About Our Committee
We are a volunteer group that advises the City of Toronto on the protection and restoration of the natural environment of High Park. We also promote awareness and respectful enjoyment of the park's natural heritage.
Our committee meets about four times a year. We consult with the City throughout the year and pursue special projects and issues as needed.
Since its inception in June 1993, the Natural Environment Committee has actively supported the establishment of the High Park Stewards program, the High Park Nature Centre, this High Park Nature website and many other initiatives.
To learn more or to be added to Natural Environment Committee email list, contact email@example.com
by Karen Yukich, Co-Chair, High Park Natural Environment Committee
It almost goes without saying that the “natural” qualities of High Park are what make it a unique and precious place. A substantial portion of the Park has been designated by the province as an “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” because of the rare plant communities that still exist here in a relatively natural state, providing habitat to a variety of wildlife. The ordinary park user may be unaware of the Park’s special status, but still appreciate its diversity and sense of “wildness”, finding it a welcome retreat from the busy city that surrounds it.
Yes, it almost goes without saying, but not quite. Since nature cannot speak for itself, it is up to people who care about the natural environment to speak for it. That is what the Natural Environment Committee is all about. Working closely with the City and other groups, we develop and support initiatives to protect and restore the natural areas of High Park. We try to make sure that the natural environment impact is considered when any new developments are proposed. We also seek ways to reduce the heavy impact of the many activities that already go on in the Park. Public outreach and education is another important role.
If you care about the nature of High Park, you are welcome to participate in the Natural Environment Committee. Our committee needs people with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. For example, you may be interested in native plants, trees, birds, insects, fish, ecology or just appreciate nature in a general way. All of these perspectives are useful!
We meet about four times a year, plus some special projects are undertaken between meetings by small working groups. Find out how you can contribute and give nature a voice that can be heard!
by Leslie Gooding, Co-Chair, High Park Natural Environment Committee
NOTE: Much of High Park is designated by the province a provincially significant life Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) and by the City of Toronto Environmentally Significant Area (ESA). Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) 2.1 and Toronto's Official Plan Policies 3.4.12 and 3.4.13 apply to High Park. In particular,
"Activities will be limited to those that are compatible with the preservation of the natural features and ecological functions attributed to the areas." (O.P. 3.4.13, in part)
Here's my wish list for High Park:
- Better understanding by everyone involved of the need to protect the natural areas, and what this protection entails (with respect to City parks staff this is in the Parks Plan)
- Enough dedicated resources to maintain the natural areas. (The City has considerable expertise, and ecological restoration is a field that many young people find attractive. The need is to budget for the work.)
- By-law enforcement adequate to protect the natural areas. (In the short term this means near-constant by-law officer presence to eliminate off-leash dogs from natural areas. Aquatic areas need similar presence to enforce the fishing by-law. Most people respect the by-laws, but those that don't cause enormous harm to assets owned by everybody.)
- A master plan for High Park, starting with best practices for protecting the natural areas because those cannot be relocated, followed by a management plan for High Park. Both the master plan and the management plan should be sufficiently flexible to protect the natural areas from evolving threats. Needless to say both should be adequately resourced.
My next wish list is for a deep understanding of the capacity of all our parks and measures of the demand for recreation and leisure activities. We also need to stop pretending we can get something for nothing. Events and capital projects are attractive to some (and often do more harm than good in natural areas); the hard slog of operating facilities is not.
In 2021 the City commenced work on a High Park Movement Strategy to rethink the travel network serving High Park in the context of the city’s growing population, changing travel patterns, and the impacts of COVID-19. The goal is to improve mobility within the park, while prioritizing safety, accessibility and the park’s ecological integrity.
In 2015 Park management expressed interest in developing a master plan for the Hillside Gardens. The Natural Environment Committee submitted recommendations regarding the development of such a plan for the Hillside Gardens and other ornamental gardens in High Park.
Concerns about Fishing and Wildlife at Grenadier Pond
For at least a decade the High Park Natural Environment Committee (NEC) has been urging the City of Toronto to put an end to fishing at Grenadier Pond. The committee’s concerns focus on protecting wildlife and habitat, fostering a healthy pond ecology that relies on top predator fish such as bass and pike, and adopting a science-based approach to managing this Provincially Significant Wetland.
The NEC Archives contains a record of our committee's efforts to ensure protection of wildlife and habitat at Grenadier Pond, particularly regarding fishing, as well as related media coverage.
See also Responsible Fishing.
Interpretive Signs Project
High Park’s Grenadier Pond is well-loved by many as a beautiful and serene vista, but its rich biodiversity is often overlooked. High Park Nature has developed interpretive signs to encourage park users to give the pond and its inhabitants a closer look. We hope these signs, together with our website, will foster a deeper appreciation of High Park as a natural treasure along with a greater desire to protect it.
The first set of signs was installed in 2012, followed by a second phase in 2015 which included several other sites within the Park.
Various volunteers and naturalists developed the content and provided the images. Most signs were funded through a TD Friends of the Environment grant. City staff reviewed and helped produce and install them.
Mailing address for legal purposes:
High Park Natural Environment Committee c/o High Park Nature Centre, PO Box 30044, Toronto, ON M6P 3K0