|The valiant Valiente's Cabin Boy fends off the creeping scourge of the airport's Marine Exclusion Zone. Note the required "horn, bell or other sound signalling device".|
Astute and probably local readers will recall the ongoing (some would say interminable) fight of many Toronto residents to restrict the expansion of the Toronto Island-based airport. Despite a 1983 agreement to deny what was once a small civilian airport the use of passenger jet aircraft, there is a move originating from various corporate interests and the politicians they rent to bring jets in, despite the rather striking fact that Pearson, the main Toronto airport, is underutilized and is about to get a direct rail link.
|It's getting pretty skinny trying to leave via the Western Gap.|
If one reads last spring's TAO report, which is very illuminating about the potentialities surrounding the proposed BBTCA expansion in ways that many local boaters, kayakers/canoeists, residents and enjoyers of the harbour may not have considered. More airport means less water, a lot less, and what is left will arguably be less safe.
I keep Alchemy, the titular subject of this blog, at National Yacht Club, which, along with the adjacent Alexandra Yacht Club, are situated at the west end of the restricted channel known as the Western Gap. Even if one discounts the considerable noise and the fumes over and above the current stinky and loud level, the extensions of the existing Marine Exclusion Zones (MEZs) required by government regulation for the proposed extended runways required by the physics of the proposed passenger jets, will likely lower the appeal of these yacht clubs site to the point where it would be impossible to continue running them. So I feel I have a direct interest in the matter. As I consider it unlikely that the federal government and its functionary arm, the Toronto Port Authority (TPA), under whose aegis Toronto Harbour lies, propose to blast a ship canal through Ontario Place, I suspect the needs of the MEZ will effectively bar the Western Gap, the harbour's gateway and the "frontage" to several boat clubs, from civilian and indeed commercial traffic. We can't leave our basins if the assumed (on good, Transport Canada-mandated grounds) new MEZs go in. Even the TPA itself warns against it!
I would imagine the same fate would await (perhaps paradoxically) of the TPA-run Marina Quay West and Pier 4, access to both of which would be very constrained by the new, expanded and jet-friendly MEZs. And yet to have jets, one must build more runway, but is it even necessary to have jets? Not to mention that the jets in question, the ones on which all the runway sizing is predicated, are neither out of the prototype stage nor appear likely to exist for some time to come.
Hence last week's protest:
|It started off small, or at least small kayaks.|
|Nearly the Dunkirk spirit?|
|A regular flotilla.|
|Close quarters and plenty of slipping in and out of gear.|
|We saw some nice vessels as a bonus.|
|Protest does not exclude creativity.|
|Tri to grasp the rationale, politicians.|
It would be interesting to hear the viewpoints of the executives of Royal Canadian Yacht Club and Island Yacht Club and Toronto Island Marina: All of them would see their boating activities truncated or perhaps made untenable by these extensions. Contrary to what may be public perception, not all yachters are wealthy or even privileged; clubs around Toronto Harbour, including NYC, run extensive learn-to-sail programs for adults and children, and summertime Junior sailing (seven to 16 years old) is currently done either close to or inside the assumed MEZ extensions. So is a program called Broad Reach, a registered charity which teaches underprivileged kids how to sail in donated race boats that brush the current 18-metre mast height. Jets have a shallower "glide slope" than the current Q400 turboprops...it is arguable if 18-metre masts will be able to go anywhere in the Inner Harbour aside from hugging the easternmost seawalls.
|The future of Toronto Harbour or a reasonable fascimile of the future?|
So while the concerns of sailboaters may seem only a small part of the mix, we aren't all in possession of big Beneteaus. Some of us are teaching your kids how to sail, an activity best done without, I think, the roar, blast and stink of commuter jets in a situation reminiscent of the notoriously crowded Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong prior to its closure in 1998.
We've seen this future of putting jets in tight to towers, trees, bird sanctuaries and actively used waterfront before, and it's in the past.