Centreville businesses face revenue and employment losses due to flooding
By: Meaghan Wray
In the wake of one of the wettest months of April on record, Centreville businesses are drowning in losses after major flooding plagued the city.
City officials said July 9 some parts of the Island will be closed for the rest of the summer. The Toronto Island Park remains closed as more than 40 per cent of it is underwater. Parks, trails, beaches and businesses remain closed, and programs and permits are currently cancelled until July 31, the statement said.
Some programs were forced to change their location entirely, including the YMCA’s Toronto Island Day Camp, which will now be operating on the West Island at Ontario Place.
Leigh Coffey, YMCA Day Camps manager, said the organization was monitoring flooding on the Island since it began, and was informed on June 1 by the City that permits would not be granted until July 31. The charitable organization offers more than 60 day camp programs in the GTA.
“In response to ongoing flooding at our Toronto Island Day Camp location, the YMCA worked tirelessly to ensure that every camper will still have a unique outdoor day camp experience,” she said. “Although we miss taking the ferry, buses were rerouted to bring campers to the new location.”
The only aspect of regular programming that has changed is on-site swimming, Coffey said.
“Fortunately, not too much has changed,” she said. “All planned programming unique to Toronto Island YMCA Day Camp will now take place on the West Island of Ontario Place for the entire summer season, with the exception of swimming on site.
“We have arranged to bus campers to our Toronto Winona Dr. YMCA Day Camp for swimming,” Coffey said.
Many of the local businesses on the Islands run in a five-month cycle and don’t have the option to change locations. The two-month summer business loss is detrimental to these businesses, given the Islands have been closed since the beginning of May.
Shawnda Walker, director of marketing for Centreville Amusement Park, said losses has been a hurdle for the local business that sees most of its business in the summer.
“We only have a five-month cycle and that’s been huge for our bottom line [revenue],” Walker said. “We’re a privately-owned, family-owned business.”
Other than revenue, their most significant problem is employment and staff hiring, she said.
“We sent over 300 job offers out [this summer], but every few weeks we lose more staff,” Walker said. “It makes hiring new staff very difficult.”
Remaining open into the fall is a possibility, she said, but it won’t necessarily remedy the business lost in the summer months.
“[Remaining open] is an option, but no one is around on weekdays during the school year,” Walker said. “We’d have to look at it once we’re open, but 55 per cent of our staff are university students who will be going back to school in the fall.”
She said the city of Toronto also needs to be more diligent with ferry repairs in order to allow Island businesses to run.
“We’ve been ready to go for three weeks, but the problem is we can’t safely dock ferries,” she said. “[The city] needs to be diligent working on ferries. They’ve taken a long time to realize that the ferries can be fixed.”
Kelly Sullivan, a 28-year-old Toronto resident, normally goes to the Islands almost every weekend during the summer months. This year, her and her family haven’t been so lucky.
“It’s a real disappointment not having the Islands open yet this summer, and with the date continually being pushed back, I’m starting to feel like they won’t be at all,” she said. “As a Torontonian who likes to enjoy the Islands regularly, it just doesn’t quite feel like summer in Toronto without them.”
To Sullivan, it seems like more could be done by the city in order to increase access to the Island, although the beaches are closed.
“My understanding is that the damage is fairly severe, but there must be some areas of the Island that can still be of used if the problem were to be tackled with different priorities in place,” she said, adding if ferry repairs were a priority, it could allow for the enjoyment of useable parts of the Island.
Only residents and passengers at Billy Bishop Airport are allowed access to the Islands.
Hanlan’s Point and Centre Island are two highlights Sullivan is missing out on, but said the affect on local businesses in those areas must be detrimental.
“I can’t even imagine the effect that this closure must be having on the businesses that depend on the thriving summer season to survive year-round,” Sullivan said. “I think it is for those businesses, and the families that they likely support, that the City should really get on top of doing everything they can to remedy this problem as quickly as possible, before the Civic long weekend.”
All four beaches on the Islands, Hanlan’s Point, Gibraltar Point, Centre Island, and Ward’s Island, remain closed. Mainland beaches at Sunnyside, Marie Curtis Park East, Cherry/Clarke, Bluffer’s, Rouge, Woodbine, and Kew-Balmy, are partially opened. All 11 city beaches are either partially or fully underwater.