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High Park to carry out traditional, prescribed burns in March

An Indigenous jingle dress dancer participates in a ceremony at a prescribed burn at High Park in Toronto on April 13, 2023.  (Heather Waldron/CBC - image credit)
An Indigenous jingle dress dancer participates in a ceremony at a prescribed burn at High Park in Toronto on April 13, 2023. (Heather Waldron/CBC - image credit)

High Park will be the site of traditional and prescribed burns later this month, continuing a Indigenous practice that protects the park's rare black oak savannah ecosystems.

"A traditional and prescribed burn is a deliberately set and carefully controlled fire that burns low to the ground and consumes dried leaves, small twigs and grass stems but does not harm larger trees," the City of Toronto said in a news release on Monday.

Toronto has carried out traditional and prescribed burns in the park for over two decades, the news release said, which are crucial to save rare vegetation communities that are at risk of extinction throughout North America.

These burns are part of the city's long-term management plan to restore and protect the black oak savannah, a rare habitat that includes tress surrounded by prairie plants, according to the City of Toronto's website. These prairie plants grow more vigorously in response to burning, the city said.

The burn will take place over one day at several locations within the park. The date will be selected 24 to 48 hours prior to the burn based on weather conditions.

The city will incorporate Indigenous knowledge and ceremony into the High Park burn, the news release said. Indigenous peoples used traditional burns to maintain and care for black oak savannahs in the High Park before European settlement, the city said.

The burn has been named Biinaakzigewok Anishnaabeg, which the news release said means "the responsibility for a cleansing fire by all Native Peoples" in Anishinaabemowin.

On the day of the burn, the park will be closed to vehicular access and people will be restricted from entering certain areas. Park users can anticipate limited access close to active burn sites.

Portions of some multi-use trails will be temporarily closed to cyclists and pedestrians for 30 to 45 minutes between 11:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Notices will be placed at park entrances and the surrounding community to inform the public when the burn will take place.

Additional forest management measures will be implemented in High Park depending on the results of the burn, the city said. Measures may include painting of native trees, shrubs and grasses, as well as species control.