October 2018 / Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

Bluffers Park Journal: Fitness in the Park

By Jim Sanderson
Among the many groups who enjoy the natural beauty of Bluffers Park are all kinds of athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, hikers, paddleboarders and swimmers alike use this great resource to train and stay in shape. Their activities are tailored to the seasons, but continue throughout the year. Many people use the park on their own, others in groups. 
 
Some of these, like Bluffs Performance, are on the beach under special license. Founders Wade McAllister and Hillar Sorra are local residents, and fitness instructors with a lot of athletic experience between them. They conduct classes to educate and coach people of all ages, but especially youngsters, to learn and enjoy paddleboarding, swimming, hiking, and volleyball. Their classes run primarily during summer months, the goals of each course being the promotion of physical fitness, community leadership, and environmental awareness.
 
Other athletic activities in the park are special events held once or twice each year. The 2018 Ontario Lifesaving Championships took place on the weekend of August 15’th, 16’th, and 17’th. This event attracts certified lifeguards and participants from all over Ontario to compete in activities like The Beach Run, The Iron Guard,  a swim, run, board, sprint race , and The Surf Race, a swim through the surf  around a course. Participants are a wide range of ages:  Juniors  7-17, Seniors 16 – 30, Masters 30 and older. There are separate Master categories for each ten year cohort, the oldest group this year aged 50 to 60 . This event is hard to miss,  a giant camp of of tents, equipment and competitors on the eastern end of the beach just outside the public swimming area. It is organized  mostly by volunteers registered with the Royal Lifesaving Society’s Ontario Division. Champions in this, and other events held by the Ontario Society, have the option to compete in larger National, and International competitions.  With more than 200 competitors this year, the Bluffer’s Beach Championship was a definite success.  
 
Another group of athletes who regularly use the park are not encountered on the beach, but on Scarborough streets and Brimley road. The steep hill down to the park is a favourite of cyclists from all over Toronto. About 1 kilometer, it rises 70 metres from top to bottom, a good place to do hill repeats that increase  stamina. Many riders cycle the park on their own, others in groups from clubs like Morninglory, Beaches Cycle, and D’Ornella’s Cycle Shop. 
 
If riders are in groups, early mornings are preferred, when traffic is light.  But the hill is not without its challenges when cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles, and now even buses must share its narrow surface, with no sidewalks to use. A separate footpath extends halfway up from the park, but after that, hikers, beach visitors and cyclists must walk or ride the shoulder for the rest of the climb. Changes to enhance vehicle and pedestrian safety  on the Brimley hill are currently under consideration, but in the meantime, fitness enthusiasts and athletes of all kinds will surely continue to enjoy Bluffers Park.
 
Jim Sanderson is a local bluffs resident, and the 
author of Toronto Island Summers, (James Larimer)
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