The High Park On-Leash Committee (HPOC) is a volunteer group composed of High Park Nature supporters, dog owners and concerned community members. The group’s mission is to encourage compliance with the dog-walking rules in High Park through education.
The HPOC has begun reaching out to park users with a “Take the Lead” campaign to convey the importance of following on-leash by-laws. They explain the impact this small action can have in protecting nature in the park as well as improving the experience of park users. Please say hello if you see them in the park and they will likely have a treat for your dog and some useful tips on how to keep your dog and the park safe!
High Park is one of only a handful of Toronto’s parks with a designated off-leash area that also features trails through natural areas. Everywhere else in High Park, dogs are required to be on leash. While many park users do comply, a general increase in off-leash dogs has been observed since the start of the pandemic. Off-leash dogs in undesignated areas are raising serious concerns about High Park’s ecological health and the safety and enjoyment of the park for all of its visitors.
High Park is one of the most significant natural areas in Toronto. It is known for its biodiversity and rare habitats, including the globally rare Black Oak Savannah and the Grenadier Pond Wetland Complex – all of which support a rich variety of birds and other wildlife. A major portion of High Park has been given special protected status by the City and the Province.
A Terrestrial Biological Inventory for High Park conducted by the TRCA in 2019 (see full report) noted that trampling is heavy through much of High Park, with all ecological communities being affected, including shorelines. “Much of the soil in the northern half of the Spring Creek ravine is bare and eroding. Dog walking is a major contributor, with off-leash dogs spreading from the official fenced areas on Dog Hill and Spring Road into surrounding vegetation” (p. 26). The report also notes that the abundance of off-leash dogs may be contributing to the lack of ground nesting birds in High Park (p. 53). High Park shelters a significant number of migrating birds in both spring and fall.
Off-leash dogs are also a concern to the human users of the park and their dogs. As much as people love their dogs, not every adult, child or dog feels comfortable being approached by an off-leash dog.
Keeping dogs on leash except in designated off-leash areas shows respect for all park users and helps heal and protect this precious place for everyone to enjoy, now and for years to come.
For more information see Dog Walking in Toronto’s High Park or visit facebook.com/highparkonleash.
To volunteer to help with walk-abouts or or find out more, contact the High Park On-Leash Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org