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News 2003

News 2003

posted December 28, 2003

Rink crisis - Inspectors come to the park

On December 18, 2003, three short weeks after the Parks and Rec restructuring plan was announced, and contested, City of Toronto employees arrived to conduct a health and safety inspection of the rink house.

On Dec.18, occupational health and safety inspectors Jim Mackay and Danny Neill came to the park and made it evident that there were big problems with the way we use the rink house. They wrote a report asking that the new community kitchen be destroyed and the locks on the garage door be changed so that no one other than the zamboni driver could go in there. They ordered all the giant puppets to be removed from their perch in the garage rafters, and these were carted away to other parts of the city. A sad week!

The outcry that followed, the newspaper coverage, the intervention of our new councillor, Adam Giambrone, and the many thoughtful e-mails sent by so many people, all contributed to producing a silver lining that at times seemed to engulf the black cloud almost entirely. Parks and Recreation director Don Boyle gave our area's parks and rec manager James Dann a free hand in making all possible accommodations to the workplace safety suggestions in the report. The blue propane Olympia ice-resurfacer disappeared and suddenly there was a shiny white gas-powered zamboni instead, sent by rink supervisor Brian Green. The jerry-built shelves in the garage were replaced with strong, elegant ones built by city carpenters. When the public health inspector came, he ordered a fourth sink in each of the two little rinkhouse kitchens. The city paid for these to be put in, and for the dishwasher to be moved to a better location. All the clutter of years of storage by all the many folks who use the rink house even the old cans of paint from when the rink was first built were carted away from the breezeway, with the help of 8 maintenance staff. New fire extinguishers were brought in and mounted, hooks were put up to coil the giant zamboni hoses, broken kitchen equipment (donated, but at the end of its useful life, as donated items often are) was carted away. The whole place looks great.

The clean-up and reorganization were one part: finding the boundaries between the legal regulations and the one-size-fits-all philosophy was another. The workplace safety inspectors and the fire safety inspectors all made it clear that in their view, a building built for one purpose ought to be used only for that purpose. Public health raised their eyebrows. Mixed-use adaptations were just seen as wrong. But no rule could be found to back up this approach. It was the same with the lack of clear boundaries between staff and volunteers, which the inspectors identified as too risky. But Don Boyle said: "we have to work closely with volunteers, all over the city. In each neighbourhood, the boundaries are worked out differently. If it works well, we'll try to support it that's the point of parks and recreation." That's his decision, and he's sticking to it.

As it stands now, all inspections done to date have concluded that our clubhouse activities are within range of what the regulations require. We don't know how many other inspectors are still to come and what they will identify.

Here's a bit of history:

Claire Tucker Reid,
General Manager,
Parks and Recreation,
City of Toronto

Dear Claire,

I have just been informed that Dufferin Rink will be shut down, probably tomorrow, if we continue with the mixed use that we now have. Two health and safety inspectors came and quite evidently found the whole scene we run, abominable. I called James Dann to come down and they gave him all the details.

After 10 years of community-building at Dufferin Grove Park, it is a stunning experience for me to find that two gentleman can come and tell us that what our neighbourhood has built in this park is basically a giant heap of safety violations.

It is ironic and sad that as parks and recreation facilities all over the city, especially rinks, are crumbling before our eyes, one of the best outdoor rinks in the city would be closed. The Christmas holidays are set to begin. To have to face the end of our community dinners, the bread, the farmers' market, and much of what makes the rink work so well, will be a very serious blow for our neighbourhood.

The two health and safety inspectors who came today told me that it is a fallacy to think that parks belong to citizens: they belong to the corporate entity called Toronto. I hope that not everyone in city government feels this way. Please let us know where you stand.

Jutta Mason

Read more detail in the January 2004 newsletter, the February 2004 Newsletter, and the Zamboni Kitchen Story. The outcry that followed that first alarming day was expressed in a large number of e-mails (many interesting, thoughtful e-mails), some of which are posted for you to read from park friends Drew Simmons, Ms. Roscoe Handford, Mary Myers, Shanti Nahata, Caitlin Shea, Jane Price, Jackie Monders, Loren Grebanier, Tim Freeman, Kathy Patterson, John Broley, Vivienne Smietana, Michaelle McLean, Margaret Mikkelborg, Annick Mitchell, Henrik Bechmann, and from Claire Tucker-Reid and from Carmen Smith of the Mayor's office.

posted June 7, 2003

Park fix-it inventory:

Soccer field: the field was completely re-sodded last fall, the first time in many years. The fences protecting the new grass came down in the last week of May and now the field is playable (it's still a bit bumpy but the park staff say they'll roll it soon). It's used by St. Mary's High School Monday to Friday in the daytime until the third week of June; by the Toronto Eagles Soccer Club Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings plus Saturday until 2.30; and by the Portugal 2004 Soccer Club on Thursday evenings. From 3 p.m. Saturday and all day Sunday, the soccer field is not booked - it's there for community use. Tell your friends.

Cricket: many people in this area love to play cricket. There are cricket pitches at Eglinton Park and Sunnybrook Park, but that's pretty far away. Maybe this is the year we can get a cricket pitch put in at our park. If you want more information about this, call the park and leave a message: 416 392-0913.

Sandbox and sandpit: the maintenance staff brought a bit of new sand for the little playground sandbox and a truckload of sand for the sandpit. The plumbing department fixed the water outlet near the sandpit so that the kids can use it to make their rivers and waterfalls again.

Dirt path: the main path through the park is unpaved, and after the winter it was extremely rutted and bumpy. The maintenance crew have now graded it twice and filled in the channels made by erosion. That means that wheelchairs and strollers can use the path again. It's a stop-gap measure: the real solution is to pave the path (this idea was first suggested by a park commissioner in 1925, and sometime about 20 years ago half the smaller paths in the park were paved). The main walkways in the park should be paved, but there's no money to do it. Grading at least makes the path usable.

Campfire shed/garden shed: the City Property carpenters came and removed the rotten roof and put on a new one, so it doesn't leak any more.

Basketball backstop and hockey rink gate: the Parks Division came and repaired damage done by the case loader during winter storm cleaning.

Playground fence: the maintenance workers came and replaced cedar rails that had been vandalized during the winter, so now the fence is whole again. (Remember that dogs and high school students - during school hours - are not permitted inside the playground enclosure. If you see any, you can ask them to leave, and if they don't leave, please come and get the park staff. The playground is for little kids and their caregivers.)

Marsh fountain: The artist/gardener who built the fountain in the native-species wetland, Gene Threndyle, has altered the fountain slightly to guard against standing water (because of the West Nile virus warnings). So now the fountain's water is moving all the time and no mosquitoes can breed there.

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