Bowmanville Zoo property could become mega-park

The former site of the Bowmanville Zoo will be transformed into a public park. Photo credit: Janis Williams

What used to be the home of the Bowmanville Zoo could turn into the town’s version of Central Park in New York or Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

At least that’s the hope of Clarington mayor Adrian Foster.

One portion of the 34-acre public park is set to have a play area, splash pad, a basketball court and soccer fields.

How will Clarington decide to use the rest of the land where elephants and giraffes used to roam to create a centrepiece park?

Foster says a public consultation to solicit ideas for the green space will happen after the Oct. 22 municipal election.

“This is the fun stuff we get to do, using green space is not a contentious issue, I’m looking forward to this,” Foster says.

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Bowmanville mayor Adrian Foster in his office discussing the new green space, the former site of the Bowmanville Zoo. Photo credit: Janis Williams

Some residents have already suggested a botanical garden, petting zoo or exercise equipment.

Foster says according to strategic plans of Durham and Clarington, more than 90 per cent of residents feel it is important to preserve green space.

“Keep green space green, it’s one of the things that makes Clarington a great spot,” says Foster.

In addition, the project will add an extra three kilometres of trails for residents, connecting the existing north and south trails.

How this project unfolded is unconventional.

According to Foster, Far Sight Homes was set to build a new residential subdivision in Bowmanville, near the zoo property. Every new development must build parks as part of its agreement with the town. Far Sight’s original 6-7 acre proposed park was set to go on table land, which is the most valuable type of land for builders because it is less restricted for building homes.

However, Savannah Land Corporation (the land owners of the Bowmanville Zoo property) suggested moving the park a few hundred metres east, to allow Far Sight to develop the table land. Then, Far Sight paid Savannah for the zoo land and the land for the park was donated to the municipality, Foster says.

Far Sight decided to put its approved plans on hold to try to transform this idea into a reality. Foster says it is unusual for developers to halt production but gives the company kudos for making the decision for the community. After about a year-and-a-half, the deal was approved at the Clarington council meeting in September.

“Most people see ‘good idea, done deal’ without knowing how much work went into making that happen,” says Foster.

Foster calls it a win-win-win for the land owner, developer and Clarington.

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A peak into the green space at the former property of the Bowmanville Zoo. Photo credit: Janis Williams

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The former site of the Bowmanville Zoo will be transformed into a public park. Photo credit: Janis Williams
Although it is difficult to say exactly how the new green space will impact the local economy, he says corporations are interested in the amenities municipalities can offer. He believes the new green space will be a key feature to make the community more attractive for investment.

Foster feels the local community will also embrace the new park.

“I think when people find out what we’re doing, we’re going to get all kinds of positive feedback. For the limited number of people who understand what’s going on the feedback has been entirely positive. How can you not like a new park?,” he says.

Once built, Foster hopes the park resonates with people, much like Central Park or Stanley Park.

“This is a legacy item, it’s just fantastic what managed to come together,” Foster says.