Steve Polansky has been flying kites along Woodbine Beach for more than 20 years, often dazzling those who pass by on the boardwalk with incredible aerial tricks.
But earlier this month, a city worker approached — and it wasn't to express joy. Polansky says the employee, who he believes works for the parks department, told him it was against the rules to fly kites at the beach, and that he was risking a fine of more than $300 by doing so.
Polansky packed up that day, but says he has no plans to stop flying his homemade creations near the Leuty Lifeguard Station.
"I just want to fly my kites in peace," Polansky told CBC Toronto.
"I've been flying a kite here for 20-odd years. Everybody knows me. For the city to say, 'Nope, can't fly kites on the beach,' I mean — really?"
Polansky is well known in the neighbourhood. One video of him flying his kites while a curious child watches has more than 240,000 views on YouTube.
However, this isn't the first kite crackdown in the GTA. Gary Mark, of Toronto Kite Fliers — which bills itself as Canada's oldest kite club — says he's heard of at least one other incident of a kite enthusiast getting a warning on an east end beach. And in Ajax, he said, club members were recently "told to leave their waterfront park or face removal by the police."
Tammy Robbinson, spokesperson for the city's municipal licensing and standards division, said in an email that there's no record of Polansky getting a warning.
"In general terms, if a warning is issued, it is usually for flying the kite over top of people, using a prohibited wire or if they are too close to trees or hydro poles, etc.," Robbinson said.
Torontonians are free to fly kites, according to city bylaws, except in certain parks where the practice has been banned.
In 2010, the city barred flying in Milliken Park, near McCowan Road and Steeles Avenue East, after community complaints stemming from kite fighting — a competitive sport where kite flyers try to cut the line of their rival, often relying on sharp line to do so.
Polansky says his version of flying a kite is completely different.
"We don't do any of that — no, absolutely not. This is purely entertainment," he said.
The city's bylaws also prohibit kites with strings made of hazardous materials, like wire, and also prevent them from being flown within 25 metres (about 80 feet) of a tree, building or utility pole. It also bans "competitive flying," unless a permit has been issued, and kite-related littering.
Walter Corsetti, club president of Toronto Kite Flyers, says he's contacted the city with the hope that front-line workers will be told to leave kite flyers alone.
"There's no indication there that says you can't fly a single-line kite," he said of the bylaws.
Corsetti also plans to fly his kites at the beach, noting there will be a "fun fly" event for local kite enthusiasts there in the coming weeks.