Hanlan's Point Beach
, in the extreme west of the Toronto Islands, is Toronto's only clothing-optional beach. It's only one out of two beaches in Canada that are officially designated clothing-optional beaches, in fact, the other one being Vancouver's Wreck Beach
. The legalization of the beach's unofficial status as a nude beach led to Hanlan's Point becoming, well, a pretty normal beach
. Save for sunscreen consumption per capita.
The effective beach season starts in late May and ends in late September, while actual swimming off the beach is possible only well within this period. On low-attendance days there are usually fifty or more people on the clothing optional side of the beach at any one time, with almost none to be seen on the "textile" side. On hot and sunny weekends five hundred or more people can often be found. Again, the end of the beach reserved for those who prefer swimsuits is usually only sparsely populated. Although there is no requirement for nudity on the clothing optional end, almost everyone takes the opportunity to completely shed their clothes. There are occasional curious individuals or groups who walk down the length of the beach while fully clothed, looking distinctly out of place. The regular beach goers routinely ignore this. Sailboats and motor boats often anchor just offshore to allow their owners to also enjoy the beach.
Prior to becoming "officially" clothing optional in 2002, Hanlan's Point Beach was a traditional site for nude sunbathing for decades. It was also an infrequent target of police crackdowns on this behaviour. Its official status has resulted in a distinct increase in ferry traffic, and it appears to be a profitable component of public and private sector advertising campaigns, since it draws visitors to Toronto. Police and park officials now work in partnership with the beach goers to maintain the beach's friendly atmosphere.
As is common for most public nudist-friendly venues, males make up a large percentage of the users of the beach, but women can make up to one quarter of the total on popular weekends. Recent years continue to see an increase in the number of families who attend.
This beach is mentioned on the website of the Federation of Canadian Naturists, and is the regular site of day trips by several local nudist organizations. It is the second officially recognized clothing optional beach in Canada and the only one created by a municipal bylaw.
's James Burrell warns
that the beach, traditionally a hangout of queer Torontonians among others, will see its serenity threatened by the Toronto Island Airport
. Located just to the north of Hanlan's Point Beach, perhaps a five or ten minute walk (although the two aren't physically connected, as far as I know), the once-marginal airport has become a growing hub thanks to the success of Porter Airlines
, and this success--some say--will mean the beach's doom.
CommunityAir (CAIR), a volunteer resident association opposed to the expansion of operations at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA), says “run-ups” – running aircraft engines for maintenance purposes – will produce “ear-splitting sound.”
“Run-ups are incredibly loud and the community has been complaining about them and saying that they should be conducted elsewhere and not in the middle of their neighborhood,” says CAIR chair Brian Iler. “They have to run the engines for 10 to 20 minutes at full-throttle to make sure there are no problems, to make sure the engines are working fine. When that happens… the beach will be unusable.”
Iler says the bulk of the run-ups occur on the weekends when Hanlan’s Point Beach is at its busiest.
Further adding to beachgoers’ woes may be the proposed installation of two U-shaped noise barriers at the airport, one with the open end pointing at the Island Yacht Club, the other pointing at Hanlan’s Point Beach. The barriers are intended to divert loud aircraft noise away from nearby waterfront residences, but Iler says they will direct it right at the beach.
I'm rather skeptical of this argument. I've been to Hanlan's Point Beach, and its isolation is only relative: you're surrounded by Lake Ontario, the Etobicoke and western Toronto skyline is visible from the water if not the beach itself, and just a couple minutes' walk through the dunes and you see downtown Toronto in all of its glory.
Will there be a lot of noise? Maybe, maybe not. I've grown skeptical of the claims of the various residents' organizations, some of which seem to be--honestly--xenophobic towards anything and anyone that intrudes on their city-managed and -maintained paradise, and worst-case scenarios are helpful in galvanizing support for this kind of desperate defense. Certainly it's something to watch out, and, if necessary, something to deal with, but he group's worst-case scenarios aren't things I'm willing to accept uncritically.
Will this discourage people from visiting? I doubt it. It won't me. The Hanlan's Point Beach, and the other beaches and vacation areas adjoining it, are heavily frequented by Torontonians because they feel like very natural environments, notwithstanding that are no point are you more than a half-hour's trip from the downtown ferry docks. We get used to noise; I hardly know what it's like to live without something audible in the background. I see no reason not to hope for the best and expect something rather pleasant in exchange.