friends of dufferin grove park
February 2002 Newsletter

In this issue:


Our neighbourhood meeting MAY finally be held near the end of February. Park director Don Boyle sent word via our new area manager James Dann that the supervisors who look after our park could now be approached again about the costs of caring for this park.

On Jan.28, Jutta Mason met with maintenance supervisor Mike Hindle. He explained that for just under $20,000 a year, there is staff time for one hour a week litter-picking, three visits a week from a garbage truck, ten grass cuts a year, 5 days of leaf cleanup in the fall, and five days total of miscellaneous maintenance.

There is not time for any regular inspection of the condition of paths, picnic tables, and benches. There is no budget for picnic table repair or path maintenance. Since the last Parks Department flower garden was removed in 1992, there is no garden work budget.

For another $22,500 there is staff time for snow removal from the sidewalks around the outside of the park, and from the rink, plus daily 20-minute inspections for sidewalk ice for 100 days a year.

Mike Hindle emphasized that this is just a guess. Probably the cost of even such limited park maintenance is higher in reality.

Jutta is still waiting for the other supervisors (technical services including the rink, building maintenance, forestry, and recreation) to give her an appointment. As soon as this research is done, the meeting date can be settled.


February 13: The first annual dogs-and-owners Valentine sticky-bun campfire.

Judy Simutis has booked the campfire circle and the small bread oven for an "everyone welcome" gathering the day before Valentine’s, at 7 p.m. at the campfire circle closest to the rink. Judy says, bring a small package of hot chocolate powder so the pot on the fire can be kept full of hot chocolate. She’ll bake sweet sticky buns and heart-shaped dog biscuits in the outdoor oven. People can bring other treats too if they’d like. Judy says, dog owners and their dogs can just show up. Besides the food, there could be some games, some music, or maybe a snowball fight on the snow hill.

A visit by Sergeant Guglick and the Fire Department: Sunday January 20 was a hugely busy day at the rink. There were two birthday campfire groups as well as the usual crowd at the rink clubhouse. When the birthday campfires were over and the people had left, a big wind came up. It must have fanned a few left-over sparks back into life at the big campfire circle near the basketball court, and so a leftover piece of firewood was re-ignited. Three teenagers without much to do came by as it was getting dark, and had an idea. They took that small piece of firewood and stuck it inside a hole in one of the big logs that serves as a fire circle bench. None of this was observed by the busy rink staff.

By coincidence, Sgt.Bob Guglick of the Community Response Unit of Fourteen Division Toronto Police Service came by around 6 p.m. to say hello to the rink staff. Just as he entered the clubhouse, some dog walkers came in the opposite door to report large flames coming out of the fire circle log. Sgt. Guglick and the rink staff went over to look, and then the sergeant returned to his cruiser to get a fire extinguisher. But in the meantime someone else had called the fire department, and they came with their big fire truck with sirens going. The staff at first thought that this was what the sergeant meant when he said he was getting a fire extinguisher. Some fire extinguisher! In the end, the fire truck pulled up right beside the big log and hosed it down with a lot of water. Sgt. Guglick saw the three young guys leaving, and spoke to them about their foolishness. He said afterwards - sometimes you just have to tell them YOU KNOW, and that’s enough. We agree.

But every cloud has a silver lining. One little boy at the rink was unhappy and tired and crying. His parents couldn’t cheer him up. Then the zamboni came out to clean the ice, and that got his interest. Then right after that, the fire truck pulled up. What a rescue from grief: two of his favourite trucks within ten minutes.

It’s a small world
Jaime Batista, the owner of Kubata café and chocolate shop on College Street, who has been (and still is) one of the people helping Mimo the homeless man stay alive, is working on setting up a merchant’s association for College Street merchants. The College Street revival seems to be spreading west into our area, and six of the business owners recently had their first meeting, with Councillor Mario Silva. Two problems they discussed were street garbage and - of course - Mimo. They also discussed getting street banners from the city, to announce the new organization. Jaime says he’d like the membership to go all the way from Shaw Street to Lansdowne. The city staff person who was at the meeting to help was Ron Nash, not only a city employee but also a long-time friend of the park and a keen shinny hockey player (with his kids) at Dufferin Rink. It’s a small world! Jaime says Ron has given them really helpful advice, and they’ll soon set up a web site to tell more about their part of College Street. When the College Street site is ready, they’ll ask Emily Visser to make a link from the park web site.

Watch out for car thieves!
In the last few days of January, the Dufferin Grove web site list serve was full of reports of stolen cars in this area.

Here’s one example:
"The light blue 91 Dodge Caravan was mine - most from Rusholme would know it I'm sure as I've been driving it for almost 7 years. It has not yet been recovered, but I'm hoping it will come back, and not too damaged. I'm sure my car stereo will be gone though.

Thanks for the info about preventing thefts - it's helpful. The sad thing is I had a club sitting under my back seat (i'm sure the thieves will have a good laugh!) that I stopped using a couple of years ago because I assumed my car was too old and worn to steal. I guess I can assume this was an 'opportunity' theft. Please inform everyone about this theft, at about the one o’clock at the end of the street on Friday (a guy saw me loading things in the back of my rental car, and yelled across the street that his car (with ski equipment) was stolen on Friday)."

Other reports came in from Sylvan, from College, from Macklem, and from other parts of Rusholme Street. Lots of people are on the lookout now. Peter Thillaye wrote that he often works very late and will keep his eyes open (and his cell phone handy) when he’s coming home at night. If you want to know more (or you have some news or some ideas) you can get onto the list serve through emailing the listserve : click here to join.

Dogs as vacuum cleaners:
Wally Seto’s dog Poochie has discovered the rink clubhouse. No matter where Poochie is in the park, sooner or later he makes a bee-line for the rink house, waits until someone opens the door, and slips inside. He goes straight into the kitchen and starts to lick up any crumbs he finds. His visits are like those of your aunt when she comes to tea and runs her fingers over the furniture. If she finds any dust, you know you have to do more dusting. If Poochie finds any crumbs, we know we have to sweep more often. On the other hand, who needs to sweep when you have a dog who’s such a willing vacuum?

Food at the park:
Some rink users put in an organic meat order to Beretta Organic Farm every few weeks. The farmer delivers it to the rink clubhouse on Fridays. Anyone wishing to join this group can e-mail through the list serve, and we’ll connect you. Or if you don’t use e-mail, leave a message at the rink house: 392-0913. Someone will call you back.

Ann Freeman is exploring the possibility of eventually (no rush) getting a farmer’s market into Dufferin Park. If you are interested in this, or have any knowledge about farmers’ markets, contact Ann through the list serve or leave a message for her at the rink house.)

In early February an editor at the Italian slowfood movement intends to post an item about our park ovens on their slowfood bi-weekly internet magazine (you can get this by email -- sign up through their web site:

Puzzling turkeys:
Last month, after we printed the experiences of some park users at the December 15th turkey giveaway, Councillor Mario Silva called up, very upset, and said he wanted us to print that what was written in the January newsletter was all a lie. Jutta Mason sent him an e-mail offering to connect him to some of the people who felt the event was unfriendly and frightening, so they could have a talk about it. However the councillor did not take up this offer. He wrote back: "This is not the impression I had of the event nor that of over 900 people that were there and warmly hugged me during the event. In fact I have a video tape of people dancing and having a great time while having a hot meal during and after the turkey give away."

Being hugged by 900 people may have made it difficult for the councillor to see straight.

Park bread:
Most of the bread we bake in the community oven gets sliced up at the clubhouse snack bar for the hungry skaters and shinny hockey players when they come off the ice. At 25 cents a slice the bread is cheaper by the slice than when you buy a whole loaf. That’s intentional: the loaf price more realistically reflects the market price, and it helps support rink expenses. The money helps hire additional young people for odd jobs, helps pay for administration, helps out people who apply to us in need, and buys those maintenance supplies that the city no longer delivers.

But trying to buy a whole loaf of bread has sometimes been frustrating for people at the rink because the bread sells out too fast. So we’ve added another baking. In February, bread will be available on Saturday mornings (Italian bread), Sunday mornings (Italian bread and sourdough), Sunday afternoons (Italian bread, around 4), and Sunday early evening (sourdough).

Someone recently asked us what our legal status is, concerning food preparation. As a community group, the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park come under the "community and church supper" part of the public health act, which gives special permission to hold bake sales and use our community kitchen. But although we’re exempt from some of the rules governing commercial food service locations, we don’t want to give any neighbour a stomach ache. Last fall, at our request, the G.H.Wood Foundation paid for a very detailed public health consultation for the club house community kitchen. The consultant was impressed with our setup, and gave us some helpful additional suggestions. In addition to following health rules, we also try to use organic ingredients whenever we can. This year we switched to organic eggs in our park cookies - not only for health reasons but also for moral reasons. We want to get away from contributing to the miserable economy of egg factories. Organic chickens are not allowed to live in those cramped little egg factory cells. Paying double for organic eggs across the street at No Frills seems worth it - and from a food safety point of view, it’s also better.

Mimo the homeless man spent a few days at the end of January at Seaton House, one of Toronto’s oldest shelters, across town. The shelter has a special section for people who would at another time have gone into mental hospitals. There are mental health workers as well as doctors and nurses available, and there’s some hope that Mimo might be willing to take some medication. However, for now Mimo has decided to return to living on the street, getting food from the Sousa Bakery and Bairrada Churrasqueira, and coffee from Jaime Batista of Kubata. Walter Brierley, the homeless outreach worker, says that Mimo is one of their main projects this winter. If you see Mimo in trouble, call and leave a message with Walter at 416/785-9230, ext.2148.

The big snowstorm at the rink: a story.
January 31 had a winter storm warning. By dawn, enough snow had fallen that the rink was closed, and by lunchtime when the snow tapered off, there was more than a foot of snow on the rink ice. Apart from the brief appearance of a park worker in the morning, to raise the lift gate and open the chain link gates in preparation for the ploughs, there was no sign of any rink crews all day. Our own zamboni operator didn’t turn up and by noon there was a message from central command: all rink staff were canceled, across the city, and rink users were to be told that the rinks might reopen by 4 p.m. the next day.

However there was bread to be baked, so the dough got made and the oven was lit. When Jutta returned to the park at 6.30 in the evening to put the bread in, she was surprised to see a truck with a plough on the rink. A few minutes later a giant caseloader appeared, and then a jeep. Between the three of them, they made short work of the snow. In half an hour the ice surface had reappeared.

The plough operators said they hadn’t even been told to clean the rinks until 4 that afternoon. But seeing how fast it went, Jutta became curious – why would the rinks have to stay closed until the next day? She started calling around. It turned out that in Etobicoke, rink crews had cleared snow all day, and so by 5 p.m. all their rinks had been flooded and were back in operation. The phone was unanswered at most other rinks, with a few exceptions. A lonely rink operator at High Park said the ploughs had been through, all right, but now he was all on his own - all the other rink staff having been canceled - and so he couldn’t finish the job (shovelling and out the gates and flooding the ice). He was there and his tractor was there but he couldn’t run it by himself and the rink would stay closed. The other rinks that answered the phone acted as though the question: "are you open?" was pretty silly. Of course they weren’t open. Rinks can’t open in the snow. -- Etobicoke rinks were open? What? Well, that didn’t have anything to do with us.

Jutta grew anxious that even though the snow was off our rink, there would be no flood because the rink operator wasn’t there, and so the clearing would have been wasted. She paged the supervisor, and he said, all right, one of the plough operators would stay and flood the ice.

In the end, three people stayed. They did the job. Our rink opened in the evening, one of only two in the west (or perhaps anywhere in the former city of Toronto). The zamboni stank of overheating (rumour says that North York gets new machines and we get the cast-offs, machines on their last legs). Later, in the garage, there was a big rainbow-coloured oil patch on the floor under the machine.

It was the night of the over-35 neighbourhood shinny permit. Twelve people came out at short notice. The ice was smooth, the air was crisp, and the game went on until the timer turned the lights off, at eleven. The players said it was a perfect game.

That’s wonderful. But it’s no way to run a rink system.

Where is the yurt?
Michelle Oser and Ian Small say their yurt (large circular traditional dwelling from Uzbekistan) is still on a boat in the Black Sea. It’s coming, but it won’t be here in time to have a week-long yurt-showing in the park in February. The Parks Department has said they’d help when it comes time to put up the yurt. Now seems that may happen in May.

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason
Web site maintained by: Emily Visser
List Serve monitored by: Bernard King and Emily Visser

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