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News 2004

News 2004

Posted November 18, 2004

Sodding November 2004

North, Centre, and South field...

(Thanks to Wallie Seto for the pictures.)

In June the soccer field got some grass seed and some organic fertilizer. Then it was full of soccer players all summer, and in November, the maintenance staff brought in some sod left over from another job and fixed the most worn patches of the field -- by the goals and in the centre. If we get some rain, maybe it the sod will root, even if it's a bit lumpy.

Posted November 12, 2004

November 5, 2004: Stolen Car Temporarily Adds New Entrance to Park

Driver crashes into park fence

(Thanks to Andrew Munger for the pictures.)

This stolen Mercedes took a wrong turn in front of the High School shortly after lunch on Friday November 5. It knocked out three lengths of park fencing, which have been barriered with danger tape since then. There's no money to fix the fence, so the city will just remove the damaged fence and there will be another entrance to the park. [ed: but see the next item; it was fixed after all]

(These photos by Wallie Seto: Roped off, then fixed.)

posted January 18, 2005

Update: December 2004

They changed their minds, and the fence is fixed, as you can see from Wallie's updated pictures. No new entrance after all.

posted October 27, 2004

Sunday August 15: The Great Picnic Table Painting

One of the ways we spent too much money this summer was by using some summer staff hours to paint picnic tables. The problem is, there is no (zero) money in the Toronto parks budget for fixing and painting park furniture. There's not even anyone who keeps track of which tables or benches need care. But when paint starts to peel off, the wood rots faster, so maintenance is important. Park friend Michelle Webb organized a wonderfully successful painting day, with pizza at the oven. Suchada Promchiri donated brushes, the Parks Department donated paint, and whole families came to paint. With Michelle's all-day supervision, they painted 13 tables, 3 benches, and 2 chairs. Some little kids painted in their underwear and washed their green-daubed bodies at the sand pit afterwards. The tables will last much longer now.

posted October 27, 2004

Park re-cycling postponed again

This past June it seemed like we might finally get re-cycling in the park -- we even got a delivery of two industrial-size blue "toters" for the cans and bottles, plus three smaller blue bins. But it didn't work out. The bins never got picked up, and eventually we had to stuff all the cans and bottles into garbage bags and they were added to the trash. Too much going on at Public Works, is our guess. This winter, the rink staff will be carting household-size blue, gray, and green bins a block over to Gladstone Ave. and adding them into the house-to-house collection. Annick and Jake, who live in the corner house, have given this their blessing. (A few years back, we got in trouble for dumping the park recycling into the big recycling bins right across the street at the apartment building. It turns out they have it picked up privately, and they didn't want any free riders.)

We may also put some bins around the park, including green bins for the dog walkers. The dog feces can be topped up with rink house food scraps. We have a compost bin in the park gardens but there's too much garden waste to fit everything in, and besides, the park has plenty of rats (like most other places in Toronto), and our food scraps don't help.

One reason for taking this extra trouble is that if recyclables go into the park trash, the dumping station sometimes won't let the park dump trucks in. That's what happened the second week of November. So that's the pickle we're in now: Toronto's Public Works Department can't manage to pick up recycling from parks, and so the Parks Division has to pay a private garbage company (Turtle Island) to be allowed to dump unseparated waste at their lot on Cherry Street. (What does Turtle Island do with it?)

posted September 27, 2004

Working with the Park's Maintenance People, Fall 2004

A day (or two) in the life of maintenance negotiations

Here's a snapshot of the kind of thing that's involved in keeping the park in good shape. The Friends of Dufferin Grove Park interacted with the Parks Maintenance Manager over a period of a few days in September, and we recorded the results. Items that were still incomplete after the intervention are shaded in pink.

posted June 5, 2004

Is Park Maintenance Pulling Out of Its Nosedive?

From the June 2004 Newsletter
Our only path?

The main throughfare through our park is not wheelchair accessible

At the beginning of May, we were tickled to report that things were looking up for park maintenance: we got a half-time worker assigned to the park to pick litter and keep things repaired. It even looked like we might get a fence for the new kitchen garden, although the parks department was out of fence posts for the time being. But we heard they were getting some.

During May this didn't work out so well. By June 1 the fence had not materialized, neither had grass seed to fill in all those bald patches all over the park. Neither had the gaps in the playground fence been fixed. The sand in the playground was still unharrowed and hard, and there were still deep hollows at the bottom of the slide and under the swings (if anybody falls, they really get a jolt). The unpaved dirt track that runs through the park for all those hundreds and hundreds of park users to walk along/push strollers/ride bikes or wheelchairs - was still eroded in places and rutted and just as bumpy as last year (no grader had smoothed it yet). The crooked picnic tables and the benches that were missing slats from last year had stayed exactly that way. The grass was long in places, short in others, and in distress in the centre of the soccer field (already), with holes where the irrigation outlets were.

Our park was not a complete orphan. Park maintenance staff person (and former scout-master) Joe Eschweiler kept picking up the trash, so the park was still cleaner than we're used to from other years. Joe also took a run at the ruts in the Sri Lankan's grass "overball" court (overball is a variation of volleyball) beside the basketball court. He used a lawnmower and a weed-whipper in an ingenious way to even out the ground - and it worked, so hopefully there will be no more twisted ankles for a while. Also, our request for compost and wood chips for the garden volunteers turned up a couple of wheelbarrow-loads of each. We got the gift of a little round table and two stools, cast-offs from Riverdale Farm, and promises of more from a park furniture dump near there. That would be lovely.

But you can't run a park only on promises. On June 2, Roman (the park maintenance foreman) came and walked all around the park to make a to-do list. He said that, even though his crew are overwhelmed with city parks grass-cutting, we'll see some action in the next days and weeks. By the next day the playground fence had been fixed and a couple of broken tables removed (and one repaired). So let's see how this next round of promises work out. Maybe the Parks maintenance crew will follow through.

Dufferin Grove Rink Problems

posted June 1, 2004

May, 2004: Rink Crack-up

Dufferin Rink was all new eleven years ago, re-built for $1.3 million. It's supposed to last for 30 years minimum. But this year we noticed that the concrete surface of our rink is netted with cracks. Some appear to be leaking rust; the others show a yellowish tinge when it's wet out. In our rink compressor room, some of the big pipes are badly rusted, including the bolts that would need to come off for a repair. And all last winter the coolant (brine) was leaking out somewhere under our rink surface, leading to a cliffhanger on several occasions about whether the rink was going to have to close prematurely. Finally, at the beginning of March Break, all the ammonia escaped out of the compressor room ammonia tank in one night. That's when we found out that the rink's alarm system, such as it is, is not monitored by anyone. The rink was then closed.

Rink Brine Vats, April 2004

What caused the cracks, the rust, the yellow, the ammonia escape, the brine leaks? We don't know much, since most of the parks mechanics prefer not to talk. They did say that about 80 gallons of brine were lost daily during the winter because someone had drilled a 2mm hole in the cement and hit a pipe (this was discovered in April). The city mechanics deduced that someone in the community must have done it, maybe as part of some performance or activity on the rink in summer. (But in fact there was no such performance or activity on the rink). A mystery.

Other than that, the city mechanics almost never communicate with the rink house staff - they just go in and out of the compressor room, living in their own bubble. (The park phone is plugged into a jack in the compressor room, and recently when the phone stopped working we found it had been unplugged in there. A couple of days later it was unplugged again, and when we opened the compressor room door to replace the jack again, some barrels fell on us, which had been propped up against the door. Dirty tricks? We have no idea. Chilly climate? For sure.)

Rusty pipes in compressor room, Spring 2004

posted June 1, 2004

In this troubled context, seven friends of the rink wrote a letter asking the parks management to get an outside rink inspection done by CIMCO, the refrigeration company that supplies the city's equipment (and also services the city rinks in Etobicoke). We wanted a prognosis on the rink for next winter, and the winters after that. However, the request was denied by Bob Crump (head of Technical Services) and Parks director Don Boyle. City Councillor Adam Giambrone did not support our request either, and we've asked him to let us know his reasons in a letter. We'll post the letter when it arrives.

Our rink crack-up

posted June 1, 2004

Cracks all over the place

Hard to see in a photo, but deep, regular patterns on both rink pads. Some are starting to fill in with dirt, so plants will soon enlarge them.

The rink cracks are beginning to collect dirt, and where there's dirt there may eventually be flowers. If the Parks department doesn't want to act on this problem, maybe someone in the neighbourhood knows about steps we can take to keep the rink surface from beginning to break up. Should the cracks be hosed down to remove the dirt? Is there a sealant? If you know what to do or you have a savvy concrete contact, please call the park at 416 392-0913, or e-mail us at This information would be useful for applying to Christie Rink, Campbell Rink, and Trinity Rink as well, all of which, even though they're newer than our rink, have begun to show cracks. These newer rinks are all cooled by brine. The older rinks in our area, still cooled directly by ammonia, don't have these cracks. A mystery, which needs to explored SOON.

For more on events around the time of the rink closing, see City Rink Archives, 2004 and Rink Stories 2004. For some grief we had earlier in the year, see The Inspector Crisis, 2003.

June, 2004: Correspondence about our rink problems

posted June 1, 2004

May 20:Letter from Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone to Mr. Kershaw, Capital Works section of Parks in Economic Development.

... The issue is that cracks have appeared on the concrete slab that holds the ice in many of the newly constructed rinks. Reportedly, "Alex Duff rink has long cracks that traverse the slab from one side to the other. ... Many of the cracks (in all the newer rinks) are straight lines that run parallel or at right angles, and they are stained yellowish or, in a few places, red like rust. It's a mystery, especially since the older rinks (the ones that are not cooled by brine but by ammonia) don't have those cracks" ... Read more >>

posted June 1, 2004

May 20: Letter from the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park to Mr. Steve McCloud, President, CIMCO

... This past winter we had a persistent brine leak that was diagnosed, after the ice went out, as being caused by a 2mm drill hole in one of the pipes. Because I was puzzled about the drill hole, I looked at the rink more carefully than I have before. I was surprised to see that the concrete pad had so many long cracks ... Read more >>

posted June 1, 2004

Rink problems - correspondence with the City, May 2004

Our rink-related correspondence with Toronto City Councillor Adam Giambrone and with Bob Crump, the manager of Technical Services for Parks and recreation, South District (i.e. the former city of Toronto). Read more >>

posted June 1, 2004

June, 2004: CIMCO (the rink company) says cracks "no problem"
From the June 2004 Newsletter

As this newsletter was ready to print, City Councillor Adam Giambrone's assistant Kevin Beaulieu called to say that a concrete expert from CIMCO (the rink company) called him to say that he had dropped in at our rink on his way by and he's pleased to tell him that the many cracks in our rink are no problem at all. Also, Councillor Giambrone wrote to let us know that the technical services manager has assured him that all our concerns have been flagged for follow-up during the Dufferin Grove inspection, including the cracks in the cement, the reinforced sinking floor, the rust and the leaking of brine last season. He expects that a city-wide rink inspection will come to our rink in late summer.

In the meantime, Liz Rucker will be doing a special storytelling session at the June 4 Friday night supper about the rink cracks. It's an adventure story and an art project around the cracks in the rink, called "rivers of the world." Kids will get indelible markers so they can draw on the concrete around their favourite rink crack (lots and lots and lots of choices), and they'll get a sneak peak at the workings of the rink too. Starts right after supper, at about 6:45p.m.

posted July 29, 2004

July, 2004: The Rink Mystery, continued: City Wide Study Comes First
From the July 2004 Newsletter

On July 5 the city councillors who are members of the Economic Development and Parks Committee took less than two minutes to approve $800,000 to pay engineers to check out the condition of all Parks and Recreation facilities. They call it "due diligence," which sounds very sensible. But here's a problem: later the same morning the same councillors met to approve a new Strategic Plan for Parks and Rec, and that plan says that most of the facilities listed in the $800,000 contract have already been inspected. (Certainly all the outdoor rinks around here have.)

Jutta Mason went up to Committee Chair Brian Ashton and Commissioner Joe Halstead after the meeting, to ask about this puzzle - which story was right? Councillor Ashton just walked away but Mr. Halstead took a moment to insist that there was no contradiction, that this inspection will be quite different than the last one. But we're mystified. We're going to get the original plans for the first inspection in 2001, and compare it to the plans for the second inspection. And if we find that the two inspections are pretty similar, we can ask the councillors to reconsider whether they really want to go over all the same ground again, or whether they would like to use that $800,000 to actually fix some things that are broken.

Like our rink cracks. Or that dirt path that forms the main thoroughfare through our park. Paving was first suggested in 1925 and it's still not done! The big and little folks in wheelchairs and strollers who bump along there, don't need an engineering study to tell them that paving would be a help. We'll follow up on this engineering study, and report back in the next issue of the newsletter.

posted July 29, 2004

October, 2004: The Last Word on the State of the Rink?

Dear friends of the rink and winter lovers,

You may remember that last April when the ice was all gone from Dufferin Rink, the concrete rink surface revealed many cracks, all over both sides, many of them yellow or red with rust that was leaching up through the concrete. Since the rink had already had to close early because of technical problems (including the entire compressor-room tank of ammonia evaporating into the air one night), when we saw all those long cracks, lots of us were wondering -- what next?

Good news. The cracks are most likely no problem at all. Parks and Recreation Director Don Boyle personally brought a friend of his, a cement expert, to the rink last Wednesday. Warren Bravo, a very fine-looking man with a firm handshake and cement-dusted workboots on his feet, told us he's the third generation in his family to run the business, Bravo Cement Inc.(see the early photo from their web site). He walked all around the rink with Don, area manager James Dann, Councillor Giambrone's assistant Kevin Beaulieu, and me.

This was his opinion: It's not clear what caused the cracks, but even if they get worse, they can't separate and break up. That's because the steel mesh that's slowly rusting through the cracks is also holding all the cracks together. Warren said that filling the cracks with epoxy would only be for cosmetic, not structural reasons. They sometimes have to do that: when a newly built rink in Stouffville mysteriously developed 3000 linear feet of cracks right after it was built, they ground all the cracks down and filled them and laid a thin layer of cement overtop. But they only did that so it would look perfect. Since the cost of doing such a procedure is $9 per linear foot, and we also have many linear feet of cracks, we don't even need to think about it.

So it sounds as though we have a pretty good chance to keep this rink 20 years longer, and the ice will cover up the cracks during the rink seasons.

The rink season is Nov.27 to March 20 this year. For more information on our rink hours/ details/ special events/ information numbers/ rink politics/ etc., and information on all other Toronto rinks (including a map), go to Our first winter celebration is on December 3. The occasion is not only the return of the rink, but also, this is the tenth year of cooking with fire in the park. That means music, skating by torchlight, a campfire, and very delicious food (and we think that park cook Dan DeMatteis will be back from his Italian apprenticeship).

See you at the rink!


posted May 17, 2004

Park Maintenance Update, May 17, 2004

The good news is that since our new park supervisor Brian Green assigned Joe Eschweiler to picking litter more often than the last crew, the park is noticeably cleaner. The washroom crew, also, has done much better so far this year in keeping the field house washrooms clean. The park washrooms are now being kept open until late, for the convenience of the many soccer and basketball players and picnickers who are taking advantage of the long, long daylight hours of spring. The sandpit had its sand ploughed back in by the case loader, the big logs were replaced around the sandpit's perimeter, and a couple of picnic tables have been moved back down into the Garrison Creek hollow, so the mall staff can have their lunches there.

The bad news is that the supervisor says he has neither compost, nor fence posts, to help us with the park gardens. Nor could he get us any grass seed to overseed thin areas. It's a sad day when Parks and Rec can't come up with these basic materials! Hopefully they'll solve this problem soon.

May 2, 2004

Sand pit

Our new park supervisor, Brian Green, walked around the park on April 27, noting what needs attention. Two days later he brought in a backhoe and got the driver (Mark Culligan) to push a lot of sand back into the sand pit and fill in the boundary gaps with logs.

Brian Green calls in the backhoe

Mark Culligan, the driver, gets results

Up by the rink house, Mark also moved the green wood-storage sheds to their permanent places, away from Arie Kamp's morning-glory fence. Now Arie can get the ground ready to plant this year's colourful flower display.

posted April 4, 2004


This is the main thoroughfare through the park. It is hazemac but it turns into mud and then hardens into rough bumps

Back in 1925 there was the first proposal (now in the city archives) to pave the park thoroughfare. It still hasn't been done even though many hundreds of people use this main thoroughfare every day. We've heard that there is no money for paving. However we've heard there is $50,000 to put an "entrance feature" into Dovercourt Park, and we've seen the "entrance feature" into Christie Pits (at the NW corner where there is nothing to enter). This is the year when there really ought to be a firm plan to put ashphalt down on the main Dufferin Park thoroughfare. That plan ought to be pretty near the top of the Division's "to-do" list.

posted April 4, 2004

Rink Cleanup

Cleaned up mats

It used to be that mothballing the rink was part of the Local 416 rink workers responsibility. That included rolling up the rubber mats where skaters walked, and storing them in the compressor room or the breezeway. When it wasn't done by late March, the rec staff did some of it. But they're on short staff now -- one worker four hours a day, with plenty to do elsewhere in the park. So we sent a request to the maintenance supervisor. Before he even got it, a maintenance worker came to the rink and cleaned up the area around the outside, including the mats, very thoroughly. Thank you, Roger!

posted May 2, 2004

Safety - Play Equipment

An ingenious way to cushion the bump at the slide.....

Brian Green says he hopes to have a harrow in the playground soon to loosen up the sand and soften any falls, and also to fill in the hollows under the swings and at the bottom of the slides (and to replace a missing rail on the climber).

posted April 4, 2004

The picture at the left shows an ingenious way to cushion the bump at the slide...but maybe a bit unsightly. The swings and the slide need more topping up with sand because they have developed deep ruts from so many little feet and bums. Kids get hurt, so someone has found a solution, but maybe fresh sand more often will be better.

posted May 2, 2004

Broken benches in rainshelter

Ross Stuart fixing our bench</h6>

We asked Ross Stuart to fix some things at the park, and he did, quickly and ingeniously. In this photo he's changing the lock on the bench in the playground rain shelter. Because of poor design, the lockable bench (which also contains an electrical outlet) was often vandalized. The city's carpenters spent hours fixing the damage but since the locks were not ever really strong, soon the bench would be broken again. Ross devised a better approach and we think this one may finally solve our problems.

Ross also put new wheels on a broken food cart, built a work table at the side of the small bake oven, fixed some broken benches, and rebuilt the broken play oven in the playground. He works so fast that he would often be done by the time we thought he was just starting the next job. And his charges were very reasonable.

It's wonderful to have him solve all those long-standing problems, even if it meant paying him directly rather than putting in a city work order.

If you want to hire Ross for your house repairs, see our Trades page for a reference. You can contact him at


We were hoping that somebody wouldl redesign the benches and make it possible to secure them properly, before somebody got electrocuted....although (come to think of it) that would be one interesting way to deal with vandalism. Zap 'em.

posted April 4, 2004

Broken bench by playground

Broken bench by playground:

One of the best things about our park is that there's so much moveable park furniture, so people can be sociable in set-ups of their choice. However, the weather and wear-and-tear take their toll and it would be helpful if we either:

  1. Got some benches and picnic tables repaired or
  2. got the picnic tables and the Piper benches repaired, and ALSO located a fresh stash of cast-off locker-room benches in some city storage area (that was the source of this bench), to replace those that are in the final stages of bio-degrading.

posted May 2, 2004

Split rail fence repair

Fence to keep out the dogs

Brian has assigned Joe Eschweiler to look after the park litter and various maintenance tasks, in addition to Joe's jobs in other parks. Joe has lots of experience as a scout leader and an outdoorsman, and he is very ready to turn his hand to whatever needs doing. In the first week of may, Joe will begin to repair the farm fence around the playground.

posted April 4, 2004

Lockable bench needs repair

Playground rain shelter

Fixed electrical outlet box

This is one of four lockable benches the Planning and Development Division's architect designed for our rain shelter. The benches were constructed in such a way that they would never accept a secure lock, only a flimsy one. (We tried to protest about this to the city's project supervisor, Peter Didiano, but he was pretty sure we were full of baloney, I think, and should keep our noses out of park business.) We finally nailed three of the bench-boxes shut but we can't do that with the fourth, which houses the electrical outlet (often used in the summer). The Parks Division carpenters have tried to fix the broken locks many times, always with the same flimsy replacement lock, and it's always broken again soon after. It seems to have become a game for the kids, and no wonder -- easy as pie.

posted April 4, 2004


Dufferin Grove Rinkhouse
Sunday afternoon, March 28, 2004

There's so much garbage because there's so much going on at the park. The trash you see is from the fixing of the compressors (Wednesday, Thursday, maybe Friday), the farmers' market (Thursday), Councillor Giambrone's Friday night supper with the Botswana delegation (Friday), and the OCAP lunch prior to their demonstration at the immigration jail (Saturday) and our efforts to pick up trash around the bake oven and in the native-species gardens (three big bags, Saturday). The seventh annual matzo bake for Passover was on Sunday but that garbage is still in the trash bins near the bake oven. Altogether there may have been about 800 people at these events (all of them were very well attended). Already by Friday evening the Botswanan delegation found this trash collection impressive.

Two choices:

  1. reduce the amount of activities going on at the park or
  2. increase the amount of trash pickup in response to the traffic.

We're hoping for the second option.


posted April 5, 2004

April 5: The week after this was sent, the trash was picked up more often, and the pile didn't grow that big.

posted April 4, 2004

Dangerous Trash

Playground near fence Sunday afternoon, March 28, 2004

The fence beside the playground was replaced last year. The scrap left over from demolishing the kids' cooking area (play) was left there. It has nails sticking up. The city-built playground has little trash in it but the sand pit play area has all this stuff. The sand pit play area is an official part of the playground, despite being a community initiative, and it's very very popular. But it has often been neglected by Parks Department trash pickers. Large sand-play areas are not an untested idea. Park staff might want to take note of the legendary parks superintendent Tommy Thomson's comments on their importance for children: Read more >>


posted April 5, 2004

April 5: The playground looks even worse now, since a few warm days brought the kids out, and the trash is dispersed all over the sandpit area, and beyond. If the outside parks workers are too busy to clean this up, we'll call in extra recreation staff this week to address the problem.

posted April 7, 2004

April 7: We sent these pictures to the parks maintenance people but we never got an answer. So the recreation staff cleaned up the playground area themselves, removed the broken pieces of wood with exposed nails, raked up broken glass, etc. Now it's ready for play -- none too soon, since the playground had lots of kids in it after school today.

posted April 4, 2004

A Note To The City About Maintenance Issues

This page was sent to Brian Green, our park's new maintenance supervisor, on March 29, 2004 (a Monday). Two of the problems were addressed the next day (garbage and rink cleanup). Brian came to the park on Thursday and we thanked him for responding so promptly. It turned out that he had just got back from holidays and hadn't even read the e-mail! So some of the clean-up tasks had happened on their own. Then we cleaned up the dangerous trash around the playground ourselves on April 7, having not received an answer from the Parks Department about it. The rest of the problems are still there, sticking out like sore thumbs. We'll keep you posted as they're fixed.

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