The Leslie Street Spit is a man-made headland that extends five kilometers south into Lake Ontario from the bottom of Leslie Street. Since the 1960s, the site has been used for dumping all of the rubble and dirt from excavations from new building construction. What came out of the ground with excavators got dumped down here until it had grown to its current size. What the city did not anticipate was that this man-made land would be so quickly colonized by plant and bird life, and what began as a dumping ground has become a bird sanctuary and a haven for city-dwellers looking for a long and car-free walk by the lake.
The site is now a park, but because it is still an active dumping zone, the park is only open on weekends. Parking at the gates to the park is a bit haphazard, and while there is a lone hot dog stand at the end of the route, you will keep your little campers happy if you come well stocked with snacks and drinks.
I have walked and biked the 10 kilometers round trip from the street to the lighthouse at the tip of the spit with the kids many times, and there is always something new to discover. One year, students from Guelph University were there tagging monarch butterflies; the spit has become a stop on the butterflies’ migration route. There are 45 species of birds that breed on the headland, and more than 300 species have been spotted there. Budding bird-watchers will find a lot to spot. There are marshes and woods and bridges and bright sky and a lake wind. There are cormorants perching on wooden pilings and butterflies to chase. The entire route is paved, with makes biking, roller blading and walking with a stroller all equally easy. You may see one city pick up truck, but the route is closed to cars. It is amazing to walk here and see how much work nature has done to make this space its own in such a short time. It teems with life. It’s a place to go on a wide-open day, when you have no pressing business elsewhere, to meet with the wide open sky and the lake. Wide open days are precious enough, but when you can say that you have walked among the cottonwood trees or seen the lake’s whitecaps at your leisure, I think the day has been truly well spent.
Facts and map from Wikipedia.