High Park will be on fire this spring.
But, don’t fret. It’s for a perfectly healthy reason.
The city’s urban forestry department is preparing for a controlled burn aimed at helping a rare breed of black oak trees grow better.
High Park is home to hundreds of oak trees that get along just fine on their own. But, a small percentage of black oak savannas found in the park’s natural areas are part of a fire-dependent ecosystem, said parks program officer Lisa McLean.
“We call it a fire-adapted species,” she said, explaining the acorn from the black oak tree needs heat from fire to germinate the seed.
In the same way, full-grown black oaks need the extreme heat that only a fire can produce to grow stronger.
“They all adapt in this particular fire regime,” McLean said.
Black oak trees have been in High Park for many years, but the city didn’t start the controlled burns until around 2000.
Burns are organized every couple of years as arborists see the need arise. The fires are low to the ground, eating away at dried leaves, small twigs and grass stems without harming larger trees.
Urban forestry will let people who live in the area know exactly when the fires will be set. They’re monitoring weather conditions with the goal of moving ahead in late March or early April.
The controlled burns are planned in an area along Spring Road just east of the park entrance at High Park Ave. and Bloor St. W., and in two areas along West Road, one just west and just south of the sports complex.
While the park won’t be closed for the exercise, the city is asking that people steer clear on the day of the burn.
People should at least, McLean said, stay away from the areas directly involved.