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High Park Nature Centre History

Since 1999, it has been home to hands-on nature-based outdoor education, stewardship, and environmental justice.

The High Park Nature Centre, established in 1999, is a charitable organization with a mission to promote awareness and respect for nature through year-round, hands-on outdoor education and stewardship.

Each year, more than 14,000 people join us from across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including children, adults, seniors, families, elementary and secondary school students and teachers, ESL schools, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, community centres, and recreational programs.

Our camps, clubs, workshops, nature walks, and special events foster naturalist skills, highlight the diverse ecosystems and inhabitants of High Park, and nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity.

Many of our programs focus on stewardship, with over 100,000 participants contributing to restoration projects in High Park. The Nature Centre has made a significant contribution tto improving High Park’s health, from planting native species in the endangered Black Oak Savannah ecosystem to removing invasive species such as garlic mustard and buckthorn.

The Forest School

The Nature Centre’s present home at 375 Colborne Lodge Drive was built in 1932 to support the growing High Park Forest School, which began in 1914 with outdoor tents and wooden platforms.

The Forest School provided outdoor education and meals for malnourished children exposed to cholera and tuberculosis. It was designed as a pavilion with a large central classroom and surrounded on three sides by offices, meeting rooms, and a large kitchen. By the early 1960s, significant improvements in medicine and sanitation resulted in a decreased incidence of tuberculosis and cholera. The Department of Public Health decided that the Forest School program was no longer needed, and the Board of Education closed its doors in 1964.

The Ontario Foundation for Visually Impaired Children (OFVIC) moved into the building in the mid-1970s and provided educational services to blind or low-vision preschool children. During the summers, the Forest School hosted summer day camp programs run by the City of Toronto or the Toronto Board of Education. OFVIC worked in the building until 2014.

Thanks to the support of our partners, the City of Toronto and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the High Park Nature Centre moved into the building in 2015.