Toronto Star (swim)op-ed out today: Deliberately polluting the public beach to sell more pool passes.

My Toronto Star swim-op-ed is out today:

I am one of thousands of swimmers at Ontario Place.  We swim year-round, even on the coldest of winter days.  For me it's therapeutic.  For many it's for recreation, but for all of us, it's love of the lake and its gift of life.

Why Ontario Place?  Water there is tested regularly and is the cleanest in all of Toronto because pollution from sewage outfall does not reach the Southernmost extreme of Ontario Place where the pebble beach is located.

Therme Group's proposal to move the existing pebble beach to the West side of the island, right beside Lake Shore Blvd., would mean that there will be days after storms when the beach will have to be closed to swimming. That's because their choice of relocation is right beside the combined sewer outfall, and the proposed West-facing location faces the prevailing winds which trap debris (used condoms, tampons, cans, bottles, etc.) in the nook that we call the "armpit of the breakwall".  That's the absolute worst choice of location for the beach.

When trying to understand the logic of moving the beach to the dirtiest noisiest and windiest corner of the island, a cynic might see this as an attempt to "ensewage" the beach to sell more pool passes.

In 2011, my daughter (age 5) and I came up with the idea of building a combination spa and science centre.  We joined forces with University of Toronto Faculty of Forestry to present our idea to WATERFRONToronto, connect people to the lake, get more people to swim in and love the lake, and thus protect our supply of drinking water.  We asserted that Ontario, home of the world's largest (by area) freshwater lake, should be the world's epicenter of freshwater stewardship and study.  The spa + science centre we envisioned had a basement below the water line with windows to look out into the lake, a main floor with-swim pipe / waterslide going into the lake, and higher floors from which one could jump into the lake after warming up in a sauna or hot tub.

So when Therme had a public consultation my main question was "can paying customers warm up in the sauna and then jump into the lake and come back into the sauna…" in other words, will Therme encourage paying customers to use the lake?  The answer was "No".  In this sense, the new spa proposal runs counter to the mission of getting more people to love the lake and swim in it.  In fact there is an inherent conflict-of-interest in having the public beach designed, built, and maintained by a business that competes with, rather than uses this public space.  It would seem in Therme's business interest to "ensewage" the beach to sell more pool passes.

Therme talks about the beach flooding. We've seldom seen the beach flood, but yes, eventually all beaches flood.

When it floods, part of the beach is under water. But part of the beach is always under water, that's why they call it a beach.  And you know what happens when the beach floods?  The pebbles on the beach get wet.  It's a beach.

If you look at historical pictures of this beach, you can see it looks pretty much the same now as it did 50 years ago.

The island is not sinking, the sky is not falling, and we don't need to clear cut 850 trees and spend $650 million of your tax dollars to fix a fictional problem.

Rather than merely using the lake as merely a visual spa backdrop, let us love this beach and give it a name, "Micheal Hough Beach", in honour of the brilliant landscape architect who came up with the idea of building Toronto's first and only pebble beach.

Steve Mann, professor, University of Toronto, invented hydraulophone and founded

The author would like to thank Bruce Van Dieten, Dan Bowman, Scott Williams, Perry Toone, and many other members of SwimOP for help with this article and keeping Ontario Place free and open ∀.

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