Presenting: Gene Domagala – A Human Convenience Store of Charity and Community Involvement in Toronto’s Beach

Throughout its history, the Beach has also been a centre of physical recreation. Even today there are facilities for lawn bowling, tennis, a big public swimming pool, a boathouse for canoes, hundreds of permanently anchored wooden posts for beach volleyball, the boardwalk and the Martin Goodman all-purpose recreational trail which are widely used by joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers. For about a century now, the Balmy Beach Club has been a recreational institution at the east end of the neighbourhood. Kite-flying on blustery spring and fall days is also a popular practice along the long sandy beach. Dog lovers flock to this area as well due to its extensive off-leash areas where they can let their furry friends run free.

The Beach – a dog lover’s paradise

On this cold and windy winter day, Gene took his big bundle of keys and opened the seniors’ room next to the club house of the Beaches Lawn Bowling Club so we would be able to continue our conversation sheltered from the icy breeze. Once inside, Gene showed me a variety of oversize photo boards that illustrate the history of the Beach. He explained that the original Bell Telephone Exchange for the Beach neighbourhood is located at the north east corner of Queen and Lee, and years ago was converted into a residential apartment building. After showing me various historic views of the area he also mentioned the Victoria Park Forest School that was dedicated to sickly children to help them regain their health. The Forest School was closed in 1932 due to the construction of the R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant.

Gene shows a photo of the Victoria Park Forest School

As we were talking all of a sudden the doors of the building opened, and we had an unexpected visitor. Angela Miller, a foreperson for the Toronto Parks and Recreation Department had entered to see what was going on, and this was a perfect opportunity to find out more about the City’s role in the upkeep of the Beach. Angela explained that her unit is responsible for maintenance, garbage pickup and special events in the area which spans about 80 acres. In the summer she runs a crew of 14 full-time workers while in the winter Angela and her colleague Laurie are the only ones permanently entrusted with the maintenance of the public parks in this area. Laurie went on to say that the area requires a lot of upkeep due to the frequent special events that are being held here. Virtually every weekend there is a permit for a special event, and big events like the Beaches Jazz Festival require a lot of setup in advance and extensive cleanups on a daily basis.

Angela Miller who looks after maintenance in the Beach

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