Going to court: A 1998 community crime prevention grant for Dufferin Grove Park from Ontario's Ministry of the Solicitor-General is just in its last stages. As part of this grant, recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro asked Lily Weston and Jutta Mason to follow a parks-related case through the courts. Last January, a rink guard at our nearby Wallace-Emerson rink was shot in the leg with a pellet gun. (A pellet gunshot hurts but doesn't go very deep, unless it hits the eye.) A large number of young men were present but the shot was fired from behind, so the rink guard didn't know who shot him. However, when the police arrived, one of the young men was found with a pellet gun in his possession. He also turned out to be in violation of a previous probation order prohibiting him from being on the rink property. (It's not the practice of either court or police to make community centre staff aware of such a ban, so the young man had been frequently at the rink with his friends, without the staff being aware that he was banned.) The group of young men been intimidating staff and users at Wallace-Emerson Rink for some years, and this pellet-gun incident made things even worse.
The young man was in jail for 14 days before he got bail. Since then, Lily and Jutta went to ten (10) two-minute court appearances, about one a month, in the "set-date" court, Room 111, at Old City Hall. Each of the ten times the setting of a court date was postponed again, for a large variety of reasons. Then two weeks ago the young man pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon and breach of probation and was sentenced to do some community hours.
Besides going to court and watching the stream of people who are processed (and postponed) there, Lily and Jutta went to see various judges, probation officers, crown attorneys, and lawyers. We wanted to promote the general priniciple that offenses committed in public space have a particular effect on neighbourhoods and should get some special attention. We suggested that if community service hours are ordered as a consequence of an offense committed in a park, whenever possible the community service placement should also be in a park. That way the offender would make amends for damage and threats, and the park staff could form a (hopefully constructive) relationship with the offender that might result in some learning and some loyalty.
Although some of the people in the justice system with whom we spoke were very kind, and they thought our ideas made some sense, we never had the feeling that there was any real point of entry where community concerns could get "standing." The crown said we should work more closely with police, the police said we should wait for the trials, lawyers didn't have time to talk to us, and judges said that they won't specify a placement when they sentence offenders, but that we should ask the probation people. The probation officer in this case now told us we should have made our requests prior to sentencing, which we had done but the crown didn't bring up our requests at the trial….around and around in circles we went. Our community-as-victim "impact statements" in this case seem to have been largely ignored. Most recently, the probation officer told us that it's really up to the Salvation Army (as the government's community-service-hours broker) to decide where the hours are served, and that licking envelopes at the downtown Red Cross is just as appropriate as having the offender work with us in the park. The important thing is doing the math: making sure that the right number of hours are served.
We disagree, of course, but despite our many appointments and our close following of this case, it's unclear whether our efforts to have offenders in public space serve their community service hours in a way that relates to their offense - and to the community where the offense took place - will bear fruit anywhere. This is particularly unfortunate because the offender in this case (like many offenders with whom we work at the park) shows good qualities as well as troubles, and the links park staff make with young people like him can have longer-term good consequences all round. No new program is needed here, but it looks like the turf in the justice system is too sharply divided at present to make intelligent use of the community resources already in place.
The subject of the legal system and safety in public space will be the third in the series of CELOS booklets, put out with the help of the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor-General and the G.H.Wood Foundation. Entitled, Whose conflict is it, anyway?, the booklet is scheduled to come out in spring. As well, Jacqueline Peeters, a final-year law student who was very involved at Dufferin Grove Park four years ago, is researching law pertaining to public space. If any park users have experience in this area, please call her at 534-8123, or e-mail her at email@example.com
Funding for the park: In the past seven years, almost $350,000 has been raised for programs and additions to the park, not counting grants that have come to other groups operating out of the park, like Clay and Paper Theatre. Much of the money that was raised has gone to our "youth odd jobs" programs, which paid young people for doing all kinds of useful work in the rink and around Dufferin Grove Park and Christie Pits.
Some of the money was raised through food sales at festivals but most of it came from funds people can apply for, such as the Trillium Foundation and special City of Toronto funding programs.
Two years ago the rules for such funding began to seem too peculiar and Jutta Mason, in particular, decided her fund-raising days were over. She could not stomach the application processes any longer. Occasionally, however, an unsolicited grant has come, most notably those of Pat MacKay, the G.H.Wood Foundation, and an anonymous grant brokered three years ago by John Sewell (we still have no idea who gave it). In addition, the Maytree Foundation has been open to occasional common-sense requests, without a standard application form. These kinds of help are inspiring, and they bring back the sense of adventure to the projects that go on here in the park.
The main day-to-day financial support for running the park and the rink comes from the regular budget of the city Parks Department. Our budget is under threat, and one hopes that the city will come to recognize what is here before it vanishes.
What is a rink?
DowntownToronto's acting director of Parks and Recreation, John Macintyre, was quoted in the Toronto Star on December 23 saying that outdoor rinks are considered a "fundamental service" and are therefore still free for the citizens. He said "it gets people out and being active." We agree the rinks should be free, and for more reasons than that they get you out moving your knees and your elbows in the open air. Rinks are also a great place to see who your neighbours are, and maybe talk to them. That's why we put effort into making the rink house a comfortable, friendly place. There's no extra money to do this: our rink has two staff at a time just like all other rinks, sometimes only one staff. Some of those staff are pretty young and working at a paid (minimum wage) job for the first time. But they are trying hard. Often our rink house is a happening place, with lots of people talking or eating oatmeal cookies or playing chess or reading stories to their kids by the wood stove. These inside activities are just as popular as the outdoor skating - they go together! Sadly, most rink buildings in Toronto are mainly just places (sometimes pretty squalid-looking) to change your shoes: a great opportunity for building up a neighbourhood, lost.
If you come to our rink from a different neighbourhood and you would like the rink house close to where you live to be more of a neighbourhood winter clubhouse, talk to Jutta Mason and she'll tell you what we did. It's pretty straightforward. Call 392-0913 and she'll call you back.
Shinny hockey: Last year Wayne Gretzky worried in print about the disappearance of informal shinny hockey, which he said was what keeps hockey vital - not the organized games with the coaches and the schedules, but the opportunity to play for hours on an outdoor rink just for sheer fun of it. Luckily, at our rink we still have far more shinny time than closed-permit time, and there are kids (and some adults) who play all day long when they have the chance. Some kids come inside just long enough to swallow four mini-pizzas and two cookies and three fruit drinks and then they're back outside for two more hours. Portuguese kids seem particularly fond of hockey, although one sees young people of every background and every skill level.
When one (anonymous) rink user found out this December that the shinny hours were cut back due to lack of funds, he wrote us a cheque to let us stay open longer. He said that young people could find worse ways to spend their evenings than playing hockey. Since the middle of December we have been able to offer these extra hours, to great appreciation. The donor wants to remain anonymous, but his good idea should be known all over: pass it on.
Neighbourhood kids want to play hockey so much that they even come after hours, when the lights are already out and the hockey gates are locked. They climb over the fence with their sticks and they play in the semi-darkness until after midnight. The rink staff have now started to lock the nets to the fence, so the noise of late-night games doesn't drive the rink neighbours crazy.
Even on New Year's Eve there were two neighbourhood shinny permits. Tracy Heffernan has already applied for more Sunday evening family shinny permits (lots of girls too). If you want to contact her, call the rink at 392-0913 and leave a message.
So Wayne, don't worry, shinny hockey's not dead yet. But we wish you and other hockey players could persuade our politicians to fund some new rink-cleaning equipment. The zambonis are almost worn out and there have been no new ones bought for years. They break down all the time, and so the rinks sometimes get only one scrape and flood a day. People want to play, but they need to have good ice!
Although lots of bread is being baked and served most days in the rink house, there are some problems. Public bread baking is not working out well. There's too much commotion inside the rink house to add a teaching table for those who want to try their hand at baking in the wood-oven. Jan Schallert came between Christmas and New Year's to make cinnamon buns and three kinds of bread. She's remarkably patient, and very happy to show people what she's doing, but even she said it was a zoo. Between the old men playing cards, the little kids playing checkers, the shinny players changing, the mothers reading to their kids by the fire, the rink guard applying an ice pack to a kid's bump on the head, the young guys arguing about girls - where's the space for show-and-tell baking? So we're declaring a break in public baking, until after the rink season is finished. In the meantime the CELOS library has acquired four new baking books plus a Portuguese cookbook, all available for study at the rink house. Would-be bakers can put their name on the baking list and, for now, get comfortable in front of the wood stove with one of the new books.
No public baking" doesn't mean "no bread." We've been serving slices of wood-oven bread and butter all winter long. For 25 cents a slice, almost every kid can afford to eat some. Those kids who don't have a quarter can pick up some trash in the rink house or straighten out the game pieces, to earn their bread slice. All that skating and fresh air make you hungry, and thanks to the oven, we have bread. (Thanks, also, to the fire. The wood to heat the ovens is still provided free by Ali Hussein from his skid factory. He delivers it to Christie Pits for storage, and when we need more for our park, park supervisor Mike Hindle asks his staff to bring us some. Everybody helps.)
1. Canadian Living Magazine's "Best Oatmeal Cookie Mix":
(Donna Bartolini, who used to work for the magazine, brought this recipe to the park, four years ago. It's enough for four batches of oatmeal cookies).
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking soda
4 ½ cups quick-cooking oats 1 tablespoon baking powder
4 cups firmly packed brown sugar 2 teaspoons salt.
Mix these things and store in an air-tight container for up to two months. To make one batch of cookies, take:
½ cup softened butter 4 teaspoons water
3 ¼ cookie mix 1 teaspoon real vanilla
1 beaten egg 1 cup chocolate chips
In a large bowl, beat butter into cookie mix until blended. Stir in water, egg, and vanilla. Form dough into balls and squash onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes or until golden. Makes about two dozen large cookies.
2. North Ontario Winter Potato Soup:
(Jutta Mason learned to make this soup from an overworked farm wife near Matachewan. It was so cold in those parts that the trees cracked at night, which made the wolves howl.)
3 tablespoons butter 1 cup of cauliflower pieces, if you have some
1 medium onion, chopped 1 small can of corn
2 medium potatoes, chopped into half-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, chopped into half-inch pieces water to cover (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour 1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of salt 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
1 small bay leaf 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne
fresh ground pepper
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy pot and slowly cook the onion until it's translucent, about five minutes or more. Add the potato pieces and the carrot pieces, stirring to coat them with the butter. Cover with the water, bring to a boil, and then turn down to simmer. After about 6 minutes, add the cauliflower. After another five minutes, add the corn.
While the soup is simmering, make a white sauce in a small saucepan or a double boiler, by melting the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, mixing in the two tablespoons of flour, and then slowly adding the cup of milk, stirring continuously. When the sauce is smooth, add the salt and the bay leaf and keep at a very low heat until the potato-vegetable mixture cooking in the other pot is tender. Then remove the bay leaf, pour the white sauce into the soup, add the parsley, the cayenne, and the pepper, and taste for seasoning. Serve with fresh bread.
When the weather is so cold the trees are cracking, or when you've been skating at our rink for two hours straight, you need the cayenne.
Twelfth Night: January 5 is the twelfth night after Christmas. In the middle ages in Europe, Twelfth Night was also a winter festival involving fire. Twelve fires were lit and a fruit tree was "wassailed" to encourage it to bear fruit again when the dark and the cold gave way to spring. People dressed up in costumes, such as the animal costumes in this illustration. We almost had such a festival in the park last year, and we missed it again this year. But David Anderson's Clay and Paper Theatre says that next year he's willing to get together a performance involving costumes, skating, torches, and singing by the Darbazi Choir.
Maybe we could light twelve fires in the park, and roast potatoes, and heat up some cider, and sing a wassail song around the young cherry tree in the garden near the bread oven, to encourage the tree to give more cherries in the summer…..If you would like to be involved in such a festival, call Lily at 392-0913 and leave your name for next winter.
Dangerous ice: As many rink users are aware, half the ice surface at Dufferin Rink had to be closed on the last weekend of the Christmas holidays because the cement was showing. The reason appears to have been inadequate rink maintenance (and aging zambonis) rather than any mechanical problems at our rink. Many people called City Councillor Mario Silva and Parks and Recreation area manager Carmen Cogliano. In response, city crews have put much effort into making the ice safe again. Hopefully the ice will stay in good shape now for the rest of the season, barring acts of God or the weather.
The Dufferin Cup Hockey Tournament: On Friday evening January 19 and all day Saturday January 20, Dufferin Rink will host its annual hockey tournament for kids aged 12 and 13 from across the city. The Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club has announced its intention of running a hockey skills competitions for two hours on that weekend. Please watch the bulletin board for the exact time, since the pleasure-skating side will be used for the competition for those two hours. Kids will be competing for: puck control, hardest shot, rapid fire, fastest skater, and the breakaway challenge.
The Dufferin Cup Tournament is always exciting and fun to watch. We'll have the campfire going and the pizza oven on, and admission is free! The winners of the tournament will play in the city finals at the Air Canada Centre.
Rink hours in January: The pleasure-skating side is always open except when there's been a snowstorm or a big thaw (i.e. when footprints or skating could compound damage to bad ice). But in good weather you can come and skate late at night by moonlight or at sunrise. Both sides of the rink are opened up for pleasure-skating on Sunday afternoons from 12.30 to 6 p.m.
The hockey side is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. There's no hockey on Sundays. Shinny ages are posted at the rink and schedules are available to take home.
If you're wondering about ice conditions, call the rink at 392-0913 and listen to the recording.
Thanks in part to our anonymous donour, single-occasion shinny hockey permits are available free of charge on Mondays 9-10, Tuesdays 10-11, Wednesdays 9.30-10.30, Thursdays 10-11, Fridays 9-10, and Sundays after 6. To find out if there are still unbooked permits, call Lily at 392-0913. The permit-holders may have to scrape the ice manually with our special rink-scrapers, if they want a good game. It's rare that the zamboni can come to give an evening flood.
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