Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit, a former garbage dump, is now an urban wilderness, providing a haven for both wildlife and people. Officially known as Tommy Thompson Park, the 3-mile-long peninsula, spanning more than 1,200 acres, was established as a breakwater to protect the city’s expanding port and shoreline. But by the 1970s, when a site for port-related facilities was no longer needed, it had become an ‘accidental wilderness’. Approximately 365 animal species — from coyotes and turtles to beavers to cottontails — visit or live there year-round. The park is an “important stopover point for migrating birds, butterflies and other insects”, and birders have spotted 330 avian species in the park. “Where else can you be surrounded by water on both sides?" says John Carley, who has co-chaired Friends of the Spit for 35 years. "You’re out by yourself, you look back at a city of 3 million, but you can’t hear a thing?”

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