friends of dufferin grove park
May 2002 Newsletter

In this issue:

The yurt is coming:
The date for erecting the yurt (a very large traditional Uzbekistan tribal dwelling belonging to Michele Oser and Ian Small) in the park is
Saturday May 25, near the ovens. The yurt will be up for a week, with food, music, films, campfires, and storytelling. But surely one of the best parts will be putting it up. If you want to watch and cheer and help slip on the felt cover at the end, drop by the park on May 25. (The pizza oven will be going all day). The schedule of events will be up on all the park bulletin boards and also at the yurt.

Food in the park:
Open pizza days will begin again on Tuesdays in May, and on Wednesdays also, as the weather warms up. Open oven (when it’s hot enough to cook your dinner, for supper at home or a picnic in the park) will start again on Tuesdays and on Fridays, from the beginning of May.

Citizen's Hall:
The "Citizens’ Hall" community meeting on "the Fate of the Park, a year later," will be on Thursday May 30 at 7.30 p.m. Location: Outside by the yurt, weather permitting (otherwise inside the rink house). Make-your-own pizza at the oven from 6 p.m. (if you want to combine dinner and the meeting. The Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Annual Report will be available on-line from May 14 and at the park clubhouse from the same date. Good reading!

Spring at the park: park staff have begun getting everything ready. The sand pit has new poles (partly thanks to a tree limb that fell on the playground climber during a storm, thankfully with no one there), the shovels are back, the gardens are being planted, the big bread oven is back in service, the washrooms are being cleaned up and made better, and the warm-weather staff have begun their planning. There will be some evening staff when the park gets busy (and a bit wild) at night. They’ll introduce themselves -please show them the ropes.

Councillor Silva’s Community Clean-up Day, Saturday May 4:
You can join Councillor Mario Silva at various neighbourhood points during the city cleanup: Dufferin Grove Park from noon to 2; or Dovercourt Boys and Girls’ Club from 10 to noon; or Margueretta Street Parkette 11 to 1; or Wallace-Emerson Community Centre from 1 to 3. Garbage bags and gloves will be provided. For more information, call the Councillor’s office at 416/392-7012.

An invitation from Andrea Dawber and the Friends of Dovercourt Park:
Andrea writes: "On Saturday, May 11th, 2002, Friends of Dovercourt Park is holding a Spring Festival and Forestry is planting 30 trees as part of our 3-year project to reforest our park.

There will be Brazilian drummers, a Tree Ceremony by a Native Elder at 11am, a community plant exchange, shade and butterfly gardens to plant -materials generously donated by the Hort icultural Societies of Toronto and Parkdale, mulch and compost give aways, info on trees, activities for children 2-5 and 6-10 that parents can guide their children through to deepen their understanding of trees and nature - generously created by neighbour and naturalist, Kevin Kielty. The Stop will be selling organic seeds and seedlings, and there will be Children's Songs and Stories for a half hour by James Patterson, Kimberly Way and Kate Patterson at 2pm."

Old benches into new: The "Legacy in our Neighbourhood" project.
A month ago the park staff went around and catalogued the park benches to see which ones needed repair or painting. Of 51 benches, over 30 needed work - not because of vandalism, but just the wear and tear of a busy park. Since then, the park maintenance crew have been busy replacing broken slats with good slats and bracing lop-sided-benches with new pegs, to make them stand up straight. But the city’s bench budget is strained at the moment, and lots of benches still look a bit rough.

Some help is at hand, though. Mary Thorne, marketing manager at the Dufferin Mall, called up to tell us that the mall is co-sponsoring a project called "Legacy in our neighbourhood." Funded by the Ontario Arts Council, it allows two artists to set up a workshop in a storefront at the mall, to involve neighbourhood people in making a piece of art for public space. The two artists, Kristen Fahrig and Jeff Chown, want to transform two park benches - to beautifully paint them and carve them with scenes from people’s memories and stories of home - and an in-ground mosaic mandala. They are inviting anyone - of any age - from the neighbourhood to come to the mall’s "Gallery in Motion" (beside "Bell World") between May 6 and June 9, and work with them on giving shape to this idea. The hours are Monday and Tuesday 4-6, Saturdays 10-12, and Sundays 1-3. Mike Hindle, the park’s maintenance supervisor, has given his okay to using the two existing park benches that are in the roughest shape, and Mr.Micelli of the mall’s outdoor garden centre has agreed to send over his crew with a fork lift to transport the heavy benches (concrete ends) across the road from the park into the mall, to set them up in the gallery.

Once they’re finished, the public-art benches will be returned to our park. So here’s your chance to leave your mark in the park, for posterity (people need to sit, after all). The two artists, Kristen Fahrig and Jeff Chown, met, by the way, while working at Spiral Garden (an artist-run children’s playground near the Hugh MacMillan Centre, which is the gold standard for all that’s inspired and beautiful in playgrounds). And now, here they are, in our own neighbourhood, ready to work with anyone who wants. To find out more, or to register, call Kristen at 416/576-9009.

Why we’re short of newsletters this month (and why it’s time to call a TRUCE, please):
In the middle of April, soon after the city cancelled the Charisma Advertising Agency’s Parkfest scheduled for our park - in response to some community concerns - we found out by way of a cc of an e-mail that our newsletters would no longer be printed at the city’s internal print shop. It appears from the cc e-mail (we were never contacted directly), that the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park are seen to be too negative and not showing a spirit of cooperation, and so the Parks Department’s support of the park newsletter was canceled.

There had been some difficulty before, with e-mails not being answered and phone calls not being returned during two rink crises. And indeed, it seems there is now an impasse. Questions about the newsletter printing were also met with silence.

This impasse is a sad thing. After our February 2001 community meeting about the "fate of the park," the parks department not only pledged but also delivered much support for the limited (but still ambitious) list of requests that came out of the meeting. Much was resolved but the problems that remained were still tricky. There was a difficulty with follow-up when there’s a long-standing problem, such as clearing the rink after snow in winter or allocating zamboni staff based on work load. And then there was - and is - the more general problem of trying to raise revenue by charging for play space. (To illustrate: the central permit department officer left voice mails at the park, saying that the hockey rink should be locked now that the ice is gone, and unlocked for centrally-booked ball-hockey permits. When we asked to go and see her to explain about community use of the park - pick-up ball hockey and so on - she said she had no time. And she probably doesn’t - that’s how things run in the 21st century.)

The Parks and Recreation Division has a real money problem; they’re not just trying to be bossy with their permit policy. The history of the problem is a sticky one: the Parks and Recreation Division’s annual operations spending (i.e. just running the department from day to day, not counting the money spent on new facilities), in the former city of Toronto, ballooned from $19.6 million in 1980 to a high of $59.1 million in 1993, just 13 years later. After that, spending went down, but very gradually. By the time of amalgamation, the Parks Department was still spending $53.1 million a year to keep running (most of this was payroll for the staff). So many new facilities had been built and they were so expensive to run, that getting the day-to-day costs back down was almost impossible (and closing facilities once they were built was, presumably, political suicide).

Now, Parks and Recreation was not alone in this explosion of spending: in the ten years between 1981 and 1991, the operations spending of the former city as a whole more than doubled. In ten years it went from $254 million to $593 million. The Fire Department cost $15 million to run for the year in 1970 and $88 million in 1992 (even though the city’s population was higher in 1970 than in 1992). The cost of paying the city’s Planning and Development Department went from just under $5 million in 1981 to over $15 million ten years later. (WHAT were they planning?) And since there was not enough money to support this increase from taxes, the city had to borrow, and to pay many millions of dollars annually to service that debt.

In 1993 the province instructed the city to stop borrowing any more, basically to pay off the loans and start living off the money they had in the kitty. But where an ordinary credit card addict might cut up the cards, sell the car, and move to a smaller house, it doesn’t work that way for a whole city.

So how does it work? And who will think up the solutions? We think that the more heads, the better. That’s why it seems to us that some resistance - loyal opposition - by citizens to solutions worked out in city staff meetings, is a good thing. A group of friends of the park have therefore sent a letter to Parks and Recreation director Don Boyle, asking him to return to the table, to see if we - local citizens - and the park staff can work on the same side.

Heroes of trash
During the April heat wave, trash suddenly burst out in the park, especially around the basketball court and the playground. Carol Kidd said that in the mornings she spent many minutes picking up around the basketball court, so that her dog Oscar wouldn’t choke on a chicken bone or get indigestion from eating dirty rice. Her friend Marisa Franco, walking her puppies Hippo and Chinook, often joined her in this trash-picking exercise.

In the spring, people get so excited about being outdoors that they often come to the park in great numbers. They may not want to leave when it’s dinner time, so they go over to the mall and bring back some fast food and then, somehow, the Styrofoam containers and the bags and the napkins and the plastic forks end up on the ground, blowing around.

There are many park users who pick up other people’s trash as a secret good deed. It’s hard not to get mad about the litter, though, when the supply seems endless. Maybe it helps to think of it as another form of exercise - knee bends that accomplish something more than calorie-burning. Carol and Marisa suggested putting trash baskets so close to the popular "hanging-out" benches that the litter-throwers can do target-practice with their food containers. Brilliant.

Heroes of wood:
We used the bake-oven so much in the winter that Hussain Alli’s wood donations from his wooden-skids shop are almost used up. So we have a wood-supply problem, but it’s not as bad as it was two weeks ago. Norman and Lyla, a couple from Scarborough, had read an article about our oven somewhere, and they went to some trouble to track down the park’s phone number. Once they got hold of us, and found out the address, they drove in twice with their van to bring us the cut-up poplar wood they had in their back yard. They drove in late at night when there was no traffic, and stacked the wood against the garage door (a layer five feet high and 15 feel long!).

Norman says he wishes more people would find another use for unwanted wood, rather than putting it in the garbage to go into land-fill. He says, for example if you buy a new refrigerator, there will be four pieces of wood in the bottom of the box, that can find a use. He’s right. If you have any scrap wood, let us turn it into bread or pizza. Drop it off at the rink house garage door any time, and we’ll soon find it and stack it on our pile inside. We can’t use plywood or any treated or painted wood. Also we don’t have storage space for freshly cut branches that need to be dried for a year. But if you have a corner in your garden where you can store your tree trimmings until they’re dry, we’d love to have them later. (And anyone who brings wood is entitled to some fresh bread in trade). More information: call the park at 416/392-0913.

How they do it in Calgary:
The park web site got an inquiry from Graham Woodruff in Calgary, asking for a phone number to find out more about bake ovens. He called us up, and said that he lives near a very large park that has five soccer fields and a club house which belongs to the local rugby association. Other people in the neighbourhood get to use this "community house" too, and all the users share the work of upkeep (painting, maintaining, scheduling, paying the water bill, etc.). Every 18 months to 2 years, the park users take a turn at running one of the city’s gambling casinos for a whole weekend. They have to get about 50 volunteers to staff the doors and the tables, and at the end of the weekend they get to keep about $50,000 to run their clubhouse for another two years. This means that they don’t need to charge for soccer permits or for clubhouse permits. It’s the gamblers who pay (and, perhaps, their families).

How to run a block party:
We heard about a block party that happens on Delaware Avenue, started by Alison Bidwell, who also started the Morris Dancers holding their annual Ale at our park every Labour Day. Alison said that she decided a couple of years ago that people might like to meet their neighbours, and so she invited everyone on her block to come by her house for cocktails. She says, if you want to do a meet-your-neighbours event, don’t think you have to close the street - it’s a bureaucratic tangle, it costs money, and it’s not worth the trouble. She and her neighbours had thought of a pot luck, but that seemed a bit too major, so they just printed up a flyer and put it in every mail box on the block: come to Alison’s house on Sunday between 4 and 6, and bring the drinks for the people in your party (i.e. not only alcoholic drinks but also juice for kids). Alison prepared some snack food and put out a donation jar to cover the cost. When the neighbours arrived, they each got a name tag with their house number written on it. This year, the block party is being held by a new family that just moved onto the block. And the people who live around the corner are also being invited.

Alison says it’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s fun going around delivering the invitations beforehand. We asked: do people leave at 6? She said - no. Last year it was so interesting for neighbours to meet, that the "cocktail party" didn’t break up until 10p.m.

Traffic problems - another way to meet the neighbours.
John Dent and Ann Ruetz on Hepbourne Avenue decided almost a year ago that the traffic volume and speed on their street was very unpleasant and even, sometimes, dangerous. They’ve undertaken to get their neighbours together to work on solutions. One of the first things that they did was go from house to house and ask other people how they felt about the traffic. Then last month they held a well-attended meeting in their living room with Councillor Mario Silva, working with new traffic research done by John, and old anecdotes told by long-time neighbourhood residents who have tried to limit traffic in the past. Ted England told the meeting that 10 years ago they almost had a solution agreeable to everyone - then the follow-up never happened and the whole effort collapsed. John and Ann seem very determined, and they are now involving people on the surrounding streets, to make sure that no new traffic plan affects another local street badly. Their next meeting is on May 15. To contact them, email them.

Pansies, primulas and water cannons:
Our yearly shipment of pansies and primulas from the High Park greenhouse arrived just before the April heat wave. Arie Kamp spent many hours planting them out, quickly, so they wouldn’t get leggy as they did last year. When the heat came, some of the high school students got a bit reckless, and they stepped on Arie’s plants, on purpose. He consulted the principal at St. Mary’s High School, and one of the perpetrators got nailed. But a few days later, a group of students stood in Arie’s flowerbed to write chalk graffiti on the club house wall.

That did it. Arie was watering the pansies at that moment, and he turned his thick black hose on the students and wet them right through. They were really mad, and stood on the other side of the street taunting him. Arie appealed to the Italian and Portuguese card players inside the club house to come out and help him, but they refused, saying they didn’t want to get hurt. When some of the wet youth tried to come near, Arie waved a hockey stick at them, and they backed away again. Finally, after half an hour, they moved down to the bus shelter. Arie said: "I will not let them get the better of me. I was a corporal in the army and I know how to stand my ground."

And indeed he does. We can’t help but wonder, though - if Arie had managed to persuade the old card players to join him - all of them, including Arie, in their seventies - and the two sides had faced off across Dufferin Park Avenue, would City TV have brought out their mobile TV crew and filmed the battle?

Spring in the park gardens:
The four wild plum bushes planted last year in the native-plants areas by Gene Threndyle all survived their first winter, and they look good. We have a new donated high-bush cranberry beside the wildflower sign, and a new donated wisteria vine by the chain link fence near the ovens. A willow appeared last fall near the marsh fountain, planted by a mystery person, and it’s been moved a little further away from the existing gardens so that it won’t cast too much shade, but it looks strong. As for wildflowers - lavender-white hepaticas are in full bloom, as are the white "dutchmen’s breeches." The trilliums are about to open, and the wild iris have shown leaves but no flowers yet.

Jutta Mason planted four stinging nettle plants in the tree nursery near the field house, partly for food (they are delicious greens) and partly to discourage people from sleeping there in future (nettles REALLY sting before they’re cooked).

Spring bulbs: most of the tulips in the park were originally donated by Pat MacKay, a steadfast friend to the park. Pat also gave us the daffodils. Last fall Arie Kamp tried to dig up the bulbs and relocate them away from the wildflower beds (they were planted there by mistake - they’re Dutch, not native Canadian). So there are lots of tulips and daffodils in the playground gardens and in front of the rink house now, but there are ALSO lots still left in the wildflower gardens - the ones that eluded Arie’s spade. Pat MacKay bought the kind of bulbs that would multiply - and they have. In addition, a new friend from New York at the Project for Public Spaces gave us some scylla bulbs last year, which have been planted on the hillside near the wildflower sign and will hopefully multiply enough to turn the hill blue in future springtimes. (Arie started planting violets on that hillside a few years ago and they didn’t seem to be doing very well, but now the hill is thick with violet plants, not yet in bloom - take a look in a few weeks).

We have a new community gardener, Caitlin Shea, who called Foodshare wanting somewhere to plant and was referred to us. Despite Arie Kamp’s enormous energy, there’s room for more helpers. If you’d like to turn your thumb green, call the park at 416/392-0913, leave your message, and they’ll call you back.

A change in the park’s web site:
The boundaries of the web site topics will broaden out gradually over the next few months, to encompass the wider neighbourhood around the park. Years ago, Cathy Meckes, Vivienne Smetana and Ted England christened a neighbourhood group the "Dufferin Grove Residents’ Association." It wasn’t about the park, but it included the park, and since Emily Visser started our web site, there’s been lots of temptation to bring up other neighbourhood topics. So why not? These are the things people talk about in the park.

The first new area to "visit" at our web site will deal with child care - nursery schools, day cares, a good-babysitters’ bulletin board. To start gathering material, Jutta Mason went to visit the West End Parents Daycare on Dovercourt. Nancy Winsor had encouraged this visit, because the school currently has some openings and Nancy (and many other parents) think this is a wonderful place. It has a long history. Natalina Furfaro, who until two years ago held an annual parent-child picnics at the park for her home day care, helped start West End Parents’ in 1971, as a summer day camp program at the YMCA.

In the third year, when the funding was in danger, Natalina and the other parents plus 22 kids took a bus to Ottawa, where they set up their daycare in the lobby on Parliament Hill. They got their funding. Since 1981 the daycare has inhabited the original annex of Ossington Old Orchard School. It’s a spacious building full of light, with an unusual mid-sized gym that has floor-to-ceiling windows. Most of the staff have been there a long time, because they like it there (and they’re unionized and paid a fair wage). Jutta was impressed, also by the children, who looked relaxed and curious and were very friendly, toward a visitor and between themselves. The daycare takes children full-time or part-time, and also after school. For more information, call coordinator Clement Cormier at 416/534-6761.

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