Our Young People Are at Ground Zero in This Mess

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Photography by Abdallahh, and elPadawan (adapted work).

I said I’d talk more about how an expansion of the island airport would change our lives. Not only would it bring in more passengers (a jump from well over two million to a possible 4.8 million). Our waterfront has been marked as parkland for mixed use by Toronto citizens. The proposed expansion would tip the balance even more to planes. Here’s how a sailor, Ron Jenkins sees the impact of the proposed Porter expansion.

1. How would an island airport expansion affect you?

I’m a member of the National Yacht Club, which is adjacent to the airport. The NYC and Alexandra Yacht Club both contend with significant aircraft noise and exhaust fumes. Our balconies are sometimes unusable and we often move our outdoor activities indoors or to the north of the building to get away from the noise. The NYC has been on the waterfront since 1894, and I think this inappropriate and unnecessary airport expansion would destroy a Toronto waterfront legacy for my children and others.

2. What were your expectations when you started living near the airport?

I’ve never lived near the airport but have sailed from the National Yacht Club all my life.

2. How has the landscape changed?

I started sailing at the National Yacht Club on my grandfather’s 25 foot wooden sailboat boat when I was three months old — in the late 1950s. The area has vastly changed. The area between Stadium Road and Bathurst was an empty dirt field. Now it’s populated with many residences. It’s also the staging point for over two million passengers a year at the airport. Commercial use of the airport has increased one thousand fold.

3. Can you tell me a personal story that demonstrates the impact of the airport?

Back in the 1960s, my grandfather had no motor on his boat, and when there was no wind and we were hurrying to get to races that started off Hanlan’s beach, we’d paddle across the Western Gap. Then, in the style of Volga boatmen, we were able to pull the boat along the seawall and across the end of the airport runway.

In the last ten years the expanse of lake at the end of the runway has changed dramatically. Marks now encircle the so-called “Marine Exclusion Zone” (MEZ) — the area all boats must stay out of to keep a safe separation between boats and aircraft. This makes sense, and yet we boaters have seen the area marked out by the MEZ grow season over season. It’s pretty intimidating to have a Q400 pass overhead when you’re in a sailboat.

My involvement with the summer sailing school also makes me concerned about the health of the young sailors coming from around Toronto to use our water and breathe our air. The recent Board of Health report shows there are health hazards because of the scale of airport operations. Our young people are at ground zero in this mess.

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