Region: Ontario and Nunavut
Year of Production: 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Accidental Wilderness vividly documents the power and perseverance of the natural world in the unlikeliest of places. A unique and surprising story, the film takes viewers through four seasons at the Leslie Street Spit, a remarkably rich wilderness located a few short kilometres from the heart of Toronto, one of North America’s largest cities. Here, the distinction between city and wilderness disappears: a coyote roams freely in a cottonwood forest while in the distance, the CN Tower looms on the cityscape.
The Spit (or Tommy Thompson Park as it’s officially called), was initially conceived of as a breakwater to protect Toronto’s bustling shoreline. City builders dumped construction waste into Lake Ontario starting in 1959, eventually creating a five-kilometre concrete peninsula. But soon enough, the heaps of rubble gave way to plants and wild animals proving that, when given the chance, nature can take root anywhere.
There are five distinct ecosystems on the peninsula, and within them a dizzying array of animal life has established itself: coyotes, beavers, snakes, 365 species of bird, turtles, cottontails, mink, muskrat are just a few. Most fascinating is how various species have used the Spit, with its rubble of concrete and bricks, beaches shot through with rebar and abandoned ceramic, to their own best ends.
The Spit has partly taken shape with the gentle hand of human caretakers. In Accidental Wilderness, they happily guide us through this wild terrain. Behavioural ecologist Gail Fraser and conservationist Diego Corales take us into the cormorant colony, while urban wildlife researcher Marc Dupuis-Desormeaux introduces us to the Spit’s resident Blanding’s Turtles. The Spit’s Community Co-ordinator, Emily Rondel, uncovers coyotes with a group of visitors, and school children are introduced to the magic of the Spit for the first time. We follow their observations in the park, how they manage animal populations and the land, as well as the important research they carry out to gain more insight into this ‘unnatural natural space’.
All kinds of Torontonians love the Spit and visit year-round. Hobby naturalists, cyclists, university researchers, sailors – even school children coming for field trips – each bring their own opinions about this special piece of Toronto. However they view the space, the passion of these urbanites highlights the importance of urban wildernesses, now more than ever, as encroachment from city development pushes ‘the wild’ further and further away from the downtown core.
Cast/Participants: David Suzuki
AVAILABLE ON: TV/Télévision