Clarington looking at skating trails, municipal park for former Bowmanville Zoo lands

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Published December 22, 2021 at 11:20 am

The roar of lions and the chatter of peacocks have been gone from the Bowmanville Zoo grounds for five years now, soon to be replaced by the crackle of skates on a winter morning and the sounds of children playing.

That is, if Clarington Council’s wish list makes it onto a Parks Master Plan for the former zoo lands.

Council unanimously approved the preparation of the master plan for the property, which was home to the Bowmanville Zoo for nearly 100 years until its closure in 2016 and is now mostly owned by the municipality.

The Parks Master Plan will look at the zoo lands, as well as the adjacent Timber Trails residential development, to see what recreational facilities and amenities are best suited for the area, including a skating trail as requested by Council.

Clarington is already considering a full-sized soccer field, basketball court, lookout area, walking trails, gazebo and a large playground feature for the Timber Trails neighbourhood.

The Bowmanville Zoo first opened in 1919 as a campground and petting zoo and eventually morphed into a full-fledged zoo – the oldest private zoo in North America by the time of its closure.

The Zoo gained its fame by lending its exotic animals to Hollywood for the movie business – including Caesar, the African lion from Ghost in the Darkness and Jonas, the Bengal tiger from the film adaptation of Life of Pi. Elephants from the zoo were also regular participants in events such as the Bowmanville Santa Claus Parade.

The Zoo closed because of declining attendance after owner Michael Hackenberger was charged with numerous cruelty to animal offenses.

The Parks Master Plan is expected to be complete and back at Council by next October.

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