City staff have told the Beaches Lions Club to scrap plans to sublease dock space at Ashbridges Bay to a company that rents WaveRunners, small powered watercraft similar to Jet Skis or Sea Doos.
Also at issue is a concrete pad that the company, Toronto WaveRunners, built along the docks beside the Lions Club boathouse so it could put up a storage shed.
Ryan Glenn, business services manager for Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, says the WaveRunner plan doesn’t fit the intended use of the Lions’ facility at Ashbridges Bay as a not-for-profit sailing club.
Glenn said the city only found out about the plan when a parks employee saw Toronto WaveRunners staff pouring cement on the site, which is part of the conservation land owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
Beaches Lions secretary Andy Buhot says he hopes the club can keep the cement pad, which the club wanted in before running boat tours to the Toronto Islands during an international Lions Club convention next July.
“To our minds, the site before was almost unusable,” Buhot said, noting the old concrete was in bad shape and built on garbage from construction sites. “It wouldn’t have dawned on us that we would need approval to improve the thing.”
While he said the Lions Club should have spoken to the city first, Buhot thnks the whole concrete issue is a red herring.
“I wonder what the position would be if this had nothing to do with WaveRunners,” he said, adding that many people in the Beach just don’t like the machines. “If you’re opposed to something, you’re going to throw as much at it as you can and hope some stuff sticks.”
As for renting its dock space, Buhot said the club is facing higher utilities costs, roof and plumbing repairs, plus some $10,000 in flood damage caused by back-ups in the city’s stormwater system.
Renting space to Toronto WaveRunners for July and August was meant to help the Lions Club handle those costs. Buhot said the club had yet to sign a contract with the company and the idea was to have all the WaveRunner renters ferried east of the Toronto beaches and well offshore before they could ride.
“The bottom line is we did not expect that operation to have an effect on anybody,” he said.
Toronto WaveRunners owner Shaun Talbot said the whole issue comes down to a bias against WaveRunners.
“Down here, if you pay your $150 and belong to a makeshift rowing club on the side of a breakwall in the middle of a commercial setting, you seem to have free reign of the city,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”
Talbot said if his company is not generating profit on the Lions Club property, he can’t see the issue.
“There’s a fine line whether I’m operating a commercial operation or whether I’m leasing dock space off of the Lions Club,” he said.
Talbot said his plan was to store a floating dock at Ashbridges Bay, which his staff can use to ferry groups of eight to 12 riders and their WaveRunners to a point east of the Toronto harbour boundary at Victoria Park Avenue, where the renters won’t need a harbour licence.
Toronto WaveRunners started taking bookings online on June 15, and Talbot said they started taking riders out last week using the public boat launches at Ashbridges Bay.
Angus Armstrong, harbour master for the Toronto Port Authority, says that option could work.
“I’m not that concerned if they were doing it east of Victoria Park,” he said. “But any rental system that would be on the public swimming beaches would raise concern.”
Even if the plan with the Beaches Lions Club falls through, Talbot says he is determined to be the first company in the business to tap Toronto’s busy eastern Beaches.
“One way or another, I’m bringing jet skis to Toronto,” he said. “Actually, they’re already here, technically, because they’re out on the water right now.”