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News 2007

News 2007

From the September 2007 Newsletter:


During this long dry summer, park friends Katherine Betts, Lorna Weir, Josh Shook, and Nancy Winsor all helped out with tree watering. Michael Monastyrskyj worked so hard that the recreation staff finally put him in charge of the whole operation and paid him a weekly honorarium (the park “cookie money” at work). The newly planted trees that were drought-stressed are re mostly doing very well again. And after the Forestry staff pointed out that some of the older trees are also having drought trouble, the watering began to include them. Forestry has by now delivered six loads of mulch, with more coming. Staff and helpers have spread it at the base of as many trees as possible.

The mulch is also a partial remedy to the problem Dufferin Grove shares with well-used urban parks the world over: soil compaction. Around the playground, the wading pool, the cob courtyard, the bake oven, the main sitting areas, often-used paths, and the farmers’ market area, foot traffic has turned the ground as hard as cement. That’s not good for the trees. So market manager Anne Freeman has made a proposal to the Parks supervisor. The farmers’ fees will help pay for aeration of the soil in the summer market area, and for the addition of new soil, seeding with shade-resistant ground cover, and some new shrubs to help direct foot traffic. Forestry has explained how to do deep soil aeration (with an augur and a 16-inch bit), although they don’t have the resources to do it. Perhaps volunteers with stout safety boots can help with this.

If the farmers’ collaboration with the Parks crew works well, it can be applied to some of the other hard-packed park areas next year. None of this kind of work has been a regular part of the city’s park maintenance for years now, but all of it needs doing.

From the August 2007 Newsletter:

posted August 20, 2007


The city’s budget emergency has not seemed to stop the city from borrowing more money to build, and the Dufferin Grove wading pool is on the list for this fall, to be replaced for $250,000. However, there’s a new issue. City foresters say they can’t guarantee that the big trees shading the pool won’t be damaged by the jackhammers digging up the concrete around the roots. The four giants located right beside the pool pavement are what make the Dufferin Grove wading pool so unusually pleasant in the summer. The construction company is willing to replace these giant maples with new trees, but it would take about fifty years to get the shade back.

Councillor Giambrone has been informed of this issue and his office has suspended construction plans until more is known about the trees. The funds for this kind of project come from “state of good repair” allocations. Happily, the wading pool is still in quite odd repair except for fairly minor plumbing work in the “pit,” so there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken. Preserving one of the handful of shaded wading pools seems like a good project.

posted August 20, 2007


One recent Sunday in the park, recreation staff Corey Chivers was dragging a hose from one tree to another, watering the young trees that were planted last fall. Some park neighbours were having a picnic, and Corey heard them laughing. The reason: a gentle rain was falling. He was watering the trees in the rain!

But the fact is, although that beautiful light rain lasted for almost two hours, the drought has been so bad this year that when the rain had stopped the soil was still bone-dry one centimeter below the surface. Until there’s a whole day or a whole night of good, steady rain, any recently-planted trees are in trouble. They need a lot of water, and if they don’t get it, many of them will die.

So the tree watering campaign continues. At Dufferin Grove Park, there are five volunteers helping out: Katherine Betts, Lorna Weir, Josh Shook, Nancy Winsor and Michael Monastyrskyj. And recreation staff Corey Chivers and Mayssan Shuja have gone around to other nearby parks talking to wading pool staff about putting daily pails of water on the new trees there. This has been a bit of a struggle, since some young wading pool staff at other parks feel rather strongly that tree watering is “not my job.” Even after they were encouraged by their supervisors to help out, some of these young staff were very resistant, and were pretty sure that the union must protect them from this task (it doesn’t). Hopefully all of wading pool staff at other parks will eventually acquire a spirit of pulling together. And those who already “get it” have been rewarded by a quick response from the trees. Within four days of getting water, some of the most stressed trees began to put out new leaves, catching up and repairing the drought damage. During the hot weather, parks without shade are mostly empty when the sun is high. As these new trees grow big and spread their shade over the sun-baked playgrounds, more families will be attracted to go there in summer – and the next generation of wading pool staff will be more comfortable too.

Michael Monastyrskyj


You can help...

Park trees need water in this dry summer. Last month garden-volunteer coordinator Jenny Cook: sent out a message asking for help in watering the park’s 26 new trees, planted last fall. (There were 32 new trees, but six didn’t make it through the winter.) Michael Monastyrskyj stepped up and adopted NINE little trees. Two of them were in bad shape already but are now looking like they might stick around. Recreation staff are watering the other 17, and now that August has come in hot and dry, Councillor Adam Giambrone is supporting park friends’ efforts to involve the Parks maintenance staff in watering as well. From Jenny:

“There’s only one chance to get these little trees over the hump and see them well-established in the park. If you’re inspired by Michael, talk to any of the park staff at the playground, pizza days or Friday Night Supper. It will be a great thing to show your children or visiting friends when you get older: I saved this tree from drought when it was only ten feet tall, and look at it now!


The City of Toronto Tree Advocacy Planting Program not only includes front yards of houses but also parks. Last year for the first time in over ten years, new trees were planted in Dufferin Grove Park. City Tree advocacy staff Uyen Dias has sent Councillor Giambrone’s office a list of the second stage of this planting, to be done in two sections along Dufferin Street this fall (as a side effect, giving some protection where the four-lane traffic is most daunting for park users). The trees in the plan are:

  • Two large caliper trees
  • two tulip trees and two burr oaks
  • 35 deciduous trees: 5 red maples, 5 sugar maples, 10 redbuds, 5 ironwoods, 5 burr oaks, and 5 red oaks;
  • 5 evergreens: white pine;
  • 40 shrubs: 10 serviceberry, 15 red osier dogwood, 5 American elder, and 10 nannyberry.

Dufferin Grove Park used to be renowned for its tall, beautiful white pines (they’re in early photos from the City archives, posted on the web site). Maybe that time will return. But even before that, all those berry bushes may attract not only wildlife but also people. There’s one serviceberry bush in the park already, near the bake ovens. It’s full of berries (they taste like blueberries). The park’s cooks have used them for upside down cake for Friday Night Supper, and there are still lots left for sampling. If 10 more serviceberry bushes are planted in the park, that will make some very good pies. There are two elderberry trees too, and once Jane Jacobs ate some of them baked into a pie. With five more elder bushes, there will be enough for people to harvest for home...

Want to be a Volunteer Compost Champion?

posted July 30, 2007

Do you love compost? With the recent arrival of a new 3 bin composting unit, Dufferin Grove Park is now looking for a volunteer to be our compost champion (medals can be arranged), to help encourage composting in our neighbourhood. Training and workshops will be provided, as well as heaps of appreciation! If you are interested send an email to

From the July 2007 Newsletter:


Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone is the city’s “tree advocate." He’s made it his goal to almost double the city’s tree canopy from the current 18% to 34%, as part of Toronto’s climate change plan. The City offers free front yard trees, and in his summer newsletter, the deputy mayor reminds people that their new young trees need to be watered. “For the first two or three years, your new young tree mainly grows roots. During periods of drought, your newly planted tree needs water every day. Just two pails of water (20 liters) are all that is required.”

Park trees also need water in this dry summer. A message from garden-volunteer coordinator Jenny Cook: “Last fall 32 new trees were planted in the park. Six didn’t make it through the winter but the rest did, and they need water! If you would like to adopt a new tree please email us at and one little tree will have a better chance of growing up in Dufferin Grove Park." Or talk to any of the park staff at the playground, pizza days or Friday Night Supper.

Parks maintenance supervisor Peter Leiss has no staff to assign to tree watering, since his staff have specified duties that don’t usually allow additions. So for now, the Recreation staff have taken up the task of keeping the trees watered during the drought. That means going all over the park with a wheelbarrow and buckets. Snack bar funds have paid for some hoses and y-connectors for the remaining water outlets in the park. But there are still not enough hoses.

Friends of trees and park shade, here’s an opportunity to help out:

  1. donate extra garden hoses even if they have leaks or
  2. adopt a tree, or
  3. help water the trees when you’re in the park (speak to park staff).

posted July 02, 2007

The planting plan for the new trees planted in the park has been released: plantingplan.pdf.

From the June 2007 Newsletter:


Usually on Saturday afternoons after 4 pm

The park gardens are in full swing, with almost all of the seedlings sprouted last February in the rinkhouse now sinking their roots in the vegetable gardens by the park ovens. The garden party crew meet once a week to maintain the vegetable and flower gardens around the park. New volunteers are always welcome, with or without gardening experience. The gardeners can usually be found on Saturday afternoons after 4 pm, though sometimes the schedule changes. Send an email to or leave a message for Jenny or Anna B at 416-392-0913 to get weekly updates on the gardening schedule.

From the May 2007 Newsletter:


Park staff Jenny Cook and Anna Bekerman are both working with garden volunteers this year. You can call them at the park: 416 392-0913, or email Everyone is welcome to join (Saturdays or Sundays). The park trees can use some friends too: many of them need mulching, and if it’s a dry summer as predicted, the younger trees will need watering as well. The City doesn’t have the staff to care for the trees, but park friends can step up.

From the March-April 2007 Newsletter:


By the window in the rink house there’s a little plastic greenhouse with this year’s tomato seedlings for the park food gardens by the ovens. The garden group started them in the middle of February (they bought the seeds from Colette Murphy at the Thursday Farmers’ Market), and the little sprouts look good. Park staff Jenny Cook is the volunteer coordinator for the park gardens again this year. You can call her at the park: 416 392-0913, or email her at

A little garden history: The first community garden began in Dufferin Grove Park in 1993, one year after the City took out the last Parks-planted flower bed, citing lack of funds. The park looked so sad without any flowers that Anne Shaddick and some other mothers and little kids dug a garden near the playground. The Parks supervisor, Carol Cormier, gave them a surprise gift of left-over bedding plants. So the garden looked very colourful when the mayor at that time, Nadine Nowlan, came to officially "open" the adventure playground, which was then called "The Big Backyard."

Every few years another garden bed was added, depending on who was interested in helping. The Parks supervisor Carol Cormier sent her crew to Home Depot to buy the park a present of rose bushes, which still bloom near the ovens every June. Some gangsters called the "L.A.s" were paid to dig the first garden up by the rink, helped by local schoolteacher Rob Rennick and Jutta Mason. Then people at a park brainstorming meeting said that they wanted native-species gardens. So three of those were added with the help of two small grants from Canada Trust. A former Havelock Street resident, Hedy Muysson, who had bought a farm near Westport, came back to work with school classes from Brock School to plant the first two woodland beds.

Then one day Arie Kamp discovered the park and offered his help. He became the “flower man” at the park for the following 8 years. He used to get up at 4 a.m. in the summer and work until 2 pm, go home and nap in the heat of the afternoon, and then work again until it was too dark to see the plants. After he began gardening, more and more people started to stroll through the park in the evenings, looking at the flowers. The Parks foreman at the time, Bill Argeropoulos, scrounged old benches from park storage areas and set them up near the gardens. Those benches were rarely empty.

Artist and landscaper Gene Threndyle discovered the park a couple of years later and helped plant a native-species sand-garden near the newly-built bake-oven. Then he planted the tree nursery south of the field house, then the "Remembering Garrison Creek" garden at the southwest corner (the one with the black walnut trees). A white pine was added to the tree nursery by Lieutenant-Governor Hilary Weston in 1997 when she came to visit the park (and to give an award to Arie). Kids from Queen Victoria School helped her to plant the tree, and their band played steel drums by the ovens, to celebrate the day.

There were no funds within the Parks department to maintain the gardens, but eventually we got on their left-over annuals list, which they delivered every year. One year Mayor Barbara Hall came to help plant some of the pansies in the rink house window-boxes. And Pat MacKay, a long-time park friend, brought over some best-quality spring bulbs from Cruickshank's every fall for some years.

In 1998 Gene Threndyle applied to the Toronto Arts Council for a grant to build the little fountain and wetland area down in the Garrison Creek hollow by Dufferin Street. The Parks supervisor of that time, Mike Hindle, helped out with a backhoe and a driver. They brought over all those big old architectural stones that now surround the fountain (which had been forgotten in the High Park service yard until Gene asked about them). With the fountain, new birds and butterflies came to the park.

After the school pizza-day programs began, park staff Lily Weston worked with neighbourhood gardeners to put some food plants near the oven. She got a summer youth crew to put up a split rail fence, to keep out the dogs. With garden volunteers, she planted tomatoes and herbs to put on the pizzas. The next year the Parks foreman brought his crew and helped put in a second food garden area.

Meantime Ben Figuereido, who lived in the apartment building next door, planted grapes and pole beans along the rink fence and began helping out in various ways. Caitlin Shea arrived in the park and began doing compost with park staff Anna Bekerman (who’s back in the park again now, after two years studying in Spain). Then Jenny Cook began to work at the park, and she and Caitlin (who also became a part-time recreation staff) set up the "garden parties" where people wanting to volunteer would get support and have some fun too. They not only planted and did compost but they also took care of the trees, mulching and watering trees all over the park. Jutta had been the night-time watering person for years, setting up and moving sprinklers, but then the garden support group took over some of that.

Arie Kamp turned 80, and rode his bike less, and cut way back on his park projects, just growing his beloved morning glories up the fence and over the oven. With support from Brian Green (the Parks supervisor until last year), Recreation staff worked with volunteers to grass over some of Arie’s garden beds. Brian also brought spring bulbs. By then the trees that Gene Threndyle had planted in the various native-species gardens had grown very lush, and he only had to visit a few times a year to prune.

In 2005, Georgie Donais planted the first cob garden around the cob courtyard. In 2006 park friend Mary Wigle donated two black maples in memory of her husband Ziggy. Those trees became the basis for the second cob garden, along with perennials from the home gardens of many cob-builders. Last year also, a 5-year campaign for replacement tree plantings in the park finally bore fruit. Forestry staff Uyen Dias arranged for 28 new trees to be put in by a Forestry contractor. The new trees were watered and taken care of by Recreation staff working with volunteers.

In the fall of 2006, FoodShare moved into the neighbourhood, to 90 Croatia Street. Their staff were interested in collaborating with Dufferin Grove staff and volunteers to create a youth teaching garden at the park’s southwest corner, through the FoodShare youth program. However, near neighbours of that corner of the park were very unhappy about the addition of that garden bed, and they made it clear in word and deed that they would not allow it to go ahead. FoodShare will therefore add a garden to another park in the neighbourhood instead, at Campbell or at Erwin Krickhahn Park. At Dufferin Grove, they’ll help improve the compost system: a win-win for both parks.

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