UPDATE on June 9, 2012
Thanks to the spirit of the Parkdale High Park community and one enormously generous foundation gift, City Council accepted a combined donation of over $250,000 so the High Park Zoo will remain open until at least mid-2013. That should be time to develop a for-profit business model that will hopefully include more community engagement and education programmes . It will also prevent homeless lamas and yaks from drifting through the streets of Parkdale.
UPDATE on APRIL 17th: There has been a historically generous foundation grant made by the Honey Family to save the High Park Zoo. You can see the story here:
The children of Odyssey Montessori hosted a bakesale (for which they made all the food and set up a store in the playground) and have raised $350 for the Zoo. We will match that amount and are looking for other small businesses and donors to do the same. We will pool whatever donations we can and the Honey Family Trust will match the amount. Way to go kids!
A Zoo No Matter How Small
I humbly submit a plea for protest. Mayor Ford and his Council are making their cuts as you read this. From my first hand experience with protests, letter writing and submitting depositions in person, it seems to me that someone may in fact be listening. When I attended a daycare sit in with a group of moms, we got in to council chambers and a few councillors like Gord Perks pinky swore and accepted a cookie from the kids we brought with us to say they were committed to affordable childcare. The Margaret Atwood brouhaha was an important part of it but so too were all the people who got off their backsides and headed down to City Hall to tell the Mayor what was important to them. Results may be far too optimistic a term but, like the rampaging kangaroo in Horton Hears a Who a very small voice spoke from a clover and the Mayor was forced to admit that he heard it too.
So while the mayor is now afraid of touching subsidized daycare or libraries, he still seems to think that cutting recreation services and zoos is the thing to do. This in spite of the golden ducats he magically found in his back pocket which really make the whole process of cuts seem him seem just a little Unfriendly Giant. I could go on at length about the importance of recreation centres to the people of Toronto and how for low income people, they are in fact essential services but I’m sorry to say my own self interest has got in the way this time. The High Park Zoo is on the block and from all accounts, its head will most certainly land in the basket for real this time.
The High Park Zoo has been delighting children and adults alike for 110 years and it runs on a yearly operating budget of $220,000, according to Peggy Nash’s website. Peggy Nash and Councillor Sarah Doucette are working together to try to save the Zoo. Please, if you’ve ever spent a sunny afternoon in the company of a llama or cooed in delight as the peacock opened his tail feathers or thought perhaps you could relate to the capybaras who opt for giving winter a pass, write to your mayor or visit one of the support sites below.
Here is how my personal story intersects with the zoo. I used to live two blocks from High Park with my husband and Seamus the greyhound. We visited the park every day for years but we didn’t use the zoo much because we always had the dog with us. Several years later, we moved to Parkdale and had a little girl and due to an utter lack of daycare possibilities in our neighbourhood, we co-founded a co-operative daycare.
We soon discovered that there is very little to do with five infants in Toronto so we began taking them to the High Park Zoo. As they started to walk and talk and take an interest in the world around them, the zoo animals became a central fixture in their eduction. We watched as a new joey emerged from his mother’s pouch, learned from the zookeeper the sad story of the emu’s difficult pregnancy and took bets as to whether the barbary sheep (or was that the mouflon sheep-I no longer remember) would be asleep in her food trough that day or not. The important thing is that my kid knew the difference between a mouflon sheep and a barbary sheep at the age of two because of the High Park Zoo. She didn’t learn it on a Leap Pad or by watching National Geographic. Does that matter? Yes it does because the zoo is a rare opportunity for urban children to connect with animals and because it is part of the fabric of a dynamic or (dare I say) Liveable City. How will I explain to her that the people in charge thought that was of no value so they sent the animals away?
So in case you’ve been sleeping, here is my plea: Please stop the man from ending a century old tradition of talking to the animals. Help him hear the voices from the small speck of dust on the clover by clicking below:
Peggy Nash’s Save the Zoo Page http://www.peggynash.ndp.ca/post/help-save-the-high-park-zoo
Sarah Doucette http://www.ward13.ca/
Or send Mayor Rob a letter firstname.lastname@example.org