In a city sometimes referred to as The Big Smoke, Toronto's extensive network of sunken rivers, forested vales, and expansive shoreline has been too often overlooked, neglected, or forgotten. However, the last 25 years has seen these distinctive landscapes rediscovered and even embraced as great civic spaces. Commissioned by the City of Toronto to chronicle the wonders of these wilderness parks, renowned photographer Robert Burley looks at these sites as integral parts of urban life, from breathtaking lake views of the Scarborough Bluffs to glimpses of the densely wooded trails in the Carolinian forests of Rouge Park, Canada's first and only urban national park.
Burley's photos are augmented with selections of poetry and prose by some of Toronto's best-known writers, including Anne Michaels, George Elliott Clarke, Alissa York, and Michael Mitchell. A historical essay and an appendix highlight the history, the biodiversity, and the priceless cultural value of these urban parklands. Though confined to the city limits, An Enduring Wilderness is full of surprising ecological and urban discoveries that know no limits themselves.
Foreword by Mayor John Tory -- 8
Introduction by Janie Romoff & Jennifer Keesmaat -- 9
Going There to Be There by Robert Burley -- 11
Toronto's Natural Parklands -- 15
SHORELINE: The Lake Ontario Waterfront -- 17
Please, Birds by Anne Michaels -- 33
RIVER: The Humber River Valley -- 61
Petting the Bunny by Michael Mitchell -- 63
CREEKS: and Lost Rivers -- 101
Life by Water by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson -- 102
VALLEY: The Don River Valley -- 119
The Animal Part by Alissa York -- 121
FOREST: The Rouge River Valley & Highland Creek -- 167
Navigating the Rouge (Park[s]) by George Elliott Clarke -- 183
Imagining, Creating, and Sustaining Toronto's Natural Parklands: A Short History by Wayne Reeves -- 221
Appendix Toronto's Natural Parklands: Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) -- 231
Acknowledgements -- 262
Contributor Biographies -- 263
Over a career spanning 35 years, Robert Burley has undertaken numerous urban landscape projects, including an exploration of Chicago's O'Hare Airfield and, as part of the larger commission, Viewing Olmsted, New York City's Central Park. In 2012, Burley published The Disappearance of Darkness, documenting the demise of the industrial architecture supporting analog photography. Burley's works are collected and exhibited by major art museums around the world. He currently lives in Toronto and teaches at Ryerson University's School of Image Arts.
"With three-quarters of Canadians now living in cities, I'm glad that our city planners, municipal politicians, and the public are paying attention to the protection and sound management of urban green space, like Toronto's world-class ravine system. Urban green spaces complement traditional infrastructure, provide a multitude of ecological benefits, and contribute to the health and well-being of local residents."
– David Suzuki
"It's an incredible visual tour that brings to life the strange juxtapositions between urban and rustic that characterize Toronto."
– Globe and Mail
"Burley's photos of all of it are stunning and will surprise some people: this is Toronto? [...] Big full colour photo books like this are expensive to produce and time-consuming efforts, but An Enduring Wilderness reveals a Toronto you'll want to know better."
– Toronto Star
"The photos that comprise An Enduring Wilderness: Toronto's Natural Parklands, which is both a book and a photo show, offer a delicate portrait of the city that we surely don't see enough, even as we're quick to offer platitudes about how lovely our ravine system is."
"Your imagination will soar in this illuminating and inspiring work. In this highly personal collaborative effort between novelists, poets, and a photographer, seasonality, continuity, change, and continuous movement are seamlessly melded into one harmonic effort that forces you to reconsider what a park is, and in doing so will forever change the way you see the city that you thought you knew."
– Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, FAAR, President & CEO, The Cultural Landscape Foundation
"While it would seem at first to be only of local interest to those living in and around Toronto, the photos themselves are gorgeous and the conditions they document are nearly universal for other North American cities: scenes of natural, remnant ecosystems butting up against, but nonetheless resisting, the brute force of urban development."
"An Enduring Wilderness is not only a beautiful offering, it provides an important reminder that we live with nature, and it is always finding ways to tell us it is here."
"An Enduring Wilderness evokes a certain nostalgia for nature through which shines an idyllic vision and harmony now vanished."
– L'Oeil de la Photographie
"This work is a kind of reawakening, an action and a project designed to increase public awareness of the green spaces in Toronto."