Why We Need Wildish Places like Grandview Cut

Why We Need Wildish Places like Grandview Cut


For the Wildlife: When teams of heavy horses and soiled and sweating men hauled away wagons of earth and shaped the Grandview Cut, no one planted the trees and shrubs that cling where they can to the steep slopes today. There was no need. Native woodland covered the area less than a century ago. In its unassuming way this gradually reclaimed the wounded land. As years passed and trains ground noisily along the bottom of the Cut, the trees grew undisturbed, some to impressive heights. One by one, their fellows in the surrounding woods were felled. Houses were built, streets were paved, and business communities evolved along what were once skid tracks. Park Drive became Commercial. Woodland Drive lay bare of forest. But the warblers continued migrating along the corridor of the Cut. The wrens continued nesting in its trees.

With each kilometer outward that the city spreads, each hectare of forest, field, and creekside lost, every cluster of trees within that enclave, every huddle of shrubs and herbs, every patch of semi-isolated gravel where kildeers might raise their young grows exponentially in importance.

It is no longer enough to plant tamed and tidy gardens, trees spread daintily along the boulevard. The garden, the laneway, the grid of streets are no longer clearings in the midst of wildness, human habitat gleaned from a rough and endless native world. They sprawl across ecosystems, climate regions, borders, dividing wild from wild. The discontinuity frays the health of wilderness itself, diminishing the richly woven tapestry of life, individual by individual, species by species, ecosystem by ecosystem. We have reached the stage where we need to do everything in our power to reconnect those wild lands, to salvage and restore wherever we can grassy patches, shrubs, woodlands no matter how disturbed or small, no matter that they don't yet represent the ultimate combination of species for this particular patch of land. These are the only refuge urban wildlife has, the only pockets of connection that lets it leapfrog across the concrete that has taken over its home.

Instead of digging in and taking more and reducing what is left--


and shape our roadsides, parklands, gardens, backyards wherever we can to a kinder, wilder place that will coax back the great chorus of birdsong, woo home the peregrines and the hawks. We must tame the pollution in the waters and soil and air so that frogs and humans and chickadees alike can happily call this sprawling city home.

For the Wild in Us: Why do we need these wild and semi-wild and returning-to-wild places? Why isn't it enough that new trees and shrubs will be placed in a linear park along Grandview, even if there was a way for this to support the same wildlife that currently lives inside the Cut (which there is not)? It is more than knowing that wild life is valuable in and of itself, more than knowing that our own wellbeing depends on healthy forests and bogs and oceans. It exists on a level we cannot always even feel, and which expresses itself differently for each of us—as love for a gentle parent, as a joyful disorderliness, as a memory of a distant home. We come from the wildland. Even in those of us who love "civilization", the city life, the ways we have learned to organize and fascinate ourselves, part of us is always wild. That part needs not to be enclosed, ordered, constrained like a potted plant or a greenway pruned for safety and visibility. We need to be able to look down and know that whether we ever walk in the Cut ourselves, it is growing there, largely unrestrained, and that this is possible for us as well. We need places of great beauty right before our eyes, in our neighbourhoods--not only beauty that has been designed and dictated by someone else, but something that follows its own notion of what is healthful and vigourous growth. We need woodlands to love and grow up beside and fight for. We need to know that wildlife isn't all in the Serengeti or the Far North—that it lives right here. That it's part of us. And we need to have a place to look at as our home, that will not disappear or be molested with the passage of time.


For ourselves, as well as for the wildlife, we need to save and honour this precious wildland in our midst.


Casey Wolf

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