Boat Traffic Increased in the Summer of 2020
By Jim Sanderson
It has been an unsettling summer right around the world, and Bluffer’s Park has been no exception.
First came the springtime lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with barriers at the top and bottom of the Brimley road hill, then the park cautiously reopened with new bylaws in place and a swarm of officers to enforce them. As the number of COVID-19 cases in the GTA shrank in July, people began to use the park again. By August, the crowds, overflowing parking lots, and heavy traffic were back. People wary of travel outside of the GTA sought local places to picnic, swim, and relax in the sun. The large numbers of park users on land were accompanied by record numbers of people on the water in inflatables, jet skis, power boats, and sailboats of every description. Like R.V. activities, boating seems to have increased during the COVID summer. The manager of a yacht brokerage told me that his sales have never been better than in 2020. On-water activities were boosted by the fact that Bluffer’s Park is one of very few locations between downtown Toronto and Pickering where the public can launch water vehicles.
Out on the water in our family runabout, I witnessed the increase in traffic first hand. As usual, the vast majority of sailors were courteous and safe, but a small percentage of them were irresponsible. They were speeding, causing near misses, and some were unfortunately drinking at the wheel. According to one Commodore in the basin, this small percentage of rule breakers significantly increased accidents all along the GTA shoreline this year. In Bluffer’s Park alone there were 3 fatalities and at least three serious mishaps, one of which left a yacht washed up on the shore south of the marina.
In response to this trend, directors of the Bluffer’s Park yacht clubs and the manager of the Marina sent a letter to the Chief of Police, to City Councillor Gary Crawford, and the TPS Marine unit requesting an increased presence on busy days. This was promptly answered by email from the Marine unit and patrols appeared just a few days later. One of the Commodores who requested the patrols even received a speeding ticket on his own boat! Staff Sergeant Sam Cosentino of the Toronto Marine Unit on Queen’s Quay told me that after the request for increased patrols, his goal was to have a boat in the area on a daily basis, though this was not always possible due to shifting demands for on-water policing all along the GTA waterfront. Also, their time in each area varied according to traffic and weather. Even after a stepped up presence, however, some incidents on the waters off Bluffer’s Park continued until cooler weather reduced traffic in September and October. The marine police building in the park continued to be used primarily as a headquarters for the eastern beach lifeguards.
Now that the warm months have passed, it remains to be seen how the people of Toronto will use Bluffer’s Park in the spring and summer of 2021 and how Toronto Police Marine Services will respond. It is safe to say they will do their best with the resources at their disposal.
~ Jim Sanderson is a local resident, and the author of Toronto Island Summers, and Life in Balmy Beach.