Theatre and dance in the park:
July 20, David Anderson's Clay and Paper Theatre, just before his troupe went to perform at Toronto Island for the summer
July 26 to 30, five nights of dances by the Dusk Dancers, five young dance troupes who attracted over 1000 people to the park during the course of their run
August 15-18, four days of Hiphopera with Larry Lewis, a workshop to advance his version of The Beggar's Opera
Sept.3, the yearly Morris Dancers' Ale, during which groups from this region and as far away as West Virginia ate bread and pizza, drank beer (with a permit) and showed off their best new dance steps to one another.
Still to come: the Swizzlestick stilt dancers performing their Harvest Play around the time of the equinox, Sept.20 to 24; the third annual Children's Pow Wow, presented by Native Child and Family Services on Sept.30 (there's a rumour that Mayor Lastman is coming to see these dancers and their beautiful costumes); and on October 28, Clay and Paper Theatre's Night of Dread, a fabulous parade along our part of Bloor St. and the Little Italy part of College Street, culminating in scary pageantry, bonfires, and food in our park. More information: call Lily at the rink house, 392-0913.
June 29, Councillor Mario Silva's annual Summerfest flea market and hot dog roast, which was cut short by rain but was fun while it lasted
August 28, Shirley's Fourth Annual Dog Owner's Picnic, which this year did not have rain and attracted a large number of dogs and their owners. The potluck was delicious as were Shirley' beans and rice and fried chicken. Shirley strongly believes in including everyone, and she was successful: all ages, all dog breeds, all sectors of the park, even some of the basketball youth with their pit bull puppies.
September 9, the annual Street/ Neighbourhood Fair, again organized by Liz Martin.
Besides these events the number of family picnics, reunions and birthday parties multiplied again this year, so that on weekends the trees fairly sprouted with balloons and pinatas, and three times there were groups of families who made use of our standing fire permit at the fire circle, to have a campfire. (For more information on how to have a campfire, call Lily at the rink house at 392-0913)
One reason for the increase in picnics was the kindness of the park staff in responding to requests to bring more tables and benches. The quickest way to kill family get-togethers in parks is by not having enough places to sit. Conversely, when the city provides ample benches and tables, there is an implied welcome for everyone who wants to get together in a green space with their friends and family.
This year the plentiful rain started the gardens off well, and of course the efforts of Arie Kemp yielded wonderful results, as he grew the most striking flowers from seed all over the park. Arie collects seed from the best stands of flowers that he can discover on his bike rides around the city. These seeds are for sale at the rink house, with instructions on planting (50 cents for a generous envelope). Arie says the fall is the best time for scattering the native and perennial seed he has available. He says, don't cover such seeds at all, just tamp them gently with your foot, so they can make contact with the earth.
Gene Threndyle's marsh garden grew more lush than ever, with a good number of vigorous bright red cardinal flowers. Gene was nominated for a City of Toronto "Neighbourlies" Award for the fountain. Gene's small tree nursery near the field house is also growing very well. A note to dog owners: please keep your dogs out of these areas so they don't damage the plants.
At the request of Councillor Silva, the city is manufacturing some attractive signs, with photos of the old days, giving information on the kinds of plants growing in the native species areas.
Annick Mitchell grew a demonstration vegetable garden with heritage seeds and many different varieties of potatoes. For next year there is still garden space available for people whose green thumb is itchy. Call Lily at the rink house to find out more.
On May 28-30 a new, smaller bake-oven was built near the rink house, funded through the kindness of the Maytree Foundation ($4660). Ten people paid to work with master oven-builder Alan Scott, who flew here from California to conduct the workshop. On the same weekend the Dover Gardens Nursery School ran a terrific fundraiser with home-made croissants, cappuccino, and a plant sale as well as the usual bargains from the garage. Also the Catalyst Centre organized an educational food fair about the global politics of food, called Fair Fare Fair. What a weekend that was!
The new oven is excellent and easy to use. Later this month the first of a series of bread-making workshops will begin, with inspired home bakers willing to pass on their delicious craft. To find out more, call Lily at 392-0913.
Last winter, some youth ran the rink house snack bar, and in the summer other youth ran the snack bar at Christie Pits outdoor pool, offering fresh bread and salads made from our park vegetable gardens. This effort has been supervised by Jutta Mason, a friend of the park. Grocery costs to date this year were $19,139.09 and income from food sold was $27,056.63. Considering that the food is mostly bought by children and youth and was therefore kept very cheap (mini-pizzas at 50 cents in winter, seventy-five cents in summer, a slice of bread and butter 25 cents) the total income represents more than a football-field of end-to-end food items. Whew! The profits were used to hire more youth, to fund supervision, and to save toward the Christie Pits community oven (construction to start this month, with Councillor Pantalone's blessing).
School visits and child-related programs:
Between 10 and 22 classes visited the skating rink each week in the winter to skate, eat cookies, and play checkers in front of the woodstove fire.
In the spring there were two days weekly of parent/ caregiver-child(ren )drop-in, including some home-schooling families.
On other days when the weather was fine school classes visited to make pizza. This past summer children's day camps visited 42 times to do pizza-making; some returned later to show their parents.
The Environmental Summer Camp was back for six weeks, as well as a number of smaller art and yoga classes, and of course the wading pool was open during July and August.
All these things, programs and voluntary efforts and special events, require coordination and oversight by park staff. Remarkably, it seems that the city budget for staff support for all these activities at Dufferin Grove Park - only a tiny amount anyway -- has suddenly evaporated. Hopefully this is an oversight (caused by the legacy of chaos and disruption of the city's forced amalgamation) that will be fixed.
on the whole, with several exceptions, the park was friendlier and less troubled than in the previous two years.
The regulars at the basketball court say that this park is the best park anywhere and they want to defend its safety and usher out people who make trouble. It may be that they have managed this to a degree.
Some other troublemakers were scared off by the police blitz in July.
A large organized pit bull fight in the fire circle in March was never repeated. The introduction of five (sibling) pit bull puppies into the park in mid-summer caused concern about aggressive training, but there seems to have been accommodation after some encounters between various dog interests. Shirley's picnic further introduced the different sides.
The park is home to a few people without secure shelter, and most of these people know one another, help each other out, and also help out the park staff at times (one of them described himself and his friends as the "night shift," looking out for trouble). In the middle of July, one homeless person was given a city order banning him from the park, because he persisted in jamming the public toilets with cardboard, and occasionally exposed himself when he took sponge baths at the water fountain. Despite the order and repeated warnings, this man continues to come to the park and consequently the men's public toilet has been out of order for much of the summer. One person who is not in his right mind can paralyze the city's ability to properly service the park.
Community service orders and court follow-up:
Dufferin Grove Park is a location for persons doing court-ordered community hours. This system does not always work well and so last May the park supervisor, Tino De Castro, worked out some new procedures with Lily Weston, involving closer supervision and better communication with probation staff. This has worked out well and more community hours are now being successfully completed. The charges tend to be mainly possession of marijuana and common assault.
In several more serious incidents relating to park safety and public property, Lily and Jutta have been following cases through court and speaking with judges, crown attorneys, and probation officers about what such incidents may do to public enjoyment of parks. Although this work is very slow (one case is now coming up to the sixth court appearance and a trial date has not even been set yet), the court visits are very interesting and the new connections made seem worthwhile.
A vicious and cowardly assault: the worst incident in the park this year occurred about 9.30 p.m. on Sunday September 3, when a fight near the basketball court culminated in a group attack by 6-10 hooded, unknown men who kicked one person repeatedly about the head and chest. It happened that a group of families was having a campfire at the fire circle at that time. Bruce Lyne described their horror when they realized that an object being kicked on the middle of the path nearby was a person. They yelled at the attackers to stop and some of them left, but three continued kicking. Six people from the family campfire group ran over and then finally the three remaining attackers left. Mr.Lyne, who has his first aid certificate, said the victim was lying motionless and remained unconscious for about four minutes. When the ambulance arrived he was taken away on a back-board and oxygen, to the St.Michael's Hospital Trauma Unit. Mr.Lyne said the emergency response was prompt but that he was troubled when a police officer suggested this was perhaps a drug-related matter and therefore not to be taken very seriously. Mr.Lyne said it looked more like a mob attack to the witnesses, and the families left the park immediately after, with some concern about the effect on their children of having seen this.
It may be that one lasting positive effect on the children will be that they learned that their parents help out people in danger, instead of turning away as sometimes seems to happen. The prompt courageous action by these families may have saved the victim from permanent injury or worse, and they should be honoured for this. At this time, however, it's hard to know how the victim is doing and whether any charges have been laid: three days of calls to the City Councillor's office have only turned up the astonishing information that the police at Fourteen Division could not find a record of this matter. The attack was witnessed by a number of local young people (some of whom also called 911). It may be that if a young resident of Havelock Street or Gladstone Avenue had been the victim of this group attack, the response would have been somewhat stronger than it seems to have been to date. Some of the witnesses who saw this group assault have developed a fear of a park (ours) where people would dare to carry out such an attack, oblivious to the presence of other park users. For more information please call Councillor Mario Silva's office at 392-7012.
A research centre at the park:
A grant from the Geoffrey H.Wood Foundation has funded the establishment of a
CENTRE FOR LOCAL RESEARCH INTO PUBLIC SPACE
("CELOS --research by people")
to document our local experience of enlivening Dufferin Grove Park, and to give opportunities for broader discussions of themes relating to public space. A small library of books, articles, pictures, and archival 16 mm films has been collected at the rink house and the fall will see the publication of a number of small hands-on pamphlets on subjects like community gardens, food and parks, park and playground structures, native-species gardens, park safety and community standards, working with the courts, community ovens, and so on. (For more information, to participate or to donate books/ articles/ pictures/ stories, please call Lily or Jutta at 392-0913.) [May 2004 update: visit the new research pages]