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April 2008

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter

Comments? editor@dufferinpark.ca

Volume 9, Nr.4, April 2008


Matzah Bake

For an independent community email list service and discussion group, see dufferingrovefriends

Park News

Tenth annual matzah bake

Sunday April 13: The tenth annual Matzah Bake at the park outdoor bake oven 12 noon to 3 pm.

From this year’s organizer Mitch Davis: Come join us at Dufferin Grove Park to bake Matzot. Everyone is welcome, bring the kids. All materials provided.

Ingredients and instructions: Kosher for Passover white flour (provided). Spring Water (provided). Your labour.

Mix, roll and bake…all in less than 18 minutes. Cost: by donation, to cover expenses. All utensils, rolling pins etc. are kept for Passover Matzah baking only.

For more information, contact mitchdavis@rogers.com. Park staff will help at the ovens, keeping them very hot. See Matzah bake gallery.

A LITTLE PREVIEW OF SPRING AND SUMMER:

The park’s recreation staff are already thinking about summer, about the playground and pizza days and gardens. A little preview: Friday night suppers, and weekend food carts, won’t start until later in May, when it’s warm and the puddles are gone. The wading pool will be open whenever the temperature is higher than 28 celsius in June, and then every day in July and August except during stormy weather. David Anderson is working on a play about the Dufferin race track that used to be across the street from the park. The Cooking Fire Theatre Festival, from June 17 to 22, will include a group coming direct from Portugal this year, as well as park neighbour Alon Nashman. Many nice things are planned, but for now…mainly mud.

REQUEST FOR DRY WOOD FOR THE PARK OVENS:

The park bakers need more wood, they don’t want to use skids anymore. Carpenters with wood scraps, consider trading your scraps for bread! Call 416 392-0913, or e-mail staff@dufferinpark.ca.

ST.MARY’S STUDENTS CLEAN UP THE PARK:

On Thursday March 27, a class of thirty Grade 12 philosophy students came from St. Mary's Catholic High School across the street from the park, to help out at the park. They came with their teacher, Sister Mary Lynn, and each got a vinyl glove and a large garbage bag. Then they fanned out across the park. An hour later, they came back laden with full garbage bags. They had even cleaned up around the bus shelters. Cars honked their approval as they went by. The park was so clean that when the Alpha Two class arrived from Kent School right afterwards, with their teacher Zio Hersh, they couldn't find anything to pick up -- the philosophy class had picked up every last scrap. That's called "practical philosophy."

CLOTHING SWAP IN MAY: GET READY

Third annual “The Grove’s Clothes” clothing swap at the park, is fast approaching: Saturday May 10 (drop-off) and Sunday May 11 (exchange day). Organizer Bruce Whitaker writes: “Clean your closet of those clothes that are perfectly fine but never get worn, and do your part for the environment through swap rather than purchase. Find some really groovy clothes and meet your neighbors. The swap rules are just like last year. 10 items (washed and on hangers) will get you 10 tickets in return. You can bring more but you will get a maximum of 10 tickets. You can bring less and will get tickets equal to the number of items. Everything left over, and there is alot - 13 large bags last year, will be donated to shelters. Looking forward to seeing you all!” Park staff Eroca Nicols heads the sorting crew, filling the rink house with a beautiful display.

See Bruce Whitaker's blog about this

Park Maintenance: let's get to work

When spring comes and the snow melts, the park often looks a bit rough. This year there are lots of bicycle ruts along the unpaved paths; more shingles blowing off the field house roof, and new graffiti there; broken slats on benches and tables; scraped-up earth and sod from the snow-ploughs near the rink; messy piles of firewood near the ovens; big mud puddles at intervals where the paths used to be, and winter litter everywhere. In addition there’s the third-year snow-fence around the stalled bio-toilet project, and there are deep Parks vehicle ruts off the paths.

Time to get to work. Here’s a list to begin, with some new items, some lingering from other years.

Litter: a great start on litter cleanup was made by St.Mary’s students for their “Earth Hour” project (see story on page 1).

Park vehicle ruts off-road: Many heavy parks vehicles need to come into the rink area to do work, but there’s no curb cut to get onto the paved entrance road. Instead of hopping the high curb, and maybe bottoming out, the city trucks prefer to skirt along the sidewalk. So they end up driving half along the road, half through the mud. This was so common that this past winter that the east half of the paved surface was left unplowed. Requests for a curb cut, since November 2006, have not been successful. So CELOS has produced an information bulletin with photos and proposals (curb cuts can be more complicated than one would think). Councillor Adam Giambrone has promised that he’ll have a weekly meeting with Parks and Transportation staff until they get the curb cut done, and then the vehicle ruts can be repaired once and for all.

Bike ruts and bike access: sadly, for the eleventh year since requests went in, there is no money to pave the park’s main paths. But bike access at the north end of the park might be solved sooner. Cyclist share a bottle-neck access to Dufferin Street with pedestrians. Last year, park neighbour Robert Stewart proposed several possible solutions. Chris Gallop from the councillor’s office has had one site meeting and says he will now follow up. He’ll also follow up a request for more bicycle rings.

Park furniture: benches and picnic tables that need new slats, and new paint, will be identified and marked by recreation staff in preparation for the annual painting/fixing day (traditionally some time in May, watch for the date). Zamboni café “cookie money” will be used to buy paint and new slats for the benches – or maybe Parks management can supply them. If you’re handy with a hammer and a saw, a wrench or a paint brush, the recreation staff will supply you with free park-oven pizza and all the cookies/coffee you could ever want. Plus, there will be medals for you in heaven!

Messy wood scraps, barrels and recycling bins around the rink house/ovens: Recreation staff are having twice-weekly work bees to put the rink house and oven area in good order. It’s a bit tricky because of storage space and accessibility (mud), but progress is happening. When so many hundreds of people come into a public space every week, or every day (during the recent rink season), it’s harder to keep things orderly!

And then there’s the unexpected. On the last day of March, staff person Ginger Dean passed by the rink to find benches turned over in the rink enclosure, the rink-side door glass pane smashed, and glass all over the floor. The staff called the window repair company to fix it. The very next evening, rec staff person Mayssan Shuja passed by the park to find six rink-side windows broken. Vandalism on that scale has not happened since the rink was rebuilt in 1993 – awful.

That led Jutta Mason to lock all five rink gates for now and switch on all the rink lights and basketball lights, for a few evenings. Staff had turned them off after the end of the rink season (those big lights use a lot of power) to save energy – “earth weeks” instead of only one hour. But some folks liked the cover of darkness too much. And the April park is so empty – it’s missing “eyes on the park.” So, park users – if passing by the park, please keep a look-out –someone seems to have a grudge against the rink. If you see some vandals and you yell, they’ll run. That will help. If you get a description, even better. Chances are that the rink staff will know the folks you describe to them – there’s a narrow range of possibilities.

The unsightly snow fence and clay piles around the bio-toilet foundation: Good news here. No building yet – the Parks-sponsored plan that the Building Department approved with a permit is too much like a bunker to work for anyone, and vastly adds to the cost. The City is not currently willing to contribute to that cost at all. So it’s back to the drawing board. Local, cutting-edge architect Rohan Walters is generously giving very good, intriguing advice on this. But that will take more time to work out. In the meantime, Georgie Donais has been making plans with recreation staff, on how to secure the foundation so that no snow fence is needed. That cleanup will start as soon as the ground dries out enough. The area will be transformed – for this year – into a sitting-place with interesting signboards, and some on-site summer film nights about alternative building techniques and environmental stewardship of public space.

GIFTS TO THE PARK IN MARCH

- From Sylvie Varone and Simon Evans, $80, when they heard that the park had a break-in near the end of the season, and that all the donations from the final Friday Night Supper were stolen. They said they wanted to turn that bad story around, and start it off again in the other direction. It seemed to work: more gifts came to that park after that. - From park friend and grandfather, Edward Cayley: $600 for part of the monthly newsletter costs.

- From Tere Oullette of Scooter Girl Toys: $450 for the rest of the monthly newsletter costs. (Scooter Girl Toys is at Roncesvalles, and Tere has been donating for the newsletter for years because, she says, she loves the park.

- From Bruce Whitaker, five pairs of new kids’ skates for the loaner collection, one for each mortgage sold through Bruce’s Buying Block venture (www.Buyingblock.com). And finally, maybe because Simon and Sylvie brought good luck, or the stars were in a very good configuration, those gifts were followed by another even bigger one.

- From the NHL Players’ Association: skates, sticks, gloves and helmets worth $12,000, for a traveling loaner collection out of Wallace Rink. Rink shinny hockey teacher Dan Watson and Recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro submitted an application, and on Good Friday, Tino got a call that their request had succeeded.

Wading Pool

WADING POOL NEWS

Councillor Adam Giambrone has sent word that the wading pool’s facelift will begin right after Labour Day – rather than in May (the previous date planned by the city).

A May construction start would have meant surrounding part of the playground and all of the wading pool with a “KEEP OUT” construction fence, during all of the spring and most likely part of the summer. Not a good idea. But the fall start-date has raised some anxiety. For example, a parent at Dewson School wrote to the other parents: “A wading pool audit a few years back suggested it was among the worst pools in the city and that it should be prioritized for a fix…We are so close to getting improvements implemented but work has yet to begin. If the project is delayed much longer, the opportunity to improve the pool may be lost altogether.”

However, a look at the audit report (posted on the dufferinpark.ca website), ranking Dufferin Grove’s wading pool problems, shows only one “high priority” item – the broken drinking fountain. (The report’s comments section also ranked the scarcity of grass around the pool as a concern, perhaps unaware of the function of sand play.)

All the rest of the Dufferin pool problems were ranked as either “average” or “low” priority. Strangely, one of the “low” priorities was the pool piping and valves. The valves are so stiff and rusted that the wading pool staff can barely make them turn. The inspector clearly didn’t talk to any wading pool staff when he did the audit.

Thankfully the staff got the chance to describe the valve problem to the landscape architect at the public meeting last summer. He did some more research, and the revised plan includes a much better mechanism for staff to fill the pool, and empty it at the end of the day.

Copies of the wading pool renovation blueprints are posted on the main bulletin board inside the rink house, and will be posted at the field house when the weather warms up. Park users who know how to read blueprints: please share your knowledge with other playground users, in case there are any last-minute concerns.

There is no suggestion, from anywhere at the City, that waiting until after this summer’s pool season will scuttle the project. And Councillor Giambrone says that whatever final bits of the work don’t get completed this fall will get done in the early spring next year. No worries.

WADING POOLS AND CAPITAL PROJECTS: The big picture

"Play sub-project #235" – that’s the name of the Dufferin Grove wading pool renovation. It’s part of a much larger project, for which City Council last year approved $500,000 annually to a total of $5 million over eight years. All of it is new debt. Some older (often well-functioning) wading pools will be replaced with newer ones, for $200,000 or more. Some will just have their service vaults redone, where the plumbing is, for $135,000. Some will get re-sodding and new signage, for $55,000 per location. Nearby wading pools coming up as part of this project are Christie Pits, Bellevue, and Grange pools in 2008, Dovercourt pool in 2009, and Masaryk-Cowan in 2010. All of those pools are in good condition, needing shade more than anything else (but there is no mention of tree-planting or other shade measures anywhere in the wading pool project). Inexplicably, Harbord wading pool, which was leaking lots of water last summer, is not on the renovation list.

Project Supervision: The lead for the wading pool project is the same manager who supervised the replacement of most of the older park playgrounds (2000 to 2004) with newer ones. The total price tag is also similar. In the case of playground replacement, many playground users are unhappy about what they see as the “dumbing down” of playgrounds resulting from that project. There was also a painful lesson learned about “new” versus “old” – the new play equipment, using a great deal of plastic, seemed to carry less interest for the kids and to be less durable than what was there before it was destroyed by the bulldozers.

Financing: the big picture is that the City takes a percentage of the capital funds allocated per project to help meet their payroll for planners and project managers. Small projects – say, repairing a field house roof, or paving a park path – are associated with a low percentage of project fees. Large projects are associated with much higher percentages going to the project staff payroll (sometimes more than 10%). So there is a lot of incentive to promote large-scale designs over simple remedies.

In addition, it’s very hard to track how the money is spent. In the case of the citywide park playground replacement project, CELOS tried to find out how the money was allocated to individual playgrounds, without success. An attempt to go through freedom of information led to an appeal to the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner. The City sent two lawyers and three staff, including the project manager, to argue that they could not account for the individual playground costs because the records didn’t exist. They won the appeal – if the records are not there, no information request can supply them. It may turn out to be just as hard to discover how re-sodding and a new sign add up to $55,000 at a wading pool.

Environmental impact: A wading pool is one of the simpler things in the city’s parks – basically a sloped concrete basin with a waterpipe and a drain. The older park wading pools have very thick cement – reportedly up to four feet in some places. Apparently the same Italian construction workers who built the sidewalks, built the wading pools, to last.

Perhaps the thickness is one reason why these pools have stood up so well – there are only a handful of cracks in the Dufferin Grove wading pool, compared with the hundreds of long cracks in the much thinner concrete of the newer skating rink surface.

The small fix: The long straight fissures in the pool are actually expansion joints, plugged with asphalt filler each year so they don’t leak. About five years ago, the city began using a newer material that sealed the expansion joints permanently, for about $5000 a pool. Parks worker Jim Craik, who drives the zamboni at the rink in the wintertime, is a Parks construction foreman in the summer, and he showed us how well the new material works as a seal. It holds from season to season, and it means that the enormous amount of concrete in the pools can stay put, rather than being torn out and replaced with a new batch of concrete.

The joy of new design: Capital projects staff says: even if the old concrete for the kids’ splash-water is holding just fine, the new pools planned for city parks will be smoother, prettier, a nicer design.

Cement: There’s lots of news in the media about the environmental effects of construction materials. Cement is near the top of the worry-list. To make Portland cement, limestone and clay are burned together at 2700 degrees Fahrenheit [not a typo!] until they fuse. “Cement is one of the most environmentally hazardous materials in the world, adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the entire weight of the global airline industry,” wrote The Guardian on May 11 2006. That doesn’t mean we can quit using this extremely useful substance tomorrow. It means, as a local architect (Yves Bonnardeaux) wrote to the neighborhood e-list last year, “in general, if maintenance including plumbing rejuvenation is possible without a wholesale removal of the concrete wading pool installation, that would be my preference. As they say: "it’s better to maintain than to repair, better to repair than to replace.”

The good news: Like so many City capital projects, the Dufferin Grove wading pool project was presented with an urgent timeline. Parks staff said that if playground users didn’t approve the project right away, it would fall to the back of the queue, with other parks moving ahead. And so a public meeting approved the tearing up of the existing wading pool, to be followed by the pouring of a great deal of cement for a new one.

But then a City forester came to the park to do an evaluation of how the trees would fare. He wrote in his report that the big old shade trees around the pool might not survive the big bulldozers necessary to remove all that concrete. That changed the whole picture. When Councillor Giambrone canvassed park users, many people declared for shade. The architect was sent back to the drawing board. The result was better, as we know: the concrete will stay in place, to be covered by a thin layer of new material on top. This is good news not only for Dufferin Grove, but possibly also for the rest of this massive project. If it works well here, the City may apply the technique more generally, and there will be far less waste.

Neighbourhood News

UPDATE ON THE FEBRUARY 25 SEXUAL ASSAULT ARREST

Park friends have been following this case in court. The man is known to recreation staff, and it emerges that the woman may have been known to him. So this may not have been a random grabbing of a stranger on Dufferin Street beside the park, as had been suggested by media reports. Follow-up will continue – watch the newsletter for more of the story. (See March newsletter article)

FARMERS’ MARKET NEWS

At a recent meeting of neighbourhood markets at Foodshare on Croatia Street, the discussion turned to the subject of farmers parking their vehicles on the grass by their market tables. Dufferin Grove market allows vendors to park there, so that farmers can have their goods nearby, with less heavy labour, and more ample storage of backup produce. But a new proposed City policy forbids it. Debbie Field of Foodshare invited Elyse Parker from the Mayor’s “Clean and Beautiful” Secretariat, to sit in at the meeting. Ms.Parker talked about the need for better design in parks. She said good design adapts to the use people make of parks.

That’s a good idea, not only for markets. The hard-as-cement ground under the trees by the bake-ovens cries out for some flagstone, both for tree protection and for the people who gather there with their children. And as market manager Anne Freeman points out, the ground where the market is held in the summertime is so compacted not because of the tire tracks, but because of all the people who linger there, visiting with their neighbours as well as buying food. Rather than getting rid of the market, or increasing the burdens of the farmers by making them carry their loads so much further, the City could broaden the existing path, add some more benches, and terrace the hillside to reduce erosion. These are rather small fixes but they would go a long way. Elyse Parker’s comment about design is thought-provoking – is it time for market users to make a plan?

Credits:

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Web site: Henrik Bechmann

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site: www.dufferinpark.ca

E-mail: mail@dufferinpark.ca


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