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News 2008

News 2008

From the July 2008 Newsletter:


The park field house washrooms have been cleaned up and even repainted, and it looks like the roof might be re-shingled to stop the leaking. As many park users know, the park’s public washrooms have been in such bad condition that most people avoided them altogether and used only the rink house washrooms. There seemed to be no way to address the lack of maintenance until the city plumbers actually refused to enter the building to do repairs. Then a graphic photo sent to the city councillor resulted in his personal call to the general manager. A few hours later the transformation began.

From the July 2008 Newsletter:


While the rain lasts, the park is a beautiful emerald green and the gardens are flourishing. Councillor Giambrone’s new curb cuts at the north end give excellent bike access. The playground had its surface roto-tilled under the monkey bars and climbers, to give a softer landing in case of falls, and new sand was put in the little sandbox. However, the playground gate is still off its hinges after two months. Most picnic tables and benches are in dire need of paint and/or new slats. However there appears to be no provision for any table or bench purchases or repair in most city parks (despite the $304 million Parks, Forestry and Recreation operating budget for 2008). Dufferin Grove’s adventure playground area, used by hundreds of children, has had no maintenance yet (the sand needs to be plowed back into the sandpit and new logs are needed to replace the 13-year old boundary-logs which are now bio-degrading). By Canada Day, the marsh fountain near Dufferin Street had not yet been turned on for the season. Many of the leaf piles left from last season were removed in mid-June, but some remain, choking the grass underneath. The park’s dirt paths are deeply rutted from the Parks service trucks driving along them, and the few paved paths are crumbling at the edges or suffering from erosion. The interlock path at the southwest corner is narrowing every year because the grass is growing over the pavers from both sides, and the path is never edged. At the north thoroughfare between St.Mary’s School and Dufferin Street, two weeks pass between litter pickup.

Brenda Librecz, the General Manager of Parks, Forestry, and Recreation resigned suddenly on June 27. Hopefully the new head will be able to remedy Toronto’s problems of park repair and stewardship.

From the April 2008 Newsletter:


On Thursday March 27, a class of thirty Grade 12 philosophy students came from St. Mary's Catholic High School across the street from the park, to help out at the park. They came with their teacher, Sister Mary Lynn, and each got a vinyl glove and a large garbage bag. Then they fanned out across the park. An hour later, they came back laden with full garbage bags. They had even cleaned up around the bus shelters. Cars honked their approval as they went by. The park was so clean that when the Alpha Two class arrived from Kent School right afterwards, with their teacher Zio Hersh, they couldn't find anything to pick up -- the philosophy class had picked up every last scrap. That's called "practical philosophy."

From the April 2008 Newsletter:

Park Maintenance: let's get to work

When spring comes and the snow melts, the park often looks a bit rough. This year there are lots of bicycle ruts along the unpaved paths; more shingles blowing off the field house roof, and new graffiti there; broken slats on benches and tables; scraped-up earth and sod from the snow-ploughs near the rink; messy piles of firewood near the ovens; big mud puddles at intervals where the paths used to be, and winter litter everywhere. In addition there’s the third-year snow-fence around the stalled bio-toilet project, and there are deep Parks vehicle ruts off the paths.

Time to get to work. Here’s a list to begin, with some new items, some lingering from other years.

Litter: a great start on litter cleanup was made by St.Mary’s students for their “Earth Hour” project (see story on page 1).

Park vehicle ruts off-road: Many heavy parks vehicles need to come into the rink area to do work, but there’s no curb cut to get onto the paved entrance road. Instead of hopping the high curb, and maybe bottoming out, the city trucks prefer to skirt along the sidewalk. So they end up driving half along the road, half through the mud. This was so common that this past winter that the east half of the paved surface was left unplowed. Requests for a curb cut, since November 2006, have not been successful. So CELOS has produced an information bulletin with photos and proposals (curb cuts can be more complicated than one would think). Councillor Adam Giambrone has promised that he’ll have a weekly meeting with Parks and Transportation staff until they get the curb cut done, and then the vehicle ruts can be repaired once and for all.

Bike ruts and bike access: sadly, for the eleventh year since requests went in, there is no money to pave the park’s main paths. But bike access at the north end of the park might be solved sooner. Cyclist share a bottle-neck access to Dufferin Street with pedestrians. Last year, park neighbour Robert Stewart proposed several possible solutions. Chris Gallop from the councillor’s office has had one site meeting and says he will now follow up. He’ll also follow up a request for more bicycle rings.

Park furniture: benches and picnic tables that need new slats, and new paint, will be identified and marked by recreation staff in preparation for the annual painting/fixing day (traditionally some time in May, watch for the date). Zamboni café “cookie money” will be used to buy paint and new slats for the benches – or maybe Parks management can supply them. If you’re handy with a hammer and a saw, a wrench or a paint brush, the recreation staff will supply you with free park-oven pizza and all the cookies/coffee you could ever want. Plus, there will be medals for you in heaven!

Messy wood scraps, barrels and recycling bins around the rink house/ovens: Recreation staff are having twice-weekly work bees to put the rink house and oven area in good order. It’s a bit tricky because of storage space and accessibility (mud), but progress is happening. When so many hundreds of people come into a public space every week, or every day (during the recent rink season), it’s harder to keep things orderly!

And then there’s the unexpected. On the last day of March, staff person Ginger Dean passed by the rink to find benches turned over in the rink enclosure, the rink-side door glass pane smashed, and glass all over the floor. The staff called the window repair company to fix it. The very next evening, rec staff person Mayssan Shuja passed by the park to find six rink-side windows broken. Vandalism on that scale has not happened since the rink was rebuilt in 1993 – awful.

That led Jutta Mason to lock all five rink gates for now and switch on all the rink lights and basketball lights, for a few evenings. Staff had turned them off after the end of the rink season (those big lights use a lot of power) to save energy – “earth weeks” instead of only one hour. But some folks liked the cover of darkness too much. And the April park is so empty – it’s missing “eyes on the park.” So, park users – if passing by the park, please keep a look-out –someone seems to have a grudge against the rink. If you see some vandals and you yell, they’ll run. That will help. If you get a description, even better. Chances are that the rink staff will know the folks you describe to them – there’s a narrow range of possibilities.

The unsightly snow fence and clay piles around the bio-toilet foundation: Good news here. No building yet – the Parks-sponsored plan that the Building Department approved with a permit is too much like a bunker to work for anyone, and vastly adds to the cost. The City is not currently willing to contribute to that cost at all. So it’s back to the drawing board. Local, cutting-edge architect Rohan Walters is generously giving very good, intriguing advice on this. But that will take more time to work out. In the meantime, Georgie Donais has been making plans with recreation staff, on how to secure the foundation so that no snow fence is needed. That cleanup will start as soon as the ground dries out enough. The area will be transformed – for this year – into a sitting-place with interesting signboards, and some on-site summer film nights about alternative building techniques and environmental stewardship of public space.

posted March 30, 2008

St.Mary's philosophy class cleans up the whole park in one hour

Click on picture to enlarge it.

St.Mary's philosophy students: the "after" photo

On Thursday March 27, an e-mail came from St.Mary's school -- a class of 30 Grade 12 philosophy students wanted to come over the next morning and help out at the park. And on Friday morning they came! They each got a vinyl glove and a large garbage bag, and then they fanned out over the park. An hour later, they came back laden with heavy garbage bags. They had even cleaned up around the bus shelters. The park was so clean that when the Alpha Two class arrived from Kent School right afterwards, they couldn't find anything to pick up -- the philosophy class had picked up every last scrap.

Cars honked their approval as they went by. That's called "practical philosophy."

See the picture gallery

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