for family history) ask me about how to access the park, but I couldn’t help them much.

    Definitely needs better signage. Unless they’re purposely trying to keep it a quiet, hidden place?

  7. What you write is very true. As pretty as the park is, they’ve made it as impossible as possible to obtain access to it. Though presumably this will change as the properties are regenerated, it makes no sense at all the way it is now.

  8. I noticed this too when visiting the park last year. It was my first time going there, and I remember asking my friend who was leading the way whether where we were entering from was allowed. It is a shame that the city decided to put such a memorial park there of all places. Does anyone know why they chose that location?

  9. The “keep off” signage is new. The worst part is that there has never been any directional signage telling a potential visitor how to get to it. I remember last year’s Simcoe Day on the PCC run how difficult it was to give an Irish tourist easy-to-follow directions to get to it.

    Once you find it, it is remarkable. While half the fun can be getting in, it should be more easily found. Is the isolation and the restrictions to get in unintentionally symbolic?

  10. “Does anyone know why they chose that location?”

    Because it was an unused spot on the lake, and because the place where the Irish actually landed has long since been swallowed up as the city moved out into the lake.

  11. I finally found the park on my fourth try, despite knowing exactly where it was. Every time I was thwarted by the posted signs of “Keep Off” or “No Trespassing” until a friend told me to just ignore them.

    The park is a delight and a quiet nook amongst all the tourist bustle of Harbourfront.

  12. I read just last week that a path to the site will be installed this summer by the city. Interesting to note that a bridge was planned to link the park to Harbourfront east. Seemingly boat owners complained and this will not happen. Hope for the path and decent walk from Bathurst at some point. Certainly will happen if the new Toronto Museum is built on the silo site.

  13. I think Spacing should have a weekly posting similar to the Star’s Fixer. Here’s one I saw recently:

    Southeast corner of Islington and The Westway in Etobicoke. New red-light camera has been installed…2 large hydro-like poles with cameras on top…INSTALLED RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK!

    I have some photos, but have to retrieve them from my cell phone.

    Seems like a silly move: install red-light camera to add safety for cars…as a result make the sidewalk less safe for pedestrians and impassable for anyone in a wheelchair. Not sure how they’re going to plow the sidewalk in winter, either.

  14. Sorry about the bad original map link – Matt L., thanks for the better one, I’ve put it in.

  15. Not a better map link, if you ask me: all it leads to is a page reading “To use this feature, open Live Search in Windows Internet Explorer version 6 or 7.”

  16. I saw that when I was down there a couple of weeks ago, I half expected someone to yell at me as I walked from the car park along the quay. When they didn’t I thought perhaps the signs had been left over from the winter, when the whole thing ices over and is definitely treacherous.

  17. The Danger sign was there last fall, too, I remember, so I don’t think it’s just a winter thing (although you’re right, it does make more sense for the winter). I made this post because it was still there a year later. But it’s good to hear from Don that something might be done, finally. The bridge idea over to the music garden area would have been a great idea.

  18. I always find it funny when I take people there for the first time.

    “Okay, so to get to the Potato Famine memorial, we just have to go to the airport parking lot, go behind the parking attendant booth…”


    Its a really terrific quiet spot, though.

  19. I kept wondering what was back there during my to and fros from the Toronto Island Airport in the past year. It is a wonderful spot, haunting on some days and the isolation is sometimes greatly welcomed in a busy city!
    I believe the site was also part of Doors Open Toronto – Sacred Spaces this past June.

    The complaint when I take people to Ireland Park is a lack of information. No signage. No story.

    What’s with the electronic screen? Does it work? It’s hard to tell because the screen faces south and is washed out by the sun.

    There are so many interesting facts that deserve to be displayed….Surely at this stage it is time to complete this park.

  21. My parents from Dublin were here and I totally agree that there is (1) A need for a signpost on Bathurst and Queens Quay to indicate where Ireland Park is and (2) Remove the ‘Keep Off’ sign. We were baffled that was not clear entrance into the park after all the time, effort and money devoted to building it.