I grew up in Toronto. My life, for the most part, has been in Toronto. High Park and its zoo has been a big part of my life.
As a child, Sunday afternoons were spent at High Park Zoo with my parents and my sisters. After visiting the animals, we would head down to the playground at the bottom of the hill and, of course, we’d stop at Grenadier Pond to feed the ducks.
As a young adult, I moved, briefly, to Brampton. But I still came back to High Park at least once every two weeks (if not every weekend) to enjoy the beautiful walking trails, a coffee at Grenadier Restaurant and a walk through the zoo to see the animals.
In my 30s I moved back to Toronto, got married and had kids. And guess where we spend a good many Sunday afternoons?
Right. High Park. In particular, the zoo. Because kids love animals. They love how close the animals are at High Park Zoo. If it’s feeding time, the yaks, the bison, the emus come right up to the fences. You can reach out and touch them (but do so at the risk of having your fingers nibbled).
We have a family pass to the Toronto Zoo. And it’s great. But you can’t get close to the animals at the “big” zoo, as my kids call it. The animals are on display, at a distance and sometimes you don’t even get to see them because they’re hiding.
That’s usually not the case at High Park Zoo. The animal pens are more open and they are closer to the walkway, with only a chain link fence for separation. And little kids, I have found, have a hard time seeing an animal at a distance unless the animal is moving. In the summer, in the heat, at the “big” zoo and at High Park Zoo, the animals tend to just lie in the shade. But because they are up close at High Park Zoo, the kids can see them, unlike at the “big” zoo.
So, I was sad to hear recently that, due to budget cuts, High Park Zoo is shutting down. It will close in June.
Sarah Doucette, Toronto City Councillor for Ward 13 (Parkdale-High Park), put forth a motion at the January 17th City Council meeting to keep High Park Zoo open. She has presented to Council a signed petition with 6072 signatures (778 signatures from an online petition, 1,963 friends from the Save High Park Zoo Facebook page, and supporters from emails and phone calls).
Unfortunately, it seems as though the decision has already been made to close the zoo in June of this year.
I know it’s hard to mobilize people to support causes like this. But I was hurt, to say the least, that there wasn’t a larger outpouring of support to save this zoo. I grew up just west of there and I now live just east of that area. But I hadn’t heard of the decision to close the zoo until only the last few days.
This zoo is over 100 years old. The park surrounding it is beautiful. It has brought so much happiness to local residents and residents from further away. Sarah Doucette may have done all that she could and may still be doing all that she can in her own riding, but if we could somehow manage to join together across the city, maybe we could save the zoo.
There is a organization called Toronto Parks and Trees that is accepting donations to help save the zoo, but I don’t think enough people know about it.
In this day and age of Facebook and Twitter and blogs, it should be easier to mobilize the masses to fight to save something that is so much a part of Toronto’s history.
I’m not sure my little blog is going to do much to get the word out, but I feel like I have to try because I want my kids to grow up with High Park Zoo and to be able to take their kids there one day.
The zoo is a piece of Toronto’s history. It’s a great place to spend a day together as a family. It’s a great place to reconnect with nature in the busy bustle of city life. And we should do all that we can to save it.