Toronto Islands sand dunes

This is why there's now large sand dunes on the Toronto Islands

The Toronto Islands are a local hot spot in the summer months, known for their beaches, amusement park, and stunning views of the Toronto skyline.

Frequent beach-goers may have noticed its changing landscape over the last several years, with new sand dunes popping up to combat the island's erosion, accelerated in recent years due to flooding and high water levels.

Last summer, a still-unnamed brand-new white sandy beach appeared on Toronto Island located between Gibraltar Point and Hanlan's Point, and recent visitors this spring have noticed even more fresh dunes of sand.

The Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has been working to repair generations of erosion damage on the island's shores, especially after a 2004 storm led to substantial damage to the area of Gibraltar Point, resulting in emergency coastline repairs.

Since 2008, the unprotected land around Gibraltar Point especially has been the subject of significant erosion, with natural ecosystems, built infrastructure, and places of culture at risk of complete loss if preventative measures weren't taken.

In an attempt to combat the loss and restore the southern shoreline, the TRCA initiated the Gibraltar Point Erosion Control Project. While the sand dunes may be the most visible addition to the area at first glance, a nearshore reef and protective groyne structure have also been completed to further mitigate erosion.

Construction of the site's natural dune habitat began in June 2021. The dunes are a key measure which helps protect the island from floods and storms. Last spring, the site was also planted with beach grass, native trees, and shrubs, whose root systems work to hold the sand dunes in place.

The new dunes are only accessible from a fenced-in walkway, allowing for the new vegetation to take root. While the project is in its final phase, the site remains closed to the public. However, the nearby Gibraltar Point and Hanlan’s Point Beach remain open.

Lead photo by

George Hornaday

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