friends of dufferin grove park
April 2001 Newsletter

In this issue:

Dog walkers clean up the park:

On Saturday March 31 about 20-25 dog walkers swarmed over the park with bags, picking up litter and the left-over dog poo of another winter season. The park never looked so tidy! There is some talk of repeating this once a month or so. The Parks Department was taken a bit by surprise by this event. They say that the next time they'll be there to open the rink house for coffee afterward, with cinnamon buns. Congratulations to all who took part, and especially to dog walker Kim Schofield, who organized this clean-up.

Gardening in the park:

Arie Kamp has started to dig some new flowerbeds near the rink area. He's also replacing some of the boards that surround his raised beds. Every year there is some rot, especially because Arie uses mostly old boards he finds at construction sites (his motto is "waste not, want not"). Gene Threndyle will be working with some park workers in the middle of April to put a small farm fence around the southwest native-species garden near the bus shelter on Dufferin Street. That garden suffers the most from blowing trash and night-time visits from people seeking shelter. Using last winter's $500 grant from the movie industry (brokered by Councillor Mario Silva), Gene will be replacing some of the plantings with small flowering bushes such as chokecherry and wild plum, as well as wild rose bushes. He will also experiment with the use of log cross-sections (sections of a large maple recently cut at our park) to make the inside of the flowerbed uneven and therefore less comfortable for sleeping or other night-time activities.

There is still available space in the organic vegetable gardens and several sections of the chain-link fence flowerbeds for any neighbourhood gardeners interested in growing things at the park. For more information, call Johannne at the rink house, 416/392-0913.

Bake-oven lessons: Johanne, our new Dufferin park staff, has learned how to make pizza and bread in the bake-oven, and says she's prepared to give lessons to others who want to learn. The ground around the ovens has pretty well dried up. It's time to start scheduling lessons for whoever wants to be eligible for their own oven key. To get on the list and set a date, please call Johanne at 416/392-0913. You may get Johanne or Jutta as your teacher. If you become good at it, you may be asked to teach someone else in the neighbourhood: "each one teach one." Andrew MacDonald is the first person to get his key. He did his training on April 5 and 6th, baking twenty loaves of Italian bread to take to the York University Faculty of Environmental Studies Eco-Art and Media Festival at Foodshare on April 7. Andrew had to bake in the rain, but seemed to enjoy it anyway.

News from Councillor Mario Silva's office:

On Saturday May 12, the city will hold its annual neighbourhood clean-up day. To find out how to take part, call Rita DeMelo at Councillor Silva's office at 416/392-7012. They are also looking for people to have a meeting about the southwest bus shelter, to discuss a new shelter and improvements to that part of the park. If you want to take part, call Rita at the same number.

Councillor Silva says that maybe the city will not cut its grants program by 10% as was proposed, but only by 2%. But nothing will be clear until the city council budget debate finally takes place on April 24, 25 and 26. Even then, says the councillor, there is a such a huge amount of business to be discussed both the capital and the operating budget, plus all the department reports that it sounds impossible to manage in three days.

All these debates are public, at city hall in the council chamber.

Update on our "operating blueprint for the park":

A friendly response from the Director.

When it seemed that the park might shut down all operations in February, more than 50 people came to a meeting at the rink house to discuss remedies. The "Fate of the Park" meeting on February 19 resulted in a detailed "blueprint" to help the Parks Department run this park in a way that works for the community.

On March 7, the "blueprint" was hand-delivered to Joe Halstead (Commissioner of Economic Development, Culture, and Tourism), Claire Tucker-Reid (General Manager, Parks and Recreation), Don Boyle, the new Director of South Region (former City of Toronto) Parks and Recreation Division, and to Mario Silva, our city councillor.

Now we've had the first reply, from Mr.Boyle. He says:

1. He would like to begin a dialogue based on the community operating blueprint. To start, he says a mature recreation worker will be allocated to our park (for the first time this is official). This has already happened. Johanne DeCastro started working 10a.m. to 4p.m. five days a week on Monday April 2.

2. Theatre, dance and music performances, plus all cooking fires: Parks and Recreation will be the co-sponsor as before. When there are community cooking fires (e.g. at the pizza oven), a recreation worker will be assigned to them. This means that pizza days for parents/ caregivers and children will resume as soon as the weather is suitable, as well as school visits.

3. Events (e.g. birthday parties) when a fee would be charged for the use of the oven or the rink house: the director is willing to waive the fee if there is an exchange "in kind." That means that if you want to do some gardening or other kinds of helping out in the park, you can use the rink house for your event without having to pay in money.

4. Fees: currently there is a fee for any activity that is private but makes use of a staff person ($12 an hour). Any activity that is "community" has no charge for the necessary staff person. An example is a charity neighbourhood garden tour on June 2. Another is a new mothers' picnic on June 3. Neither of these events will charge the participants for recreation staff time.

5. The rink suggestions, says Mr. Boyle, "have been forwarded to my staff responsible for reviewing the overall operation." He has asked that they include the suggestions in their review. This seems rather tepid, considering the threat that rinks are under for next season. But Mr.Boyle suggests that a meeting be set up with the recreation supervisor and the area manager to have some more direct conversation about the blueprint. As soon as a date has been proposed, all the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park (and any other users) will be informed, so they can attend if they wish.

The bake oven goes to a conference:

Or at least, Jutta Mason went as the oven's moveable representative, on March 30, to talk at the annual Cleveland Parks Institute, a one-day conference with speakers from eastern U.S. parks (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland). She had been asked to be the luncheon speaker on the topic of the bake oven and Dufferin Grove Park. The participants were so interested that they extended the session, and staff from the Project for Public Spaces in New York used our experiences here to spark discussion about what is possible in public space.

Jutta doesn't usually like to go much further from home than the park. She was astonished at how many Clevelanders had been to Toronto almost everyone at the conference! They all seemed to think that a weekend in Toronto was better than going to New York, or anywhere.

The grass may always be greener elsewhere, but consider this: in downtown Cleveland you can buy a big house with a view of Lake Erie for $40,000. Or if you would prefer to build a new house, you can buy a vacant lot for $1 -$100, get government help with your financing, and then get a 10-year tax holiday on your property tax.

And the people there seem to be awfully nice. They have a lot of parks and community centres, too, and despite their lower tax base, they don't charge a penny for using them. No turnstiles.

Jutta was adopted by some neighbourhood people who had come to the conference. They rescued her from the Radisson Hotel and took her to the Cleveland farmers' market and to their local parks and to dinner at their homes to question her in detail about what we do here. Some of these people want to come up here in a little bus in June to see for themselves. Parks and Recreation say they would billet them in the park clubhouse or Wallace-Emerson community centre. If this visit from Cleveland actually happens, we'll announce it in the newsletter and have a neighbourhood picnic at the oven.

Fourth annual Passover unleavened bread baking:

Annie Hurwitz and Ron Paley invited about 20 families to come to the park on April 1 and bake unleavened bread in the old way, in preparation for Passover. It's their fourth year doing this. They said that even though it snowed, everyone had fun, and next year they might add a weekday event as well, to include school kids.

Because of the large number of people at this baking event, recreation staff started up the big bake oven for the first time since the end of last summer. It took four days to get it warmed up again after being cold all winter, but then it was still so warm two days after the Passover fire that the staff could make a delicious stew in the residual heat. A slow-cooked stew made in the bake oven tastes different than an electric or gas-oven stew. If you're interested in trying it, call Johanne (416/392-0913) and she'll tell you when the oven will available for stews (i.e. one or two days after a baking). You can put the pot in the park oven before you leave for work and come to pick it up when you get home dinner, all done, the same way those super-busy farm women used to cook it years ago.

April 18: crucial meeting at the
Technical Standards and Safety Authority.

Citizens, FINALLY, this is the moment: our once-in-ten-years chance to eliminate a redundant job at the park and save our city rinks money.

Maybe some of your remember that for years after diesel trains replaced the old steam trains, the job of the guy who shovelled coal in the steam train was protected. He had nothing to do, but he stayed on the train anyway. It's similar here at our rink. When the old boilers that ran rink ice-cooling machines were replaced with modern compressors, the operating engineer's assistants stayed on anyway even though they no longer had a real function. This continues to today, because of an outdated provincial law. The city (i.e. you the taxpayer) must hire a person for three months a year to take four daily readings from automatic, safety-alarmed meters (during one continuous 8-hour shift at all double-pad rinks; the other 16 hours don't require such readings). The person is also trained (quickly, if they are hired just for the rink season) to drive a tractor and clean the ice two or three times a shift. The rest of the time they're not allowed to leave the building, so they can't be used to do necessary work at another facility. They might fill in the time by reading the paper, taking naps, chatting on the phone, or working on their cars. If the city already has good ice-maintenance people on staff, but these people do not hold a "fourth class ticket" to be a redundant rink compressor operator, the city can't make use of their skills at the rinks.

Many rink users have noticed, over the years, that the rink compressor operators seem to be seriously underemployed. When Friends of Dufferin Grove Park discovered in 1996 that the city is forced by the province to keep hiring for this position, we contacted the Ministry (Consumer and Business Relations). Over the course of five years' correspondence, two different ministers reassured us that this scandalous situation would soon change, as the law was finally being re-written to reflect modern technology.

Now the law has been re-written, as well as the accompanying regulations. But alas! At the last minute, the Ministry decided to change the rink rules back to the old way. This means that next winter, and all the winters to come, the city will have to keep paying the redundant rink operator. The city can cover this money by reducing the rink season to ten weeks a year.

Bad idea? Here's your chance to tell the people in charge, before the new laws lock in for another decade. On Wednesday April 18 the Ministry is holding a "stakeholder consultation" to find out what non-government people think about their proposed new law. This is a great day for people who care about the rink to have a picnic at the consultation site in Etobicoke (at Bloor and Islington). Take the day off, tell your boss you're sick, gather up your kids, make a potato salad, and come to Etobicoke. We can give our government officials a piece of our mind.

For more detailed information, and to contribute your ideas, e-mail Friends of Dufferin Grove Park at or call the clubhouse at 416/392-0913 to leave a message. Someone will call you back soon.

If you can't come yourself on April 18, call the park and find out who to e-mail, or who to phone. We'll keep you posted. Every little bit helps.

Upcoming events at the park:

April 18: gathering point for rink stakeholders' deputation (see story on page 3)

May 12: city cleanup day

June 2: Midwives' Collective new mothers' reunion picnic

June 3: Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto annual garden tour. This is a fundraiser for their activities at Colborne Lodge and the AIDS garden. "Hort" member Beth Mills wanted to add some public (community) gardens to the tour this year, especially the native-species areas and the vegetable gardens. The group will have their lunch at the pizza oven.

Still to be scheduled: The first Dufferin Grove Park pig-on-a-spit roast. This Portuguese specialty has not been demonstrated at the park before. Ben Figueredo, neighbour to the park and grape-vine gardener, will be the resource person. This will be held some time in June.

"Cooking with fire in public space"

This first CELOS publication is now ready. It is a 60-page booklet covering barbecue picnics, cooking fires, bake ovens and food carts. There is detailed advice on how to get permits, how to get picnic-friendly equipment into a city park, and how to build a bake-oven. There are also some recipes, and many stories of what happened as these cooking fires developed in Dufferin Grove Park. There is a list of who was involved, in one way or another.

The booklet costs $5.00 and is available at the rink house.

To join Friends of Dufferin Grove Park: Easy as pie. Call the clubhouse at 416/392-0913 and leave your name and number, or e-mail There is no fee. This is a very loosely structured group that was tiny until the "Fate of the Park" meeting on February 19. It now has about 70 members. Any person who is friendly to the park can be a Friend of the Park. The acting president, non-elected, is Jane Price, and Jutta Mason is the acting secretary (non-elected). Meetings are irregular, as issues dictate. Some are virtual meetings by e-mail and some are actual meetings at the park. The next meeting will be at the pizza oven in spring date to be announced.

Remember April 18: FINALLY, our once-in-a-decade chance to get rid of an out-of-date law and save taxpayers' money (and help our rink)

For ongoing updates on Dufferin Grove Park, and to share your views on community issues, join our Friends of Dufferin Grove email listserve. Just click here to join.

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason; Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Technical support: John Culbert

Web site: Joe Adelaars, Henrik Bechmann, Caitlin Shea

Park phone: 416 392-0913; street address: 875 Dufferin Street


List Serve: Emily Visser, Bernard King