The official opening of the Billy Bishop airport tunnel on Thursday marked a new path between the Toronto Islands and the city, but some residents of the urban oasis are hoping it will be the only concrete connection between the two.
Jimmy Jones has been living away from the hustle and bustle of mainland Toronto since 1932, when he moved to the Islands with his family as a toddler.
"We came here, my mother tells me, when I was two years old," Jones told CTV Toronto on Thursday. "So I’ve been on this island for 83 years."
Jones, who is known as the unofficial mayor of the Toronto Islands, says the area has changed significantly over the decades. He remembers when Hanlan's Point was home to a popular amusement park.
"My dad was a clown in the amusement park and my mother sold tickets in the box office," he said.
The Islands were also a bustling place, filled with homes, hotels and restaurants.
"I can see it all in my head," Jones said. "I can see the main drag at Centre Island where as a teenager I hung out at all the hotels, restaurants, rooming houses and there was dancing on the deck."
The Toronto Islands continue to be a popular urban escape for many locals and tourists who ride the ferry to check out attractions such as the William Meany Hedge Maze.
Jones says he also remembers the Billy Bishop island airport being built from the ground up.
"I'm the only person living on the island who can tell you they watched the island airport being constructed," he said.
Today, Billy Bishop Airport serves more than two million travellers each year. On Thursday, the pedestrian tunnel connecting the mainland to the airport officially opened. Jones said he hopes that will be the only connection between the two.
"If they bridge the island, you wouldn't want to come here."
With a report from CTV Toronto's Scott Lightfoot