Toronto Island residents 'elated' to start 1st summer season since major flood

A year after record-setting flooding shut down the Toronto Islands to visitors, the summer ferry service is back up and running for the May long weekend.

It’s been a year since the Islands were shut down to visitors

Spring is here, summer's around the corner, and the Toronto Islands are looking forward to a busy warm-weather season. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC)

A year after flooding shut them down to visitors, the Toronto Islands are gearing up for a busy season as summer ferry service gets back up and running in time for the May long weekend.

Summer ferry service, which officially began on Wednesday, will increase service to get visitors to and from Ward's Island, Centre Island, and Hanlan's Point more quickly. 

You can find the schedule here.

Linda Rosenbaum, who runs walking tours on Ward's Island, says business owners and residents alike are "elated" by the prospect of a normal warm-weather season. 

"People are really buoyant," she told CBC Toronto. 

Moving on from 'really rough' year

Record-high lake levels last year damaged buildings and submerged parks and pathways, shutting the Islands down to visitors from early May to late July.

They reopened for the end of the summer with local businesses hanging by a thread and Mayor John Tory imploring Torontonians to pay them a visit.

Linda Rosenbaum, co-owner of the Walk Ward's Island tour company, says her bookings are already off to a good start this season.

"It was really, really rough on the islands," said Rosenbaum. "We were supposed to start our walking tours at the end of May, and we couldn't start until August 1." 

The city now says that thanks to hard work, the Islands are not only in good shape and ready for visitors — they're more prepared for future flooding than ever before. 

"City staff have been working non-stop for the last 12 months restoring the islands from the flooding damage. If lake levels were to ever rise to the same level as they were last year, the city will not have to undertake similar closures," said Mayor John Tory in a release.

At one point, 40 per cent of the Islands were underwater. (Submitted by Anna Prodanou)

Included in that year of work were a suite of measures designed to mitigate future floods, including having sandbags at the ready, installing sump pumps, and putting in anti-erosion infrastructure at several high-risk spots.

"I have to say we were incredibly impressed with the way the city parks department, the regional conservation authority and Mayor Tory took it really seriously," said Rosenbaum.

The City of Toronto says that on busy days, the Toronto Islands see up to 20,000 visitors and are reminding people to buy their ferry tickets online if possible.