Friends of High Park Zoo unveil future improvements

Inside Toronto

Mon., Feb 01, 2016 | By Hilary Caton

From facing closure to getting a facelift, High Park Zoo not only continues to bring people closer to nature, it now has improvements in its future.

Plans for the zoo’s future improvements were unveiled to a room of eager volunteers and nearby residents, Thursday, Jan. 28, receiving a positive reception.

Friends of High Park Zoo (FHPZ) chair John Formosa, along with landscape architect Brent Raymond of the firm DTAH, unveiled the design of the High Park Zoo Master Plan, to a small audience and everyone seemed pleased.

B bIt is a wonderful improvement. It doesn’t take much to see that the zoo as it stands is in bad shape, said Grace Petrucci, a volunteer at the zoo. bThese enhancements are fabulous and absolutely exciting.b

With the construction of the new Deer Pen Road slated for 2017, which will have more curves and less curbs, the zoo looks to receive a slew of enhancements. Following the meeting, Raymond told The Villager that once the city announced the roads construction, it bunlocked all of its potential,b and called it a breal catalyst for everything.

The zoo enhancements range from the large, such as increasing the size of the bison pen by seven-metres and creating a new administrative building; to the small, such as improving lighting, installing flags and signs so that the zoo is more noticeable, and improving the overall plant quality.

The master plan also looks to improve the zoo experience for the animals as well with new creative furnishings for them to enjoy such as ponds and interactive feeders.

It was a pretty easy project to do, we actually set the vision pretty early on and we knew what the opportunities were and we worked within the constraints,b Raymond said.

Although the master plan isn’t a formal city project, the FHPZ, a community and volunteer driven organization that’s launched this initiative, is working with the City’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department, to enhance and sustain the zoo.

For the chair of the FHPZ, this master plan shows true growth and the neighbourhood’s love for the zoo.

It’s a huge testament to the community here because this has been a total grassroots initiative,b Formosa said.

It’s a great example of what communities can do.

The zoo will have to tackle some major improvements such as creating a colourful main pathway that is accessible, improve stormwater management and enhance the gateway to the zoo all while maintaining its park feel, Raymond said.

Keeping the zoo’s profile fairly demure is something Andrew Kohan of India Road and Garden Avenue believes the landscape architects did well.

It looks like a great way to make things more attractive without going overboard in spending. It doesn’t mess too much with the low key nature of the zoo. It’s a pretty chill space that people can walk through,b he said.

I love it. I love that it expands space for the animals and makes the space for the people better. It’s a much more humane space in many ways for both visitors and residents of the zoo.

The next step in the master plan process is to take feedback and comments from residents and make any necessary changes. Following that, the group will determine overall costs and determine which projects have the highest priority and when should they happen. The plan will set out improvement projects in phases.

Farmosa said, the FHPZ will also be lobbying all levels of government, foundations and corporations for funding in the near future.

This is one of the jewels of Toronto, Formosa said.

As the awareness (of the zoo) grows, people are showing that it’s a worthwhile investment and a worthwhile asset for Toronto to keep and really improve and bring up to date.

There is no set date for when improvements in the zoo will start.