Oct 16, 2015
High Park Zoo
Staff file photo/IAN KELSO
One of the many reasons the High Park Zoo is so loved is its location in a ravine that makes it a quiet space that doesn’t feel like it’s in the middle of a thriving metropolis, say local residents.
That’s why the Friends of High Park Zoo (FHPZ), a community and volunteer driven organization, has launched an initiative, the High Park Zoo Master Plan, alongside the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department, to enhance and sustain the zoo.
“We want to come up with a vision for what the zoo can be,” landscape architect Brent Raymond of the firm DTAH, told an audience who had gathered at a public meeting at the High Park Forest School, Thursday evening. “Whatever you think is a good idea, bring it forward. We’re not here to make a decision tonight. We want to talk about the possibilities.”
A Master Plan is a tool to help implement a vision and used as a fundraising tool, Raymond explained to the couple dozen community members, who attended the meeting hosted by FHPZ. The Master Plan will be defined within a relatively short period of three months because it will coincide with the reconstruction of Deer Pen Road – the public access to the zoo pens. It is in need of repair; there are storm water drain issues and tree roots breaking through the sidewalk, Raymond said.
“Deer Pen Road is not a vehicular road, it’s a service road,” he said. “Does it need to be as wide? What can we do to do more here? How can we create pathways, make the zoo more park-like? How can we deal with the storm water?”
Working with Raymond and DTAH is Paul Harpley, who specializes in zoo exhibit planning, design and interpretation.
“Are there new materials that can be used, new approaches that can be taken? What’s unique and original about High Park Zoo,” he asked.
Residents were tasked with answering three specific questions among themselves: What place or feature do you like most about the zoo; what place or feature would you like to see improved at the zoo; and what additional feature would you like to see in the zoo Master Plan?
Better signage was a suggestion that came up several times. Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette, who spoke on behalf of her working group, suggested animal footprints be painted on paths to indicate where the zoo is within High Park. Improved fencing that would allow visitors to get even closer to the animals, a petting area not just on weekends and more interactive features were just a few more suggestions.
In January of 2012, the zoo, which had been built in 1893, was threatened with closure when the city proposed pulling its $228,000 annual operating costs. That’s when the FHPZ formed to save the zoo. The group opened the llama pen to visitors who for a small fee could feed them, and raised $11,000 in one week. Thanks to groups like The Honey Family Foundation, the Griggs Family Foundation, and individual donors, the zoo was saved and on-going fundraising efforts are continuing to fund its sustainability and enhancements.
A second Master Plan meeting is set for Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 6:30, at the Forest School. To find out more, visit www.cms.highparkzoo.ca