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News 2010

News 2010

Ana Bailao, interviewed by Jutta Mason, Sept.15 2010

-The first thing we need is a change of attitude towards parks. I see Dufferin Grove Park as a big community centre without walls. This is not only a park where people come for a walk. There’s so much activity and programs done here. This is a community centre, and that’s what we need to have in other parks in the area. We need our youth involved, we need our seniors involved, we need our artists involved...

From the October 2010 Newsletter:

OCTOBER 25 IS ELECTION DAY: who will get your vote?

Ward 18 candidates: Ward 18 has twelve people running for city councillor, the position held by Adam Giambrone for the last two terms. Who will replace him in this election?

It’s pretty important for the park and the neighbourhood. Councillors can help with smaller details as well as big ward projects. When half the playground swings were removed in 2009 to conform to a manufacturers’ standard, parents called the councillor’s office on behalf of their unhappy children. The councillor asked city staff to re-instal the swings and the fun resumed. For some years before that, park users wanted curb cuts that would allow smooth entry and exit for the cyclists riding through. The farmers wanted the cuts too -- coming to the weekly market they had to hop the high curb with their trucks to get in, and some small trucks were damaged. The park supervisor wasn’t very interested, but with lots of push from the councillor the curb cuts were finally put in – creating easier stroller and wheelchair access too.

So details are important! And the extent to which our councillor listens to Ward 18 residents is important too, since small details like the examples above can make a big difference. Jutta Mason interviewed six of the Ward 18 candidates about their approach to community consultation and park improvements: Ana Bailao, Kevin Beaulieu, Doug Carroll, Frank DeJong, Joe MacDonald and Hema Vyas. They had lots to say, and it’s posted on the website (home page). Or you can read what they had to say on the display that’s posted on the playground bulletin board (side of the pool shed) and inside the rink clubhouse on the main bulletin board there. The same questions were e-mailed to the other six candidates, and their responses will be posted as they come in. Have a look, it may help you decide who to vote for on October 25. And whoever is elected, call them and e-mail them a lot. They really need to hear from you.

Candidates for mayor:

The only mayoral candidate with a significant amount of Parks-and-Recreation-related policy material on his website is George Smitherman. It seemed like a good idea to talk to one of his policy staff about broadening his public-space ideas. Getting an appointment took a few months, but eventually his assistant John Willis agreed to a conversation. The talk had barely begun, when another campaign staffer summoned Mr.Willis “you have to come to a meeting with George.” Mr.Willis said he couldn’t come, since he was having another meeting. The colleague persisted, so Mr.Willis said he’d just go and explain, and headed two doors down into Mr.Smitherman’s office. We waited for a loud noise from the man nicknamed “Furious George.” But all was peaceful, and in a moment Mr.Willis came back to resume the conversation. We said, “we were expecting at least a small explosion...” Mr.Willis laughed, and said there had been none of that for months, “he’s been working on it.” And there followed a pretty interesting exchange about parks as social spaces and how they can knit cities together, how to avoid enlarging the bureaucracy, and how politicians and municipal staff could “share power” with park users. Find out more on the CELOS/election.

October 2010: The animators of Dufferin Grove Park: a culture of “yes”

The word “animator” shows up in many electoral presentations when public space is discussed. If parks need animators, Dufferin Grove is in luck – they’ve been here for years already. The hobby of the recreation program staff – to remove the blocks to people’s gifts – is the reason why there’s so much going on. The fall so far has shown what happens when park staff have a culture of “yes.” On Labour Day weekend the Morris dancers gathered by the oven and ate and danced and made music. The following market day, a Ukrainian band entertained the farmers. Two days later, the Abrigo Centre celebrated its twentieth anniversary of newcomer counselling, with a giant blow-up clown and candy floss machines and sardines, a rummage sale, and a stage with music and ethnic dancing. As soon as they had finished, a group of jazz musicians took their place and made sophisticated (difficult!) music near the marsh fountain. The weekend after, a group of environmentalist/cyclist/musicians set up special bikes hooked up to amplifiers and gave a concert beside the field house. The organizers said they hadn’t been sure they could pull it off, so they put up no posters for this event – only a facebook event notice. It turned out that the music was beautiful, the pedal-power amplification clear and steady but not over the top, and the facebook-summoned audience sizeable and appreciative. The weekend after that, the annual Havelock Street Fair organizers held the usual potluck supper by the park ovens. After supper, there was music on Havelock Street. But it had begun to rain, so the park staff lent the band two of the park tents, and the show went on.

The last weekend of September had the annual pow wow, with tipis, drums, dancers in fantastic costumes, buffalo burgers, and many vending tents. Lots of people came, and it was clearly an occasion when friends from all over the city could catch up with each other. Then, as soon as October began, the rain started. No matter – on the first Saturday, a group of refugee Hungarian Roma (Gypsy) families came to cook goulash over an open fire. Their support workers, from St. Christopher House, translated. The group, they said, wanted to cook outside because their traditional goulash tastes much better if it’s cooked over a campfire. It must be true. The park program staff had brought over two of the market tents and set them up over some picnic tables, to give shelter from the rain. The big cookpot of goulash served not only the newcomer families, but everyone else in the rainy park as well – and it was beyond delicious.

The annual YIMBY festival at the Gladstone Hotel, Saturday October 16, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This “yes in my backyard” festival is now in its fourth year. It’s family-friendly and in fact, the Dufferin Grove information table is being staffed by Belinda Cole and her kids Davey White and Nick White. (Davey also got to ask a “cutbacks-and-the-rinks” question at the City TV mayor’s debate.) This family would welcome help in staffing the tables, from other Dufferin Grove kids and their parents -- if you’re interested, call the park at 416 392-0913 and they’ll pass the message to Belinda. This is a fun day of swapping stories between all sorts of neighbourhood groups. Free admission.

From the September 2010 Newsletter:

Sunday Sept 5th, 3-5 pm: Annual MORRIS DANCERS’ gathering

Toronto Morris dancers will once again finish their annual Labour Day weekend dancing (which they do in public squares all over the city) by picnicking at Dufferin Grove Park. Morris dancing dates back to farm labourers’ resistance to early industrial conditions in Great Britain in the eighteenth century. The dancers often wear bells strapped to their legs; some are in blackface (this refers to a miners’ disguise, not an attempt to change race); some dance with swords. It’s very energetic, and exhilarating to watch. Groups from other parts of Ontario, NY State, sometimes even Britain, have been coming to this park for years on the Sunday of Labour Day weekend, after they give their free dance performances in other public outdoor spaces. At Dufferin Grove these groups dance for one another to show off their latest dances, and they eat masses of fresh park bread and herb butter and samosas, and make pizza at the bake oven.

Everyone is welcome to come and watch the dances.

Sept 12th 1 – 5 pm. Abrigo Twentieth Anniversary celebration: Fall Fair

From the organizers: “Abrigo Centre is a charitable, not for profit organization located inside Dufferin Mall. We serve over 4000 individuals annually in Toronto. We provide a variety of services including family counselling, youth outreach, counselling and support for survivors of woman abuse, community development and employment services. For more information check out

From 1 pm to 5 pm. We will have face painting, children’s activities and entertainment.  We have local artists coming to showcase their talents with singing, dancing and playing. We will be offering food such as hotdogs, popcorn, cotton candy, sno kones, pizza and charging a nominal fee to reduce the expense.”


1. Dufferin Grove Park is run by volunteers, right?

Wrong. The park is run by City of Toronto Parks, Forestry, and Recreation staff. Litter-picking and grass maintenance are done by Parks workers. Repairs, like broken waterpipes and loose basketball backboards, are carried out by Tech Services workers. Broken and dangling tree branches are sawed off by Forestry workers. Almost everything else is done by Recreation'' workers, all of them part-time city staff. There’s far too much work to do in a lively public space like Dufferin Grove, to ask people to do it for free. That’s one thing taxes are for – to pay people to do the work that benefits our public spaces.

Most parks, unless they have a wading pool or an outdoor rink, don’t have any part-time Recreation workers. With the help of former Recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro, Ward 18 parks developed somewhat differently. He encouraged his staff to work very closely with park users. The result was that a number of Ward 18 parks have become “community centres without walls.” Having recreation “program staff” in such parks costs more in wages than having unstaffed parks. But community centres in buildings are far more expensive. And the fact that parks have no walls, except for little buildings like the rink clubhouse, means that everybody gets to see what’s going on. So more people get good ideas about fun things to do in parks, from watching other park users. Those activities create a social space where neighbours can meet, and maybe make friends. It can come full circle -- some of those friends may even include the park’s program staff, who can help make things happen.

Helping to remove blocks to neighbourhood initiatives in parks, and supporting the resulting community centres without walls, is lots of work. But it’s good work, often with exciting results, and that’s one reason why – despite very low part-time city wages – such interesting people come to work at Dufferin Grove and at the other Ward 18 parks. The energy and good humour and inventiveness of the park program staff leads many park users to think they’re seeing public-spirited volunteers. But actually they’re seeing public-spirited city staff.

2. So where does CELOS come in?

CELOS stands for “The Centre for Local Research into Public Space.” It started at Dufferin Grove in 2000, but has made friends all over the city by now. Its mandate is to find out what works in public spaces and pass the stories along. That includes making sure the stories are not fairy tales, such as “Dufferin Grove Park is run by volunteers.” Doing research on what works includes practical research. So CELOS is involved in running the food programs at Ward 18 parks. Now that we know that good food works well in parks, it’s time for CELOS to hand over more of the backup to city staff. On September 20, Dufferin Grove program staff and CELOS are meeting with general manager Brenda Patterson to discuss the details.

3. What happened to Tino DeCastro?

Tino was one of the many recreation supervisors who was moved to a different location as part of a general management staffing policy. Tino was also removed from most direct contact with park/community centre users, to dealing with building-caretaker issues. He’s still there, and has helped to solve some long-term building maintenance problems. With support from his manager, Tino has continued to make himself useful to Ward 18 parks as well. He’ll be at the September 20 meeting with the general manager, contributing his long experience in collaborating with park users and in fostering the talents of front-line staff.

5. Is the park in trouble?

It’s hard to know. The current management style is focused on more policies and less local control. This is partly due to management’s anxiety about parks and public space in general – the Parks, Forestry and Recreation budget is unsustainable, mostly but not only due to the wages-and-salaries arrangements. CELOS research suggests that fewer one-size-fits-all policies and more local control would help, citywide. The issues are complicated, and we’re trying to apply the “governing the commons” work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom see ( Ostrom) to work out solutions. Whether there is support for new ways of thinking depends partly on the results of the municipal election.

From the June 2010 Newsletter:


The website is run by CELOS (pronounced “see-loss”), the Centre for Local Research into Public Space. This is a small group that began in Dufferin Grove Park and subsequently broadened its inquiries to address other park issues citywide. CELOS has two other websites:, for all 49 of the city’s outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks, and, for documenting CELOS research. In late May, a new feature, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, was added to the CELOS website – a database of legislation, regulations, policies and guidelines showing how the law hinders or helps citizens to shape our public spaces. Lots of good stuff.

Monday June 21, National Aboriginal Day:


Program produced by RED BEAR. From organizer Jim Adams: “the second (and hopefully annual) storytelling event celebrating National Aboriginal Awareness Day.”

6:30 – 7:30 am: Sunrise Ceremony. A traditional elder and singer(s) will conduct a sunrise ceremony to open the event and more importantly to honour those who have gone before. A sacred fire will be lit and all in attendance will have the opportunity to partake in the ceremony through a smudging/purification circle. The elder in attendance will have a teaching to share with all who attend and anyone who carries a drum is welcome to join in the drumming and singing.

7:30 – 9:30 am: Traditional Breakfast. Cedar tea, bannock bread and venison.
7:30 – 8:30: Breakfast Stories. Nature based stories told by gifted Red Bear storyteller Jim Adams.
10:00 – 11:30: Storytelling from the Western Door / Northern Door: Cree storyteller and singer Melvin John will transform the urban setting into a shifting landscape of vast prairie expanse and dense northern forest where moose and buffalo trade places with coyote and bear as the stories of our past are brought to life again.
10:00 to 4:00 pm.: Drum Making/Shaker Making/ Moccasin Making/ Bannock Baking/ Cedar Tea/Maple Syrup.
11:30 am – 12:45 pm: Delicacies from the cooking pots of many nations. Particular attention will be made to observe the traditions and ceremonies associated with the preparing of each dish. Stories about the food and its cultural and historical impact on First Nations’ people will be shared with the diners.
1:30 – 3:00 pm: Storytelling from the Eastern Door / Southern Door. Red Bear storyteller Jim Adams will share stories from the eastern and southern directions. Mandan, Creek and Mohawk stories will capture the imagination of the listeners and take them on a journey to a time when all the inhabitants of Turtle Island could speak the same language and shared a common goal. Red Bear dancers Julia and Terrill will add visual colour to the stories being shared by storyteller Jim Adams.
4:30 pm. Closing Ceremony: The visiting elder will close off the day with a traditional prayer and blessing.

Jane Jacobs walk/"policy-expo"/park reunion at Dufferin Grove:

See the full map of the tour >>


SATURDAY MAY 1 is a special day at Dufferin Grove, a celebrate-the-park sequel to the recent park troubles that got us into the news again.

The many letters that park users wrote to the ombudsman, and to others, did not get Tino back (Tino DeCastro, the recreation supervisor who helped make so many things work well). But they did get the attention of City Hall. And since May 1 is a citywide "Jane Jacobs walk" day, it seemed like a good time to follow up, with a walk in the park: Jane's Walk at Dufferin Grove

There are two walks, 11 to 1 and 4 to 6. Plus there's pizza-making at the oven from 12 to 2, and a campfire with good farmers' market food from 5 to 7. As well, Isabel Peres, the park's first campfire cook, has agreed to come back and cook Guatemalan dobladas at the campfire beginning in late morning. (Isabel is in the little 1994 park movie) that's linked on the website.

So May 1 is a good day to have a picnic or toss a frisbee, enjoy the various park show-and-tell stations, and catch up on the news (lots). Even some city managers will be there, wanting to chat about how to work with (instead of against) park users. Help them out with your advice. Invite old friends, look behind the scenes of what makes a park lively, rewrite disabling city policies, play your guitar. Be a happy and well-fed straggler at the campfire when the sun gets low -- remember May 1.

Jane Jacobs walk Gallery

From the April 2010 Newsletter:

Friday April 9, 7.30 pm at the park clubhouse: the second open staff meeting, after Friday Night Supper.

Subject: permits and special events

The first open Dufferin Grove program-staff meeting was on Friday March 19, about policies affecting park programs (see pages 3-4). Dufferin Grove programs are run by part-time recreation staff. During their second meeting they’ll be trying to figure out the current city rules about events and activities that are initiated by park users. Under what conditions can Dufferin Grove staff help out with an event or activity put on by people in the neighbourhood? When is it necessary for park users to apply for a permit centrally? When does the city’s insurance cover the activities of people in the park? When are extra permit and insurance costs likely to discourage simple, local initiatives?

The part-time staff will be going through a list of regular events or park programs that may be affected by new or proposed policies: the bake-oven events, theatre and puppetry and other performance events, the food at the wading pool and the zamboni cafe, women’s drop-in ball hockey on the rink pad, community soccer times, campfires, and community events. Park users are welcome to sit in, find out more about the issues, ask questions, and perhaps help work on remedies to follow up after the meeting.


Dufferin Grove’s recreation supervisor, Tino DeCastro, was removed from Ward 18 in February and reassigned to supervising caretakers. His new task is to fix a problem that was unintentionally created during the last Parks, Forestry and Recreation re-structuring in 2005. At that time, the community recreation centres’ caretakers were all put under central supervision. They could no longer take direction from the recreation supervisors at the buildings where they worked. If the supervisor wanted to ask the building caretaker to clean up a spill in the hallway, she or he would have to call the central caretaking supervisor, who would pass the message back over to the local caretaker.

That hasn’t worked well, so Tino has been assigned to help restore more direct communication between the individual caretakers and the other staff in the same buildings. Changing the rules again is, however, apparently quite time-consuming. Tino says he’s on the road almost all the time, troubleshooting.

So the last Parks, Forestry and Recreation reorganization needs fixing, undoing, reworking. The story goes back to 2003. That year, a radical restructuring plan was devised for the entire division, based on “function” instead of location. The idea was that each of the various functions would be centralized. So for example local recreation staff would no longer supervise the wading pool staff in their areas – the wading pools would be supervised by a central manager in charge of aquatics, who had special aquatics-only supervisors under him. Other programs, citywide, would be run by a central “active living” supervisor, or a central “arts and crafts” supervisor, and so on.

There was no public discussion, because the plan was still confidential by the time of the November municipal election of 2003. Even councillors hadn’t been told. But there seem to have been some staff, at all levels, who thought this new structure was unworkable. One day a few weeks after the election, an unmarked brown envelope appeared on the counter in the Dufferin Grove kitchen, containing the new organizational chart and outlining the details. When we counted, Dufferin Grove Park was to go from having two supervisors mainly responsible for what goes on there, to having 13 different supervisors that might have to be consulted, depending on the activity or whatever problem needed fixing. The description was so alarming that CELOS put the word out everywhere. Later, the mayor put the plan on hold.

There followed many months of far-flung stakeholder consultations. But then, in 2005, an almost-identical plan was put in place. Five years later, that plan is now being altered. Or perhaps, a new, radical plan is now in the works, restructuring again.\\ Oh dear.


The hundreds of community letters about recent park troubles (posted on got the attention of Parks, Forestry and Recreation general manager Brenda Patterson and Recreation director Malcolm Bromley. On March 16, North York’s recreation manager Costanza Allevato came to the park to talk about a new task she’s been assigned: to create a “community engagement framework.” She brought two recreation staff with her, to help with this project: Helen Kennedy, who works at the Lawrence Heights community centre, and Chris Kennedy (not related) who until recently was a citywide community development worker.

At that first meeting, Costanza got an earful about the importance of making better use of front-line program staff to support neighbourhood efforts in parks everywhere. She also heard about the unintended effect of one-size-fits-all permit policies. The associated paperwork and fees shut down small-scale events set up by neighbours. Costanza was asked: “can such small local initiatives be seen as partnerships instead of permits? Would that word-change allow the program staff to support the gifts of local park users rather than charge them for their contributions?”

After the meeting, Costanza forwarded a draft version of a “partnership policy” developed by a ‘program standards officer’ downtown. The policy has three pages of questions like “what is your group’s mission statement?... what skills will be developed?.... what cultural group is this for?” etc., and it seems to be written with agencies in mind. It’s hard to imagine how it could be made to fit with loose groups of citizens at Dufferin Grove or elsewhere, who want to make some music or set up a drop-in women’s ball-hockey game for the summer. Also, all requests for “partnerships” would have to go through one central officer – an unworkable bottleneck. Back to the drawing board, with another meeting in mid-April.


Dufferin Grove is a place with a lot of babies and little kids, that’s obvious. Two more have recently been added to the mix: little Elisabeth, the new daughter of part-time recreation staff (and CUPE Local 79 unit officer) Amy Withers, and little Alice, the new daughter of part-time recreation staff (and Spanish translator) Anna Bekerman and part-time recreation staff (and SUNY graduate philosophy student) Greg Kirk. More staff babies and more park user babies are on the way. Is there something about the little kids of Dufferin Grove Park that’s infectious?


The website is run by CELOS (pronounced “see-loss”), the Centre for Local Research into Public Space. This is a very small group that began in Dufferin Grove Park and subsequently broadened its inquiries to address other issues in the whole city. CELOS has two other websites:, for all 49 of the city’s outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks, and, for documenting celos research. Soon a new feature will be added to the celos website – a database of legislation, regulations, policies and guidelines showing how the law hinders or helps citizens to shape our public spaces. Watch for it in May – it’s got good stuff.

From the March 2010 Newsletter:

SUNDAY March 14: 1 -4 pm: “The great sugar-off” MAPLE SYRUP COOKDOWN, (at the main campfire area). Host: “Not Far From the Tree.”

From organizer Heather Kilner: “Scattered around the city right now are a dozen or so trees, lovingly tapped to collect their bountiful sap. We'd Tap That! has been Not Far From the Tree's pilot project in urban maple syrup production. But as the weather heats up, the sap stops flowing....which means it's time to make maple syrup!

Let us bring the sugar bush to you, and join us for an afternoon of syrup tasting, fun, and learning this Sunday March 14th. We'll be serving up tiny tastes of urban maple syrup in Dufferin Grove Park, graciously donated as sap by homeowners across the city. We'll have activities, games, and storytelling for all ages, and information galore about the wonderful world of maple syrup. Come on out and chat with some of our amazing volunteers about their experiences, and what they've learned through the process.

There will also be live music (weather dependent) and a warm fire. The Zamboni Cafe will also be offering maple-syrup-themed fare (pancakes, beans, and sausages) .
Note: ** This event will go on, rain or shine.

FRIDAY March 19, 7.30 pm – “open-door” Dufferin Grove STAFF MEETING after Friday Night Supper.

Subject: (1) what needs to be changed/cut out for the playground wading pool area this summer? (2) should pizza-making days continue? Park staff will be discussing how the park programs may need to be altered to align Dufferin Grove with city policies. This is a chance for park users to learn more about the details of running the park programs.


As was reported in this newsletter and in the media, Ward 18’s long-time recreation supervisor Tino Decastro was moved away from Ward 18, and from contact with citizens anywhere, on February 19. Tino matched local initiatives with the needed support, which accounts for much of what’s different about Dufferin Grove, compared to other city parks.

Most of the city’s recreation supervisors have been moved to other wards since the arrival of the most recent Parks, Forestry and Recreation general manager, Brenda Patterson. The general manager wrote to objectors that supervisory staff have to be moved around to ensure "core competencies, training and skills development, performance, and succession management." However, this management style didn’t play well with park users. Hundreds of letters were sent to city ombudsman Fiona Crean, and a Facebook group (“Dufferin Grove Park needs your help”) climbed to over 1000 members in two days. It’s now at 1800.

Catherine Porter wrote a column in the Star, and the Torontoist, Eye magazine, and NOW magazine published follow-ups. All this activity prompted a response from Councillor Janet Davis, chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee of City Council. Councillor Davis has worked closely with Brenda Patterson on child care issues for twenty years and her letter made it clear that she has no problem with the management device of moving all the supervisors: “I believe that the dynamic life of Dufferin Grove, along with the many parks and recreation facilities across the City, will be sustained regardless of the individual in the position.” City supervisors in other departments say that they are also frequently moved, sometimes as often as every six months. The supervisors who talked to us have a different evaluation of the technique, though. They say it badly disrupts their relations with citizens, in child care, in welfare, in accessibility programs, in youth work. This needs public discussion.



A group of the Dufferin Rink shinny guys are holding a fundraiser in collaboration with park friends at Amsterdam Brewery, with backing from the Centre for Local Research into Public Space (CELOS), to help raise money for ShelterBox.

ShelterBox is a charitable organization that is providing tents and shelter supplies to survivors of the Haiti Earthquake and the Chilean Earthquake. Each ShelterBox contains a dry shelter, warm bedding, light and heat, clean water, cooking aids, and tools for TEN PEOPLE. Each box costs $1200, and they're aiming for a minimum of 5 boxes. For more information about ShelterBox, visit their website:

There will be Haitian food, Dufferin Grove bake-oven bread and spreads, live bands, a DJ, performers, a cash bar, and much more. At the Amsterdam Brewery, 21 Bathurst St., beginning at 7 pm. For more information: Daniel at: If you can't make it but you want to donate: (charitable receipt will be issued).


As the weather warms up, more and more of the market will be set up along the outside walls, as well as at the inside tables. Here’s an excerpt from one of the March market e-newsletters, from Jessie Sosnicki: "Well, we’re certainly taking advantage of this awesome weather and we are seeding, seeding, seeding! We are not fooled, as it can get cold again and even snow, so we'll be ready to protect our sprouted and germinating crops in greenhouse. “

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