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‘It’s never OK to trash our parks:’ Long-weekend ends of sour note for Toronto parks, beaches

Click to play video: 'Crowds leave behind long-weekend mess at Toronto parks and beaches' Crowds leave behind long-weekend mess at Toronto parks and beaches
WATCH ABOVE: The memories of a lovely long weekend have been marred by the actions of a few. Irresponsible and dangerous behaviour on Toronto's beachfront led to the need for a massive cleanup and a hospital visit. Matthew Bingley reports – May 25, 2021

The Victoria Day long weekend may have been marked by extraordinary weather allowing many to spend it in the Toronto’s parks and beaches, but it ended in shame with people leaving behind piles of litter and dangerously discharging fireworks into crowds and a person had to be taken to a hospital.

Videos posted to social media show large gatherings of people at Ashbridge’s Bay fleeing for safety as people began to set off fireworks in the crowd.

Screams could also be heard amid the pops of fireworks as people ran for safety at dusk.

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In another video, people can be seen firing roman candles horizontally at each other next to the bike path on Lake Shore Boulevard East. Even as crowds eventually thinned, residents in the Beaches community could hear fireworks continuing long into the night.

The Toronto Police Service said a person had to be taken to hospital after being hit by a firework. Another person was given medical attention at the scene after a firework hit their leg.

Read more: City announces plans for park in downtown Toronto as part of new development

Connie Osborne, the media relations manager for the service, said in an email to Global News that police were dispatched to the Woodbine Beach area on Sunday and Monday evening.

On both evenings, she said the size and hostility of the crowds played into their response.

In addition to responding to illegal fireworks, police said garbage was also lit on fire on both evenings.

On top of dispersing the crowds, Toronto Police traffic enforcement was also deployed on both evenings. Osborne said one person was arrested on Sunday evening in relation to several Highway Traffic Act offenses.

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John William Liam Murphy said it was “a little scary” on Monday night.

“It went on and on all last night. I could not sleep — the fireworks — it was just insane,” he said.

Murphy said he lives in a condo where there are several elderly residents and that the crowds were banging on windows and trying to get into the parking garage and private courtyards. He said he was disappointed by the slow police response to respond the issue.

“There was so many police cars,” he said.

“But they came too late, they should have been here probably 8 or 9 p.m., but they didn’t start showing up until 11 and by that point they had already lost the battle.”

While the disturbances at the public beach was one sour note for an otherwise peaceful long-weekend, mounds of garbage and litter left behind at city parks and beaches was another low point.

Read more: Toronto mayor encourages young people to apply for 2021 summer parks, recreation jobs

An aerial view of one mound of litter left behind on a Toronto beach following the Victoria Day long-wekend. Phil Fraboni/Global News

Beaches-East York Coun. Brad Bradford said much of the behaviour over the weekend was unacceptable regardless of the timing.

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“Pandemic aside, this behaviour is unacceptable,” Bradford said.

In response to the influx of pandemic parks users in 2020, Bradford said the City adjusted the number of waste bins available and the hours in which garbage is collected.

But Bradford said those efforts alone won’t keep beaches and parks clean if people aren’t willing to take their waste with them.

“At the end of the day, people need to change their behaviour,” he said.

“A select few of extremely selfish people are exhibiting behaviour that’s certainly not acceptable during a global pandemic, or any other time for that matter.”

Still, Bradford said he’s been speaking with the parks, solid waste, and by-law departments to address the challenges seen over the weekend. If more enforcement is required to address the issue, he said the City will have to dedicate more resources going forward.

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