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posted April 12, 2005

HOW TO BECOME AN "ACTIVE PARK FRIEND"

From time to time, someone has suggested that the park friends should now become more formal, elect a board, get an executive, call meetings and have the board make important decisions. After the budget shortfall last summer, we looked into incorporating. What we learned made us decide, instead, to stay with our twelve-year experiment in growing park friendships organically.

The reasoning: it seems that the meeting-incorporation-constitution format often doesnít work very well. Itís such a problem that there is a whole new industry growing up - folks who hang out their shingle as professional community builders. They take courses from other people who have taken courses, and then they do workshops to set up and help run community groups. They help people to write up vision statements, and to resolve board conflicts, to set targets and to schedule focus groups (maybe to find out what the community wants, with multiple choice questionnaires, patterned on product testing - !!?!) All this means lots of meetings, and funding applications to pay the professional community builders. This often takes up a lot of a groupís time.

Perhaps that Emperor has no clothes. So weíll stick with what works here - a park with many friends, the Parks Department officially in charge, activities based on good will and an openness to surprise. It makes the park vulnerable to ambush from time to time, but it also brings considerable enjoyment from of the unexpected gifts of strangers - whom we can then get to know as our neighbours.

Hereís how becoming a more active park friend works: if you want to put something into the park that isnít there now, or help out with some existing element you like - a new garden, an old garden, a concert, a cricket mat, a playground cob wall - find a park staff person and talk to them about your idea. (The spring-summer staff are Zio Hersh, Matt Leitold, Dan Malloy, Eroca Nicols, Caitlin Shea, Mayssan Shuja Uddin, Mary Sylwester, and Amy Withers). If you canít find the staff around the park, you can leave them a message at 416 392-0913, and one of them will call you back. Or you can e-mail them at staff@dufferinpark.ca. The staff will try to remove any blocks you might encounter, and introduce you to other park friends. You can go ahead and try the project youíre inspired to do - just remember to start small. Then if your project doesnít work - no problem. But if your talents bear fruit, you can keep growing what youíve begun, maybe with other park friends who want to help you.


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