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posted August 5, 2005, from the August Newsletter

AN OPEN LETTER TO BRENDA LIBRECZ, THE GENERAL MANAGER OF PARKS, FORESTRY AND RECREATION:

Dear Brenda,

I am writing to you to ask for a meeting with you as soon as possible.

Here's why: friends of Dufferin Grove Park have been discussing the effect, on our park, of your Division's new operating model, to begin in September. We are very concerned.

Some background: In November 2003, a few weeks before the most recent municipal government was sworn in, Parks and Recreation announced a radical change in how they would run their operation. From our point of view it meant that we would be dealing with a different supervisor for every element of the park one for wading pools, another for skating rinks, another for park maintenance, another for children's programs, another for special events, another for improvements to the park (if any), etc. We protested against this new conception, and it was put on hold. After some consultations to fix the problems, it seems that the same approach is back, as of this September.

The new operating model seems to spell the end of the idea of a park as first and foremost a neighbourhood meeting place. In its place, there is what is called a "functional approach," taking apart all the elements of a park and managing each separate element centrally (and perhaps staffing these elements centrally as well).

It's hard to know how our park can continue to flourish under such a system, since Dufferin Grove Park is a very specific place that has grown organically out of the activities of its many friends, from the volleyball players to the picnickers to the playground kids to the "rink rats." All the activities are intertwined, and the great support we have got over many years, from the Parks and Recreation Division, has been the support of local (not central) staff who know what we're doing, and who have a history with us.

Adding to our concerns is the fact that the examples we've seen of a centralized "functional" approach have been pretty alarming. The Health and Safety Inspectors' visit in 2003, resulting in a threat to shut down the rink, is one example. The C.S.A. playground replacement/ repair program is another. The Policy and Development Division's centralized approach to park improvements is another. The list is long.

So we're writing to ask you to declare our park an alternative site. If the City is bent on trying their "functional" experiment, we would ask you to keep our park as an alternative laboratory, to see if what we do here is worth learning from as well.

We look forward to your invitation for a small group of us to discuss this with you, as soon as you can accommodate us. We regard this matter as urgent.

Yours sincerely,
Jutta Mason, friend of Dufferin Grove Park


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