Forgotten Heroes is a series of posts about extraordinary men and women who are (probably) not remembered by the average person. Previous heroes include Josephine Butler.
If you know of a forgotten hero who should be included in this series let me know about him or her in the comment section or via my contact form.
Place: Toronto, Ontario.
He and his wife, Jemima, had been living on a 160-acre property they called High Park for about 35 years. It was located in the County of York, west of Toronto. In 1873 they decided to deed their land to the city of Toronto with a few stipulations: the Howards could continue to live at Colborne House for the rest of their lives, alcohol could never be sold on the property, the name High Park would be retained, and the property would remain free for public use.
Toronto’s city council agreed. After John and Jemima’s deaths their house was eventually turned into a small museum.
138 years later High Park is the largest park within the boundaries of Toronto. A third of the land remains in its natural state. Without this undisturbed land, air and water many species would probably die out in this area of Ontario.
High Park is also a heavily used recreation area for the millions of people who live in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). An individual or group could spend all day experiencing the free dog park, playgrounds, zoo, pond, ornamental gardens, hiking and bicycling trails, tobogganing hill, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, picnic areas, and occasional guided walking tours.
If they were interested and had a little extra cash they could also visit the Colborne house museum, a small restaurant, food stands, a day camp for children, ice rink, outdoor swimming pool, and annual summer performances of Shakespearian plays.
An act of generosity performed generations ago has improved the lives of millions of people. Since 1873 the city has grown around High Park. Had the land not been set aside it would probably look like any other area of Toronto – a mixture of condos, apartment buildings, businesses, houses for wealthier families, and the occasional small strip of grass or flowers.
This isn’t only John’s story, though. If you live in a country that has parks there are reasons why that land was set aside. At some point a man or woman deeded that land to your community or fought for the funding to keep it maintained.
Sometimes there are plaques or small monuments honouring these individuals. The next time you’re at a national or local park keep an eye out them and then come back here and tell us what they had to say.