Friends of High Park Zoo propose public-private partnership at city budget committee

Friends of High Park Zoo propose public-private partnership at city budget committee

December 2, 2013

Bloor West Villager

By Lisa Rainford


Friends of High Park Zoo has submitted a proposal to the city’s budget committee to create a public-private partnership model to ensure the zoo remains open for years to come.

The group is proposing establishing a High Park Zoo Conservancy in an effort to provide a zoo that is enduring and exceeds visitors’ expectations.

“This is our idea on how to make the zoo sustainable,b said Friends of High Park Zoo spokesperson Chris Diceman on Monday, Dec. 2 as public deputations continued at the budget committee at city hall. bThe city alone can’t fund the zoo.”

The High Park Zoo has been operating for the past two years without city funding and the budget committee has not included it again for 2014, pointed out Diceman.

“The status quo is not an option. We need to propose restoring funding as well as a bigger picture option,b said Diceman, adding the proposal should be received bfavourably.”

According to Friends of High Park Zoo research, the zoo attracts as many as 500,000 visitors per year, 40 times the visitors per hectare per year versus the admission-supported Toronto Zoo. The group has successfully raised enough money to keep the zoo open for the past two years, however, has found it challenging to entice money from corporations.

“No corporation is willing to risk its capital without the city playing an active role to ensure the sustainability of the zoo” said Friends in a statement.Residents also find it hard to fathom that the budget committee and city council will, if approved for 2014, have raised residential property taxes by two per cent or more each year since cutting the funding for High Park Zoo while not restoring $1 of funding for the zoo.”

Friends, along with Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette, called on zoo supporters to attend the budget committee meeting Monday, Dec. 2 and Tuesday, Dec. 3 and to make a deputation about why the zoo should be back in the citybs budget. Its annual operating cost is $228,000. People were also invited to make a written submission or show support at the meeting by wearing zoo buttons or by waving a peacock feather.

Friends of High Park Zoo are calling on the city to step up in the 2014 budget and partner in funding the operating costs of High Park Zoo. Such a partnership would allow the organization to focus more on raising capital and other funding with corporations, businesses, foundations and grants for the enhancement (and ultimately the possible self-sustainability) of the zoo.

Friends is proposing the city provide the $228,000 in operating costs for 2014 while both partners work toward consummating an agreement to implement a plan that creates a High Park Zoo Conservancy.

Established in 1893 for deer, the zoobs animal paddocks have always been a popular attraction. Today, 120 years later, the zoobs 11 paddocks are home to a variety of animal species from around the world, including bison, llamas, peacocks, reindeer, highland cattle, wallabies, emus and sheep. The zoo is free to the public. For further details about the Friends of High Park Zoobs proposal submitted to the budget committee, visit