Throughout the many years I’ve lived in Toronto, I have yet to visit the largest park the city has to offer: High Park. Featuring many hiking trails, sports facilities, diverse vegetation, a dog park, a zoo, playgrounds for the kids, picnic areas, greenhouses, and various events throughout the year, the park’s 400 acres offer a sense of nature and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. To help me with my first experience to High Park, I met up with two employees from the High Park Nature Centre, as well as 14 students attending one of the park’s learning day care camps. From these fine people I would learn that the park is a unique place in terms of its natural resources and that over a third of it remains in a natural state, which contains an amazing concentration of rare ecosystems such as the Black Oak Savannah. The nature centre staff turned it over to the kids who amazed me with their knowledge of the history of the park.
The park got its name in 1836 when a city surveyor, John G. Howard, purchased a 150-acre lot and named the property “High Park.” Here he built Colborne Lodge for his family. The Howards eventually deeded over their property to the city of Toronto with some conditions — they were to receive annual pensions as well as continue to live there until their deaths.
The walk started at Colborne lodge and would take us into the flats of the park and then back into the forest trails and end at High Park Nature Centre. Along the walk we would see the variety the park has to offer, as well as the commitment from the staff and the volunteers to maintain its natural state. The park has a planting program where the staff and volunteers collect seeds from native plants. Seeds are then propagated in the park’s greenhouses and later planted in appropriate areas. The city’s strategy to improve the health of High Park’s aquatic system is aimed at restoring water quality and improving the wildlife habitat, therefore the large pond at the park (the biggest in all of Toronto) is off limits to boats and swimmers.
During our springtime hike I couldn’t help but take notice that the park was full of activity. The people who filled the park — whether it was for a picnic, a jog, walking the dog, or just out playing catch — all seemed to be really enjoying the wilderness atmosphere, almost oblivious to the fact that we were right smack in the middle of Canada’s most populated metropolis. High Park has over a million people visit it each year. It is easy to get to by car and TTC and since it’s a city park, it’s free!
The tour eventually came to an end, and along our walk the kids pointed out the places where they’ve seen raccoons; we also spotted a family of hawks, and a few butterflies flying around. At the end of the day I was wishing that it hadn’t taken me so long to visit such an amazing place.
Be sure to visit the park this spring, and take full advantage of Toronto’s greatest green space.
For more information about High Park, visit highparktoronto.com.
The High Park Community Advisory Council (HPCAC) is a volunteer group made up of a broad range of park users, including individuals and organized groups.
The HPCAC provides public input on park policies, goals and objectives; helps facilitate volunteer involvement in park initiatives; and promotes public awareness and responsible stewardship of the park.
For info on how you can get involved in protecting and maintaining Toronto’s largest green space, visit www.highpark.org
[box_light]By Ethan August[/box_light]