Think Your Park is Sacrosanct? Think Again …

Residents of the High Park area may soon lose their century-old zoo – despite their efforts.

From yesterday’s National Post by

COMMENT: Mayor Rob Ford is correct: Toronto has better things to fund with tax dollars than a zoo in High Park. But that does not mean we should let this zoo die.

The budget passed by council on Tuesday funds the High Park Zoo and the Toronto Island Zoo only until June. After that, the yak, bison, capybara, Barbary sheep, emu and peacocks are on their own.

My kids have grown up with High Park Zoo. When my daughter was 2 we would smuggle in carrots and feed the llama through the chain-link fence. She climbed on my shoulders, though, when we approached the yak pen.

“I’m scared of yak,” she said.

This zoo, by some estimates a century old, never gets old: the other day my son, now nine, went there with our dog, Coco, and me; Coco stared down the yak, who snorted dismissively.

Above; A photo belonging to Sarah Doucette of the High Park Zoo in the 1900s

Zoos can be depressing but these animals have lots of space and appear content. The city estimates 100,000 people visit yearly.

“A lot of these animals love the cold,” says Richard Ubbens, Toronto’s director of parks. “They are in their element right now.”

Last summer, after KPMG called our zoos expendable, the humans in Cabbagetown jumped on their hind legs to save Riverdale Farm, with results: council protected the farm’s $500,000 budget through 2012, as locals seek ways to save it.

The High Park Zoo is less lucky. My first instinct: rookie Councillor Sarah Doucette (Parkdale-High Park) dropped the ball. Where is the outrage? Who speaks for the wallabies? At council Tuesday, Ms. Doucette presented 5,000 signatures to save the zoo. She was too late. The chair ruled out-of-order her motion to protect zoo funding through 2012.

The neighbourhood dropped the ball, too. A longtime city parks employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, notes that residents of the big old houses around High Park, some of them active in “Friends of High Park,” don’t care about the mouflon sheep, and are not fighting to save the zoo.

Now it is up to people who don’t even live in the ward to try to save the zoo with private cash.

What to do? Ms. Doucette says the city has approved two donation boxes, coming soon.

“I’m determined,” she says. “We’re not going to lose this zoo. It’s part of the jewel of Toronto. Thousands of people come to the park to go to the zoo.”

One challenge: John George Howard donated High Park to the city in 1873, “for the purposes of a Public Park for the free use benefit and enjoyment of the citizens of the City of Toronto.” So we can’t charge admission, as some have suggested for Riverdale Farm.

Mr. Ubbens is hopeful: as head of forestry, he found sponsors to pay for widespread tree plantings in Toronto, and hopes to find a sponsor for the High Park Zoo. Maybe Yak Communications, the phone and Internet provider, is interested.

“We have a few months to look for other funds to try to carry on the operation,” Mr. Ubbens says.

Another fan of the zoo, Joan Crawford, has produced a zoo colouring book, and seeks a benefactor to print it as a fundraising idea.

If you love the fuzzies of High Park, it is time to make your voices heard.

National Post, with files from Natalie Alcoba

Comment by Ed Horner

Granted, Howard left the park with some stipulations around how it should be used, but the City of Toronto apparently can do anything it wants with land it looks after.  Many years ago, Emma Davis left a large piece of land for the citizens of Toronto in the form of Glen Davis Ravine.  The City accepted the land with all stipulations, then promptly turned around and sold it off for housing.  Don’t think for an instant that the City isn’t prepared to do the same with any other parkland that it’s responsible for.  Once the zoo is gone, it’s gone forever.  Same with little scraps of parkland around town.  Once the City decides it’s “unprotected” – upon their sole discretion – it’s gone. Even the OMB, who is charged with increasing population density in Toronto, has no interest in protecting zoos or land.  If you want to save or protect parkland, start early and hit hard!

For more on the Glen Davis story, try this link


Find us on Facebook.             Ed Horner.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: