Once referred to as Toronto's "accidental wilderness", Tommy Thompson Park is now recognized as a fortuitous urban miracle. Initially created as a landfill site on the city's rapidly developing waterfront, the park's physical and ecological footprint have grown dramatically. Forests, grasslands, and wildlife now thrive – all within a stone's throw of some of the most densely populated areas of North America's fourth-largest city.
Accidental Wilderness is a rich and lyrical collection of essays curated by internationally recognized landscape architect and original designer of Tommy Thompson Park, Walter H. Kehm, complemented by a stunning collection of photographs by renowned landscape photographer Robert Burley. The book explores the city's port origins; the park's master plan principles and design; the native-plant succession process; the park's unique flora and fauna; public advocacy; and public recreation in the park and its effect on mental, physical, and spiritual health.
In an era where the looming dangers associated with climate change affect our daily lives, Tommy Thompson Park offers a hopeful narrative about how nature can flourish in, and contribute to, the well-being of twenty-first-century cities.
Foreword / David Miller
Introduction / Walter H. Kehm
Portfolio I / Robert Burley
Part I: Epiphany
The Spontaneous Ecology of Tommy Thompson Park / Peter Del Tredici
Building the Leslie Street Spit / Wayne Reeves
Aquatic Park / Walter H. Kehm
The Evolution of Advocacy / John Carley
Portfolio II / Robert Burley
Part II: Process
Conservation by Design: The 1986 Plan / Walter H. Kehm
Plants and Natural Succession / Gavin Miller
Birds and Birding at the Spit / Garth Vernon Riley
Mammals and Fish / Gord MacPherson and Walter H. Kehm
Habitat Projects and Wildlife Management / Andrea Chreston
Portfolio III / Robert Burley
Part III: Evolution
People in the Park / Walter H. Kehm
Let the Spit Be!! / Robert Burley
Home / Chief R. Stacey Laforme
List of Bird Species
List of Plant Species
Walter H. Kehm is a landscape architect and was a professor and Director of the School of Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph.
Robert Burley is an artist working in photography. His projects often explore the transition between city and country.
"The Spit is miraculous and amazing, growing out of Toronto like a volcanic island. Accidental Wilderness is a stunningly beautiful and hopeful book that captures with writing that is both technical and romantic the story of how the Spit came to be and what it almost was if not for the interventions of the people who protected it."
– Shawn Micallef, Spacing magazine
"The Spit was quarried from the landfill of the city, cradled and cared for by local activists and then captured by the regenerative forces of nature. This extraordinary saga is beautifully told by Walter H. Kehm and his colleagues and exquisitely highlighted by the photography of Robert Burley."
– David Crombie, mayor of Toronto (1972–1978), professor, and writer
"This resonating book is a command performance of what is left of nature for the people of Toronto. It is a mirror for change, a welcoming walk into the spirit of renewal."
– Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of To Speak for the Trees
"Venturing onto the Leslie Street Spit, we are still in the city but in an entirely different world. It is sublime. The Spit was never intended to be a wilderness park, but it became a magnificent one. In Accidental Wlderness the photographs by Robert Burley capture the Spit's strange beauty, while the text by Walter H. Kehm and his colleagues brilliantly tells the suspenseful story of the perilous and persistent journey to 'let it be.'"
– Ken Greenberg, author of Walking Home and Toronto Reborn
"Accidental Wilderness should be required reading for urbanists, advocates, and environmentalists in Canada and beyond."
– Charles Waldheim, Harvard University