Some 500 trees, almost twice the number the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC) originally planned, have been removed from the popular outdoor rave spot at Cherry Beach to make room for two soccer fields.
The TWRC is blaming contaminated soil. Testing revealed lead levels more than 250 times the allowable limit.
What locals don't get is how putting soccer fields over contaminated land will benefit anyone.
"They're just passing the problem off to the next generation," says Andrew Peck, who through his website, www.savecherrybeach.ca has been gathering names to stop further development in the area."Someone's going to have to deal with it."
TWRC says the fields will be completely safe because they'll be built on a base of stone and turf that will act as a barrier to the toxic soil beneath it. The waterfront group also says it will plant some 700 trees to replace the mature stands that have been cut.
"The city is trying to address the desperate need for soccer fields," says TWRC program manager Karen Pitre.
Peck, like Friends of the Spit co-chair John Carley, maintains that the fields set a bad precedent for waterfront development south of Unwin.
The Toronto Economic Development Corporation, meanwhile, is helping to clean up a toxic underground plume of PCBs creeping toward the lake to the south and west of the proposed fields.
Besides looking forward to cleaner port lands, area councillor Paula Fletcher is checking into how to get the family-friendly Cherry Beach Promise Parties up and running again. The city and cops shut down the gatherings last summer, saying organizers needed special occasion permits. "We can't try to sanitize Cherry Beach," she says.