Toronto surfers rally against project they say would ruin beloved surf spot

A group of Toronto surfers are concerned that one of their favourite spots to catch waves in the city will be ruined by a proposed project to expand the nearby beach.

TRCA wants to build a new landmass to anchor the beach and make navigation easier for boats

Surfer Jeff Green prepares to hop on his board to paddle out at "lighthouse," a beloved surf spot set to be dramatically altered by a Toronto and Region Conservation Authority project. (CBC)

A group of Toronto surfers are concerned that one of their favourite spots to catch waves in the city will be ruined by a proposed project to expand the nearby beach.

Located in Bluffers Park in Scarborough, surfers have long flocked to an area they call "lighthouse," named after a small lighthouse at the entrance of the park.

Jeff Green, who's been surfing at the park for 30 years, said it's the only place to find "ocean-quality waves" in Toronto.

A group of surfers staged a protest paddle-out on Wednesday evening in support of keeping the area as it is. (CBC)

He says the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) project, which would build a new landmass into the beach, would effectively put an end to that.  

"That is going to basically create a landmass the size of four Walmarts… right in front of where our current surf spot is," he said.

He also worries that the project would disrupt surfing elsewhere in the park.

"It's going to have a wave calming effect right through the Bluffers Park east beach," he said.

Jeff Green says the unique angle of the land at the lighthouse spot make for waves unlike anywhere else. (CBC)

On Wednesday evening, a group of surfing enthusiasts staged a paddle-out to raise awareness about the issue, Green among them.

The group has also started a petition called "save lighthouse surf break" with the goal of reaching 5,000 signatures.   

Project in the works for three years

Nancy Gaffney, waterfront specialist with the TRCA, told CBC Toronto it may be too late to make any significant changes to the proposed project, which goes before city council later in June.

Gaffney said the project's goal is to "give the public a little bit more landmass for them to enjoy" as well as anchor the beach and improve navigation for boats.

The plan has been in the works for three years, but surfers only began raising concerns in April, making it "very difficult for us to address their concerns," said Gaffney.  

Nancy Gaffney says the plan that the TRCA landed on serves the interests of a number of groups, and that their may not be time to incorporate the surfers needs. (CBC)

Green explained that's because there had originally been six different plans floated for the area, and the landmass, the most expensive option, appeared in only one of them.

"We really didn't think that kind of investment would come to happen," he said.

When they caught wind that the plan was moving forward, they met with the TRCA to question its effect on surfing and on general beach safety, sharing concerns that the mass would create riptide and undertow.

Although "the conversation certainly isn't over," Gaffney said that eliminating the landmass from the plan altogether isn't in the cards.

"We're very very limited as to the kind of changes we can make," she said.

Green, however, remains optimistic, saying that he thinks that raising awareness about what would be lost could lead to the plan being altered. 

Green is hopeful that raising more awareness about what will be lost if the plan goes forward as-is could lead to changes. (CBC)

With files from Greg Ross