Frequently Asked Questions about Tommy Thompson Park

Where is Tommy Thompson Park located?
What are the hours of operation?
Why can't I go in during the week?
When does the dumping take place?
Where can I park my car?
How do I get there by TTC?
What about amenities?
Is TTP wheelchair accessible?
Why is it called the "Leslie Street Spit"?
How big / long is the Park?
How long will it take me to walk/bike the Park?
Why is there a no pets policy at TTP?
Why can't I bring my dog?
Is there bird watching?
Do you have bird watching areas?
When is best time to watch bird migrations?
Do you offer guided tours?
What type of educational experience can you provide to my students?
Do I need authorization for photography and filming?

 


Where is Tommy Thompson Park located?
Tommy Thompson Park (TTP) is located at the base or foot of Leslie Street where it meets Unwin Avenue, south of Lakeshore Boulevard East.

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What are the hours of operation?
The park is open to the public on weekends and holidays year-round, except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Operating hours are from 9am to 6pm (March to November) and 9am to 4:30pm (November to March). Admission and parking are free.

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Why can't I go in during the week?
The park is not open during the week because it is an active construction site with a steady flow of trucks bringing in more fill. As a construction site it presents many dangers to the public and is therefore closed during construction operations for safety reasons. The construction site property is owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources and is leased and operated by the Toronto Port Authority (TPA).

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When does the dumping take place?
Lakefill operations run year long, Monday through Friday. For more information please visit: http://www.torontoport.com/.

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Where can I park my car?
The park is open on weekends and holidays and free parking is available in the parking lot inside the front gates on the west side or just outside of the front gates along Leslie St. and Unwin Ave. Please note that the TTP parking lot gates open on weekends and holidays at 9am and are closed and locked promptly at 6pm April to November and 4:30pm November to March.

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How do I get there by TTC?

IMPORTANT NOTICE:  DUE TO STREETCAR SYSTEM EXPANSIONS AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE LESLIE STREET BARNS, TTC SERVICES MAY BE MODIFIED.  PLEASE VISIT www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Projects/Leslie_Barns/index.jsp FOR THE LATEST NEWS AND BUS SCHEDULES. 

The # 83 Jones S bus will take you to Commissioner Street and Leslie Street. It is just a short walk to the park entrance from Commissioner. The TTC runs this bus Monday through Saturday with limited service. There is no bus on Sundays or holidays. Streetcar service is also available on the Queen Street line (hop off at Leslie St.) but it is a longer walk to get to the park front entrance. For more information please visit http://www.toronto.ca/ttc/.

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What about amenities?
Currently TTP has very limited amenities. There are portable washrooms available for use at the entrance, the gate booth area, Embayment D and Peninsula C. A first aid kit is available at the Staff Booth in case of emergency, and the staff have a cell phone. The Master Plan includes development of washroom facilities and an environmental shelter.

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Is TTP wheelchair accessible?
The main roads of the park are fully paved and wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately, the washroom facilities are not compatible with wheelchairs.

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Why is it called the "Leslie Street Spit"?
The "Spit" has actually been called several names over the course of its existence.

  • Started as a lake filling operation in 1959 by the Toronto Harbour Commission (now the Toronto Port Authority) for port-related facilities it was referred to as the Outer Harbour Eastern Headland.
  • In the early 1970's when it was determined that port-related facilities were no longer needed, the TRCA became the Provincial government's "agent" responsible for the preparation of a master plan and management strategy of the Spit, known now as Aquatic Park due to the former vision of a marine recreation based park.
  • By the early 1980's site conditions at the park had changed significantly so a new vision was sought for the Spit and the "urban wilderness" concept was developed. The Spit then was officially named Tommy Thompson Park in 1985 to honour Toronto's former Parks Commissioner.
  • The term "spit" is a geographic reference to a type of landform that is formed by the movement and deposition of sediment. Technically, applying the term "spit" to TTP is incorrect since the park was not naturally formed, but was constructed in an organized fashion with landfill material (bricks and cement rubble) - the term peninsula might be a more appropriate geographic reference. The unofficial name Leslie Street Spit (because it is at the very base or beginning of Leslie St.) was coined by local residents and remains the unofficial popular name.

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How big / long is the Park?
The entire Spit is approximately 5 km long from the entrance to the lighthouse. It is over 500 hectares in size; however the TRCA currently owns and manages approximately 260 hectares. The remainder of the land is owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources and is leased by the Toronto Port Authority and operated as a construction site.

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How long will it take me to walk/bike the Park?
Since everyone walks or cycles at different speeds and many of us stop to investigate and admire the natural wonders of the park it is difficult to determine how long it takes get from the entrance to the lighthouse at the end of the park. A very rough estimate based on an average walking speed of 4 km/h with no stops it will take about 2.5 hours to walk to the lighthouse and back - but allow extra time for frequent breaks plus a longer break when you reach the lighthouse to admire the Lake Ontario vista.

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Why is there a no pets policy at TTP?
Why can't I bring my dog?

Because Tommy Thompson Park is a significant wildlife area there is a strict no dogs / no pets policy. There are no exceptions.

TTP is managed as an 'urban wilderness' and one of the objectives is to provide critical habitat areas for wildlife along the waterfront. Over 300 species of birds have been documented at TTP, many of which use the park as a summer breeding area. Several species at the park are ground nesting birds that would be in danger of having their nests destroyed by dogs if they were allowed in the park. In addition to ground nesting birds, fledglings from tree nesting birds are also at risk of being injured or killed as they practice their first flights or perch low to the ground.

In addition to birds, the park is home to many mammals. Coyotes have successfully denned in the park for many years and are observed on a regular basis. Coyote-dog interactions are rare, but can happen. Some incidents have been documented in other Toronto area parks such as High Park. Coyotes have approached and stalked dogs that were both on leash and off-leash, so walking your dog on a leash will not always insure its safety. Many small mammals such as rabbits, voles, groundhogs, beavers and muskrats also breed at the park are common targets of dogs.

The decision to not allow dogs in the park was not an arbitrary one. It was made in 1985 during the master planning process for TTP. The Natural Areas Committee, which was made up of naturalists, stakeholders groups and members of the public, felt that it was in the best interest of the park's wildlife to not allow pets. It is the position of this group that there are numerous other waterfront parks where one could walk their dog, while there are very few natural areas where there is the opportunity to see so many birds and other species.

While your dog may be well trained and can be easily controlled by you, many dogs are not. As managers of TTP we cannot pick and choose which dogs should and should not be permitted to enter the park. For the safety of the wildlife that use the park it is best that dogs are not permitted in TTP.

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Is there bird watching?
Yes! TTP is one of the premier bird watching spots in the GTA. It was declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) in 2000 due in part to the globally significant colonial waterbird populations that nest at TTP. It is also stopover and concentration point for many species of migratory birds. Over 300 species of birds have been sighted at TTP and more than 55 species of birds have nested at TTP. For more information on TTP Birds please click here.

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Do you have bird watching areas?
Yes, there are many areas in the park to watch birds without causing a disturbance to them.

  • Right from the park entrance many songbirds and especially Redwing Blackbirds in the spring are easily seen or heard. Eastern Kingbirds and Swallows of various species are a common sight along the roads.
  • The Cell One Wetland Creation Project has a viewing platform where, with binoculars, various species of marsh birds can be seen along with neighboring users like the Tree Swallow and Bank Swallow that are usually always present in spring and summer.
  • Cells Two and Three, as well as the waters off the lake and Outer Harbour, are popular spots in the winter to view waterfowl.
  • During migration periods significant numbers of shorebirds may stop at the park and can be seen foraging in the exposed mudflats and shallow waters of Cell One, the Embayments and the Shorebird Wetland.
  • The Embayment D viewing platform allows an easy view of the Common Tern reef raft, as well as excellent views of the entire embayment where shorebirds and wading birds like Great Blue Herons and various waterfowl species are often seen.
  • Triangle Pond, one of the first habitat creation projects at the park, is also popular spot for waterfowl, wading birds and songbirds. You might even see a beaver or a muskrat.
  • Peninsula D is one of the best areas to look for migratory songbirds and is the location of the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station (TTPBRS).
  • The pedestrian bridge area allows good views of Peninsula C and with binoculars Night-Herons and Cormorants may be identified nesting. Sensitive breeding areas, like the bird colonies, are identified with signs and are out of bounds during the breeding and fledging period to prevent disturbance and possible injury to the birds. Please visit the Colonial Waterbirds section for more information.
  • Unlike the colonial birds, some breeding bird species at TTP are much harder to find, like ground nesting birds. Ground nesters are much more prone to disturbance compared to tree nesting birds that can stay out of the general reach of people and since there are a considerable number of ground nesting birds that make the park their home, it is best to stay on marked paths to minimize disturbance to these birds while they are nesting.

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When is best time to watch bird migrations?
Bird watching during spring and fall migration is an exciting time. Bird enthusiasts have the opportunity to see species that are not normally present in the GTA for extended periods of time. Most are just passing through and use TTP as a place to rest and forage to build up their energy reserves for the remains of their journey. Periods of good weather followed by locally disturbed weather can mean that migrants land at TTP and stay for an extended time during the bad weather. Once the weather improves they will move on and the next batch of migrants will move through. Depending on environmental conditions the third week of May is usually a good time to see spring migrants and mid-September is a good time to see fall migrants.

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Do you offer guided tours?
Yes, interpretive tours are offered by the TRCA during special events like our Spring Bird Festival. For more information on upcoming special events please click here. Some other organizations like the Toronto Field Naturalists and the Toronto Ornithological Club also offer tours to a more targeted audience like those who wish to learn about plants.

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What type of educational experience can you provide to my students?
Several educational programs are currently run at TTP. The Bird Studies Program - Winged Migration is specifically geared toward the Life Systems curriculum for grades 4, 6 and 7. Watershed on Wheels (WOW) delivers a number of programs like the Aquatic Plants Program (APP) at TTP. The APP gives students hands-on experience growing and caring for aquatic plants before they plant them at a local wetland - at TTP this is usually the Cell One Wetland Creation project. The APP meets curriculum links for several grades. For more information on TRCA's educational programs please click here.

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Do I need authorization for photography and filming?
Yes. All commercial photography and filming at TTP must be authorized by TRCA. Please contact Andrea Chreston at 416-661-6600 ext. 5772 or achreston@trca.on.ca

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Hours of Operation

Tommy Thompson Park is open to the public weekends and holidays, except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Operating hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from November to March and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April to November.

 

Location

Tommy Thompson Park (TTP) is located at the base or foot of Leslie Street where it meets Unwin Avenue, south of Lake Shore Boulevard East.


 

Weather

Lake Ontario moderates TTP?s climate, with less heat & humidity in the summer and less snow in the winter than areas immediately north. Prevailing winds are westerly, with faster speeds and greater wind chill effects. Fogs forms twice as often at TTP than the rest of Toronto.