Before you start reading, I have to apologize: this is a long post for such a small playground. However, I have recently learned a few things about the Toronto Islands that kind of blew my mind, and explaining how it happened requires a bit of a story.
So here it goes.
We had some friends visiting from the UK this summer, and being the excellent hosts we are, we decided to show them the Toronto Islands. It was a beautiful day; we took the ferry over to Centre Island, spent some time at Centreville (which is exactly – and I mean exactly – the way it was when I was a kid) and then went over to Ward’s Island for a bike ride, some lunch, and a visit to a tiny but charming playground before ferrying back home from Ward’s.
The Ward’s Island playground is right next to the restaurant (formerly The Rectory, currently Riviera) and we had a nice little play there while waiting for the food, which was tasty but took a while to arrive.
There really is barely enough equipment here to qualify as a playground, but it’s nice all the same. A boat-shaped climber, a good Univers climber by Berliner Seilfabrik, separated by a ping pong table, and with a basketball court just behind. It’s cute in the way most things on the Islands are cute, even if part of me wishes that the islands had a better playground to complement all the other great things it has to offer families.
But anyway, here’s the part that blew my mind.
After the day was over and we had seen our British friends off at the train station where they began the next leg of their Canadian adventure, I got home and flipped open my laptop to dutifully add the Ward’s Island playground to my playground map. Little did I know that everything I thought I knew about the geography of my hometown was about to be thrown into chaos.
I knew we had been to the playground on Centre Island a few years earlier, and I was curious to know how far that one was from the Ward’s Island spot we’d seen that day. I located the Centre Island playground and traced my eyes eastward.
Ah, there it is, Ward’s Island.
But wait, if that’s Ward’s Island, shouldn’t we have crossed a bridge or something in order to get there from Centre Island? I traced the line again, removing my glasses this time and leaning in, like one of those CSI guys enhancing something on their magical crime-solving computers.
There’s Centre Island…there’s Centre Island Beach…and then, without crossing any bodies of water, it’s suddenly called Ward’s Island? What’s happening here?
More internet searching brought up a BlogTO article from ten years ago that mentions, almost casually, that “…Ward's Island is geographically part of Centre Island but is established enough to warrant its own ferry.”
What? But then what about the Centre Island Ferry Dock? Isn’t that on Centre Island?
Wikipedia was quick to set me straight on that one: “The Centre Island dock and Centreville Amusement Park are located on Middle Island, which as a consequence, is often mistaken for Centre Island.”
Middle Island? Are you kidding me? The Centre Island Ferry Dock and Centreville are on something called Middle Island? And Centre Island is...the same thing as Ward’s Island?
The world got wobbly under my chair as I tried to understand how I had made such an inaccurate geographical assumption about my city, and had brazenly been showing visitors around a place that I mistakenly thought I knew. Was this one of those Berenstain Bears things? Have I slipped into some parallel universe where Toronto is just slightly different from the Toronto I grew up in?
Or maybe – just maybe – I need to read maps more carefully.