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Toronto Wildlife centre reassured by Downsview Park: charity not targeted for eviction

An ice rink, apple orchard and training facility for the Toronto FC are all part of the master plan for a new-and-improved Downsview Park. Staff at the Toronto Wildlife Centre – a charity headquartered here, in the city's north end – said Monday their building at the Park was being "targeted for demolition," which could put hundreds of sick, injured and orphaned animals at risk.

However, it all appears to have been a misunderstanding.

In a release Monday morning on the TWC's website, director Nathalie Karvonen stated she and her team could "be out on the street unless we find a new home soon." This, presumably, would also apply to the owls with broken wings, squirrels that require bottle-feeding, abandoned baby foxes and other wildlife that currently receive treatment from volunteers and vet technicians on-site.

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Ms. Karvonen's worries stemmed from an encounter this past summer. She says the wildlife centre's lawyer was informed then by a staff member at Parc Downsview Park Inc., a Crown corporation, that 60 Carl Hall Rd. would be torn down after its lease ended in December of 2012. Her numerous attempts to reach Downsview executives in order to discuss future plans, she added, were met with silence.

But as news of the TWC's potential closure quickly spread across various social media platforms, representatives from Downsview were quick to react, posting their own release stating there are, in fact, no plans to demolish 60 Carl Hall Rd. and they have not made attempts to terminate the TWC lease.

"Their lease has always been yearly, and it's always been open to extension," said Lisa Hastings-Beck, communications director for Parc Downsview Park. "I think this was just the result of people getting jittery about what's going on across the street with 65 Carl Hall Rd. and the Air & Space Museum."

On Sept. 20, the Canadian Air and Space Museum at 65 Carl Hall Rd. was evicted by Downsview Park after failing to pay $120,000 in rent. Park management has since agreed to help find storage space and a new location for the many artifacts, planes and other items at the museum.

The situation with the Toronto Wildlife Centre, however, is completely different according to Ms. Hastings-Beck, who adds: "We have since chatted with Nathalie and are straightening things out |– this has been a complete misunderstanding."

Maria Augimeri, city councillor for Ward 9, which includes Downsview Park, heard both sides of the story Monday and says it's reflective of the chaotic development this area has seen over the years. She plans on hosting more community meetings for the public to get involved.

Special to the Globe and Mail

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