Robert Bateman’s wildlife paintings have been sold around the world. He’s mounted shows at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, St. Petersburg’s Russian State Museum and Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution and was awarded the Order of Canada in 1983.
Yet Toronto residents might be surprised to learn his interest in wildlife was sparked by the numerous birds, raccoons and squirrels inhabiting the ravine behind his Chaplin Crescent childhood home.
“That ravine held the first forest that I got to know,” Bateman was quoted as saying in a written statement from his foundation. “From the time I could walk, I explored it and made it my personal domain.”
To celebrate that connection, the city will explore naming an 18 kilometre trail which runs for 18 kilometres along the Don Valley the Robert Bateman Urban Nature Trail.
The name was proposed by the Robert Bateman Foundation, with help from Momentum 1, a non-profit community organization, and councillors Joe Mihevc and Josh Matlow.
“This is the area where Robert Bateman himself, unbeknownst to many, was born and raised, and where he developed his passion for fine art,” said Mihevc, who brought the motion to council.
Momentum 1 director Tom Fiore emphasized the proposed trail was previously unnamed, and that landmarks such as Cedarvale Park and the Moore Park Ravine would retain their existing names.
“The trail will provide an umbrella brand leveraging Robert Bateman’s worldwide reputation as a conservation hero,” Fiore said. “The remarkable qualities of the trail — the scale, the unique stories … not to mention the vibrant biodiversity will attract public awareness.”
Mihevc said one of the Bateman Foundation’s next goals is to create a GPS-sensitive mobile application that would allow people walking along the trail to receive notes about where they are and an area’s significance.
“One can imagine walking along the Cedarvale ravine and stopping at the Glen Cedar Ridge,” Mihevc said. “There would be a description of the bridge, and its connection to other sites, and maybe a story or two, and if it was a place where Robert Bateman did an important painting there could be audio of Robert Bateman himself telling a story about that.”
The Bateman Foundation’s executive director Paul Gilbert said the organization considers the trail “clear evidence of (Toronto)’s … recognition that nature is critical to our future.
“We applaud the city and look forward to supporting this bold initiative.”
Matlow, who seconded the council motion, said it was a delight working on the proposal.
“Robert Bateman Trail will both connect green spaces throughout midtown Toronto into a recreation trail for residents to enjoy, and commemorate a remarkable midtown-born artist who’s internationally recognized for his work,” he said.
Before the trail is formally named it needs to be approved by Toronto and East York Community Council in April.
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