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News 2007
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News 2007

From the December 2007 Newsletter:


From neighbourhood street fair organizer Liz Martin:

“As a longtime park supporter, I've persuaded Sumach Press to offer $5 of the purchase price of The Women's Daybook 2008 (List: $15.95) as a special fundraiser for the park. It's a practical as well as beautifully illustrated desk-top format agenda, featuring work by Canadian women photographers including Laura Berman, who took the lovely image of the park ovens which graces this year's cover. With lots of room for keeping track of your life in roomy double-page spreads, along with insightful texts by the artists on the theme of "Neighbourhoods," this is a perfect gift for the holiday season. If you're interested, contact me at and I'll drop one off if you're nearby, or you can get them at the rink (ask staff at the zamboni café snack bar).”


Since the most recent cliffhanger about the city’s compressor-cooled outdoor ice rinks, CELOS (CEntre for LOcal Reseach into Public Space) has increased its efforts to learn how City money is spent and what needs fixing. A project for this winter is to produce a “Citizen’s Guide to Cost Containment.”

Sue Corke, the Deputy City Manager, asked us: “as the rinks are no longer subject to cost containment, what is the benefit of such a guide?”

Our answer:

”Thanks for asking. Cost containment: 1980s: artificial ice rinks ran for an average of 106 days. Winter 1998/99: A.I.R.'s cut down to 84 days. Winter 2001/02: A.I.R.'s cut down again to 70 days. (Citywide outrage.) Winter 2002/03 and 2003/04: rinks back up to 84-88 days.

Last three years: some rinks back up to 93/98/99 days, but lengthening was at the wrong end. This winter: a major threat, to be cut again, worst ever, to 62 days. Rescinded back up to 87 days for most neighborhood rinks.

Next winter: cost containment of how much, in the face of the remaining $240 million shortfall in the 2008 operating budget?

Since amalgamation: city's population stayed almost the same. Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff increased by over 700, Parks, Forestry and Recreation expenditure increased by $60 million (after inflation adjustment).

In the past 15 years, we've made our neighbourhood rink a beautiful community gathering place, with over 10,000 visits per month. For almost as many years, we've had to brace ourselves for the next shocker decisions coming down from the meeting rooms in City Hall. We can't wait for the next big blow, we have to find out as much as we can now, so ordinary people can help shape policy and not just endure it.

Want to come on over and have a coffee and a cinnamon bun and talk to a few of us about this? We're really quite nice people, and we do more than rinks.”

Sue Corke hasn’t taken up this invitation yet. Maybe she will, later. Meantime, we’ll post the material we gather, so that citizens can have a more informed discussion about the municipal financial troubles that almost closed the rink for an extra month. And we’ll be collecting signatures for a thank-you letter for MasterCard.


The cityrinks page of the web site has got so big and so busy (and city-wide) that our webmaster Henrik Bechmann just spent a week migrating it to its own site, That site has information about all the City’s outdoor rinks, and Harbourfront as well, with maps, links, rink diaries, weather analysis, budgets, and rink user comments.

The CELOS (CEntre for LOcal Research into Public Space) section of is also migrating to its own web site, since it looks at public spaces all over the city, and even beyond. There are lots of links among those sites: have a look!


At about 10 a.m. on the wintry morning of Saturday Dec.1, kids were enthusiastically playing the first shinny hockey game of the season at the rink. Down by the cob courtyard, there was an ambulance. A crew of paramedics were lifting an elderly man onto a stretcher. He looked very scruffy and almost frozen, with a very frightened expression in his eyes. During the night he must have sought shelter in the little alcove next to the fireplace section of the cob structure. But there was no fire in the fireplace, and no warmth, only wind protection.

Hopefully he’s all right. Someone must have seen him huddled there and called the ambulance.

Some of the longer-term rink staff were reminded of the young Chinese homeless man who lived in the park for two winters, six years ago, going to a shelter only on the bitterest nights. Despite many efforts by park staff and park friends, he wouldn’t talk to anyone, and rarely even accepted the park food. But he used the rink washrooms to keep clean, fed cookie crumbs to the sparrows, and a few times he even smiled. Then one day he came to the park in bedroom slippers because his shoes had been taken away. He sat down on a bench near the soccer field, where no one walks by in the winter. By the time he was noticed, his feet were so badly frozen that both had to be amputated.

Some tragedies can’t be avoided. But over the years, the on-site park staff have made friends with some psychiatric outreach workers from a group called COLA, who are very fine people. This year, weather predictions call for a very cold winter. If park users see a homeless person in the park, tell the park staff. They’ll call Moira or Walter at COLA to come down, and that might result in some long-term help.

posted December 16, 2007

Beautiful Winter

Michael Monastyrsky took a walk in the park during December's snow storm, and snapped some pics:

Dufferin Grove Park December 16 2007. Picture by Michael Monastyrskyj

Happy campers at the Craft Fair in the rinkhouse, and a father daughter pair,
two of the surprisingly many who came to the rinkhouse during the storm.

Coming to the rinkhouse craft fair:


posted September 1, 2007

The Peckham Experiment web site

In the last week of August we were contacted by some people from the British Pioneer Health Foundation. They wanted to post an article called Finding the Village in the City, describing a weekly gathering at a nearby community centre. Both that "village" and Dufferin Grove Park have been inspired by the "Pioneer Health Centre" in Peckham (part of London), England. Alison Stallibrass wrote a book about the Centre, called The Self-respecting Child. In it she described the work of Scott Williamson and his wife Dr.Innes Pearse at the centre they built in the 1930s, together with their colleagues. It was a community centre built on the idea that "there should be as little segregation of age groups as possible" and that the emphasis should be on a rich and varied environment rather than programmed classes or registered sessions. (From their web site:

At Dufferin Grove Park we stole as many general ideas as we could from Scott Williamson's work as related by Allison Stallibras, to make a "community centre without walls." We tried to have lots of things available to do but not much that's a scheduled program -- more of a focus on people choosing what they want to do and not being blocked from carrying out their intentions, as long as they don't bother other people. [Proviso: some folks are bothered by almost anything. Accommodating their dislikes has to have limits.]

With that approach, an amazing number of interesting and good things have happened -- lots of playing, music, food, building friendships, etc. Our area is economically and culturally very mixed and that makes it even more fun.


From the November 2007 Newsletter:


The park web site, which has grown too complicated, is about to get simpler. The “research” section, which deals with larger City budget questions and freedom of information inquiries as well as some local issues, is gradually being moved over to the new CELOS website,

CELOS (pronounced “see-loss”) stands for the CEntre for LOcal Research into Public Space. Its mandate is to do both practical and theoretical research. For example, helping people who want to try a park campfire in their own neighbourhood park is practical research; finding out why there’s no money in the $60 million Parks and Rec capital budget to fix the players’ box at Wallace Rink is theoretical research.

The “City Rinks” section, which gives a lot of information about outdoor rinks elsewhere in the city as well as Dufferin Rink, is being moved to the new website (and being merged with “”). In addition, the grant CELOS received from the Trillium Foundation has allowed quite a few other groups to set up their own wiki websites, very simple to post. So some of the “neighbourhood news” items are now posted on those separate web sites:,,,,, and

The website is gradually getting caught up with its “problems and solutions” section, which catalogues and archives the ongoing care of the park. More pictures are being posted too. Joseph Lo (a Master of Architecture student from the University of Waterloo), doing his thesis on Dufferin Grove, sent a whole lot of old photos and old maps of the park that he found at the City Archives. Heidrun Gabel-Koepff will be posting them this month. It appears that there used to be a fountain in the middle of soccer field, surrounded by many trees. The photos show early flowerbed plantings, lots of grass tennis courts, Dufferin Street with only two lanes, and neighbouring houses which are hard to place now. Have a look – Heidrun will put a page link on the home page when she’s done the postings.


Clay and Paper Theatre’s long-time director David Anderson just found out two days after the eighth annual Night of Dread that he has received a Chalmers Arts Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council. This fellowship is endowed by the Chalmers family, which donated more than $9 million to the arts in Ontario. Here’s what the fellowship is for: The program provides financial support directly to artists so they may have the opportunity to dedicate themselves to individual creative pursuits. The program aims to provide such support at moments in artists’ careers when a concentration on personal and/or artistic growth or renewal and exploration is most likely to have the greatest impact on their long-term artistic and career development.

David plans to travel to Portugal to learn more about puppetry traditions there, and to return (for the third time) to the Republic of Georgia, where he already has many folk-art friends. Dufferin Grove Park will see the effects next year: congratulations!

posted August 07, 2007

Long time park friend Muriel turns 85

From a friend of Muriel:

Hello Dufferin Grove Park, These pictures were taken at the dinner on August 3. I told Muriel's daughter I would email them in case she would like them. Thanks a big bunch for a fun time in the park. We were visiting our grandson who lives nearby, and we spent lots of happy times in the park. Great place!
Joan Wilson, Sechelt, B. C.

posted on August 04, 2007

History of the City's Parks Plan, and where the land went

What happened to city's park plan?

Published: August 03, 2007

Once upon a time, in a city long, long, ago, before the Gardiner Expressway and dozens of grey condominiums, downtown Toronto was blanketed in park space.

If you added it all up, in the early 1800s, Toronto had more foliage than New York's Central Park. But today, the GTA's most usable parks – Sunnybrook, Agincourt and Bluffer's to name a few – are only accessible by car or the TTC.

Who in their right mind would plan a city without parks? No one. It was never supposed to be this way.


posted on July 29, 2007

Dufferin Grove in list of 15 destinations of the Star's Untourist Guide to Toronto

T.O's un-tourist guide

Published: Jul 29, 2007 04:30 AM

For a real taste of how we live in this part of the world – the nicer bits, anyway – the Sunday Star humbly offers its first alternative guide.

Read more >>

[see item six in the article for Dufferin Grove Park]

posted on July 18, 2007

Why parks are important

Why parks are important
No longer considered frills, green spaces are integral to intellectual and physical growth

By: Chris Hume Star Columnist
Published: Jul 13, 2007 04:30 AM

If the 20th century was dedicated to buildings, the 21st will be about the spaces between them.

In communities around the world, this one included, interest in the public realm – parks, squares, plazas, piazzas – has never been greater.

But Toronto, like many other cities, has neglected its green spaces and chronically underfunded them. As a result, there aren't enough parks to serve a growing population, and those we do have are deteriorating.

Read more >>

At this point, the funds raised at Dufferin Grove Park are handled by CELOS:

CELOS Financial.

CELOS is in discussion with City staff to work out a more direct way of cash-handling, since the experiment of raising park funds through food is part of CELOS' mandate, but the continuation (and replication of this kind of fund-raising at other locations) is up to the City.

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