High Park, Toronto, Ontario

High Park is a municipal park in Toronto, Ontario. It spans 161 hectares (400 acres), and is a mixed recreational and natural park, with sporting facilities, cultural facilities, educational facilities, gardens, playgrounds and a zoo. One third of the park remains in a natural state, with a rare oak savannah ecology. High Park was opened to the public in 1876 and is based on a bequest of land from John George Howard to the City of Toronto. It is the largest park entirely within the city. (Rouge Park is the city's largest park, but the park extends into Markham, Ontario).

High Park is located to the west of downtown, north of Humber Bay. It stretches south from Bloor Street West to The Queensway, just north of Lake Ontario. It is bounded on the west by Ellis Park Road and Grenadier Pond and on the east by Parkside Drive.

The park includes several attractions, including the High Park Trackless Train ride that circles the entire park, a set of baseball diamonds, tennis courts, several playgrounds, hillside gardens, a zoo (not a petting zoo) and Colborne Lodge historical museum. The park is also home to the High Park Nature Centre, a non-profit organization run by High Park Initiatives (the park's charitable organization). The Nature Centre offers nature appreciation and park stewardship programs to local schools, community groups and families throughout the year. There are 18 designated group picnic sites that can be reserved through the City of Toronto.

There are two main children's playgrounds in High Park. There is a playground in the northwest quadrant with a wading pool, picnic areas and snack bar. In the south-east corner of the park, an 'adventure playground' for children was assembled by volunteers in 1999. The playground is named after Jamie Bell, a volunteer who initially pioneered the idea. In March 2012, a portion of the wooden play structures was burned down in an act of arson. The castle was rebuilt on the weekend of July 7, 2012 by volunteers. Another small play area is in the ravine just north of Grenadier Pond. Dogs are welcome in the park, but only on a leash. An "off-leash" area is located on the east, just south of the Grenadier Restaurant parking lot.

The High Park Nature Centre, located on Parkside Drive, north of Howard Park Avenue, serves as an educational centre for visitors to the Park. It has programs for elementary and secondary schools and summer day camps. The Centre organizes nature walks in the park. It is operated by High Park Initiatives, a registered non-profit organization.

A municipal swimming bath complex is open during the summertime, with a water slide, a splash pad and a shallow wading area. As of 2008, there is no admittance fee for its use. The pool is supervised by lifeguards.

The practice of keeping animals in the park originated in 1890, with the keeping of deer. Today, the zoo - in a ravine along Deer Pen Road - keeps American bison, emu, llamas, peacocks, fallow deer, wallaby, capybara, Highland cattle, yaks, Barbary sheep, and Mouflon sheep. The zoo is open year-round from 7:00 a.m. to dusk. The zoo animals are cared for by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division staff.

In the winter, an artificial ice rink is operated to the north of the Pool for skating and ice hockey. In the past, skating on Grenadier Pond was an annual tradition. Today, the Pond rarely freezes enough to be safe for skating. The hiking paths are maintained for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Tobogganing, a formerly popular pastime in the park, is only done now at the hill at Howard Park Avenue and Parkside Drive. Several toboggan runs existed in the past in the hillside gardens area, and the "bowl" at the bottom of an old toboggan run still exists just east of Grenadier Pond, to the north-west of Grenadier Cafe, for a run that started at West Road, and ended at the bowl next to the Pond. The run is no longer used and trees block the run.

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