friends of dufferin grove park
June 2003 Newsletter

In this issue:


This year for the first time ever the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park are collaborating with the park staff to run a summer camp for children. It's about time!

The camp will run 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. for four separate Monday-to-Thursday sessions in July only. Ages: 7 to 12, except during the last week of July, when there will be one camp for children 3-6 as well as the session for ages 7-12. Cost is $100 per week, and lunch is included. Liz Rucker is the camp's main person. She is an actor, musician and storyteller who has worked at Spiral Garden as well. We can't believe our good fortune: that Liz wants to work with us at our park this year. Each session will have a second person working with Liz:

  • Week one starts July 7. The second person is one of our park's main bakers and Friday night supper cook, Lea Ambros. She is also the park handywoman/ carpentry person.
  • Week two starts July 14. The second person is singer/actor/gardener Karen Randoja
  • Week three starts July 21. The second person is Noah Keneally, who specializes in acrobatics and circus performance (you've seen him with David Anderson's theatre)
  • Week four starts July 28. The second person is Amy Withers, whose special interests are pick-up sports and the environment. For the age 3-6 group, the main person is long-time park staff Kate Cayley. Additional help will come from park staff Shawn, Matt, Caitlin, and Jenny.

The camp will have song, drama, movement, storytelling and story-making by the children. It will use the terrain of the park as an inspiration for a long-running treasure hunt that has a plot to it, with stories attached. Depending on the week and on the other staff, there will also be bread baking at the oven, harvesting in the park gardens, helping the farmers set up at the farmers' market, stilt-walking, carpentry (e.g. toy-boat-building) and clay projects, mask-making, waterslide (on hot days), volleyball, badminton and soccer. The emphasis is on doing interesting things, but also on having time for friendships to develop, and for enjoying the freedom of summer.

Each 7-12 year-olds camp is limited to 10 children, and the 3-6 year-old camp is limited to 5 children. For more information and to register, call the park at 416 392-0913 and ask for Kate Cayley, or contact her by e-mailing her at

There will be babysitting available (through Dufferin Park Youth Works) at the park for children who need to stay after 2.30, at a rate of $5 an hour, with all the usual park activities, snacks provided, latest pick-up time at 6 p.m.


Farmers' market, every Thursday 3.30 to 7 p.m. , outside near the rink house. Mainly organic. All kinds of good food including vegetables, fruit, baked goods (including park bread), meats, coffee, honey, jams, cut flowers, and bedding plants.

Pizza days: Wednesdays 12 to 2, Sundays 1 to 3, except when the weather is bad.

Campfire permits: Anytime, at any of the three fire sites in the park. The permit costs $10. Park staff give fire safety training and supplies.

Friday Night supper: These park suppers returned at the beginning of May. On Friday evenings people can have supper at the park (cooked by our Friends of the Park chefs Dan, Lea, Anna, or Amy) at the community oven. It costs $5 for the main dish ($6 if you forget to bring your own dishes from home) plus extra for soup, salad, and dessert. Our cooks use mainly ingredients that they buy at the Thursday Farmers' market; later in summer they'll also use the produce from the park gardens. There are two sittings: 6 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. It's a wonderful way to get out of making supper after a week of work, also to see your friends, to meet your neighbours, to let the kids run around on a spring evening. As a side effect, the Friday night foolishness that happens in so many parks (vandalism and other nonsense) fades right away, swamped out by all the activity around the ovens.

Note: these suppers are very popular. Call ahead by Friday morning to reserve your meal, or you may find there's nothing left for you: 416 392-0913.

If you prefer, you can come and cook your own supper in the smaller outdoor oven after 4.30 or the big oven after 6.30. If possible, call ahead to let the staff know. Sometimes things get missed, when the park gets busy. A reminder is very helpful.

Performance events:

Day of De Light - June 14, 15, and 21: Clay and Paper Theatre prepares for and presents Day of De Light - a celebration of love and courtship in Toronto. To prepare for the day itself, there are costume/music workshops from 1p.m. to 4p.m. on Saturday June 14 and Sunday June 15. They're open to anyone wishing to participate, to "get in the mood of summer celebration," as Clay and Paper Theatre director David Anderson says. Then on Saturday June 21, Clay and Paper will begin their seventh summer season in Dufferin Grove Park with the First Annual Day of De Light. David Anderson says: "Join artists, musicians and puppet pageantry as we celebrate the summer solstice. The day features activities to participate in and performances to enjoy, including a remount of our "Return of the Green Man," the stilting talents of the Zagadka Zoological Society and aerial fabric dancers, Gravity Works. Musical performances include the Louisiana-western-funk of The Jeremiahs, African-based marimba band Niamamusango, and Toronto mbira Sessions, music from Zimbabwe on traditional thumb pianos with singing and rhythm." For event or workshop information, call 416-537-9105 or visit

Dusk Dances - July 8-13. They're coming again this summer, five different groups of dancers for six early-evening performances (until dusk) in July, all over the park. If you want to watch them practise, their practice schedule is from June 30 to July 4, 11.30 to 3.30 daily. This year apparently they'll include a sensational break-dancing group, on the basketball court. Their Friday and Saturday performances will be preceded by Friday and Saturday night supper in the park, by the bake oven.

The Sylliad: My big fat Greek war story - July 25 to August 17: Clay and Paper Theatre will present "The Sylliad: My big fat Greek war story": "the epic brouhaha of tragic pride, violence, eating, violence, more violence, jealousy, word conquest, more eating, violence, (sex?), and violence as King Uncle Shrub and Rumesfilles do battle with Ohowi bin Hatin and Sodam Insain." The play will run Wednesday through Sunday at 7.30 p.m.


Seven young people (university and high school students, aged 16 to 21) from the neighbourhood have approached Friends of Dufferin Grove Park, wanting to hire themselves out for odd jobs. These are the things they can do:

  • Indoor and outdoor painting (first floor level only)
  • Cleaning windows, including those pesky old aluminum storm windows and screens
  • Basements, garages cleaned out
  • Patio preparation (digging, levelling out)
  • Path making (including patio stones, wood chips, pebbles)
  • Garden beds dug, pesky tree roots removed, basic garden cleanup, grass cut
  • Dismantling of old porches, sheds, rickety stairs
  • Digging out of leaky foundation walls to prepare for re-sealing
  • Building of back stairs
  • Labourers to assist with do-it-yourself projects

Now is your chance to get your place fixed up AND help set up a local economy in non-MacDonald's summer jobs. These young people have both brawn and brains, they know the area (and the park: some of them have worked at the park in the past) and they'll deliver what they say. They charge between $10 and $15 an hour, wages to be negotiated depending on the job.

Besides the odd jobs, Dufferin Park Youth Works also offers:

  • Babysitting of kids (at the park only, during wading pool hours, taking advantage of park programs like the sandpit, storytelling, wading pool, and pizza days)
  • Operating the park bake oven for birthday parties, annual picnics, special gatherings (all the things we've said no to in the past few years, from having insufficient staff).

For more information or to get a worker (or a crew), e-mail Dufferin Park Youth Works through our web site at or leave them a message at the park: 416 392-0913.


After Environmental Defence Canada called a press conference in March to announce leaching of arsenic in the sand around pressure-treated playground equipment (with our park listed as one of the worst in the country, 48.2 parts arsenic per million), lots of people got worried. The City's Parks Division had commissioned a study of playground arsenic levels the previous summer. They released their findings the week after the alarming ones. According to the Parks Department study, our playground equipment was NOT leaching much arsenic at all (just over 6 parts per million parts of sand, with anything under 12 ppm considered acceptable).

What to believe? When there are two such contradictory findings, it seems a good idea to look into the matter some more. The Parks Division was unwilling to re-test, but Environmental Defence said they would co-operate with us. Veronica Pochmursky, a shinny hockey player at our rink who has become a good friend of the park, agreed to take on the testing from our end (she has done this work professionally for many years). So BoAnne Tran from Environmental Defence came to the park on Environment Day (April 26) and joined Veronica in taking seven new samples, with many park users observing. They took more surface samples, like those the city's testers had taken, and deeper samples, like those previously taken by Environmental Defence. They checked around both the 1984 playground structures and the 1998 structures. Interesting! We brought the samples to a lab in Mississauga, and now the results have come back. They show even lower readings of arsenic than the Parks Division study showed, ranging from 1.2ppm to 4.1ppm, with the exception of one sample at 7.7ppm. Even that higher sample is still well below the acceptable level of 12 parts arsenic per million parts of sand.

Carol Cormier of the Parks Division had promised that if our tests showed a higher than acceptable arsenic reading, the city would provide the expensive sealant for our playground structures. Many people from the neighbourhood already volunteered to help seal the playground. Now it turns out it's not necessary. Wonderful! And parents can let their children play at the park with their minds at ease.

We are sharing the cost of the re-testing with Environmental Defence. Our portion is $51.66, which we'll pay by collecting a loonie each from 51 people in the playground and/ or at Friday night supper. Beyond that, Veronica Pochmursky has assembled a whole lot of background information about arsenic and its effects. Her article is posted on our playground page.

In the last newsletter we reported on the time in February when Wal-mart undercover security staff came to arrest someone in front of the rink house and told park staff that they might be arrested too if they stayed to watch. A complaint to Wayne Mclean, the manager of Wal-mart, yielded nothing more than a suggestion that we would hear from their legal department if we published an account of what we experienced. So we wrote to Wal-mart Canada's CEO, Mario Palozzi, asking him to explain why Wal-mart Security would be threatening park staff with arrest on park property, and why the Wal-mart manager would be hinting at a libel suit when we wrote about this. Mr.Palozzi didn't reply either so we contacted the Ontario Ministry of Public Safety and Security, Private Investigator and Security Guards Branch. They're now looking into the matter. More news: next newsletter.

Racial Profiling in the park: as many park users have observed, Toronto Police officers periodically approach young men of colour at the park and ask to see their i.d. It's called "going fishing" - approaching people out of the blue in case they might be arrestable. Since this is illegal, Jutta Mason questioned an officer during one of these incidents recently. He told her to "go hug a tree." This and other comments by the officer led to a letter about the incident sent to Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino on May 13. Since the letter got no reply, a follow-up letter will be sent to the Toronto Police Services Board shortly. You can read more about this topic on our policing and park safety page


Between the park and the mall there is a four-lane high-speed downtown highway with a traffic light at each end. Because there is no parking along this stretch of the street, four lanes of cars race along, trying to make the light before it changes. Over the years the park staff have watched many accidents happen at the main light, as cars turning into the mall or toward the rink have to cross the path of the northbound or southbound cars. Few people with children or dogs use the part of the park near Dufferin Street because the traffic speed is too intimidating. There's been talk for years about slowing down the traffic by allowing non-rush-hour parking on this stretch of Dufferin Street (parking is already allowed on the rest of this street, north or south of the speedway). But no one has taken the necessary steps to change the by-law. Three weeks ago a farmer's truck was hit as he tried to turn into the farmers' market. On the last weekend in May a pedestrian was hit as she crossed from the park to the mall. Maybe that's enough now! We've contacted Councillor Mario Silva's office to seek his help in changing the parking rules (street parking is by far the cheapest, simplest way to slow down traffic). We hope to have news from the traffic department in the next newsletter. If the pace of change is very slow, we may try to add some energy by staging an event near the street and the intersection. Watch for more news on the virtual bulletin board.


The City of Toronto's Food and Hunger Action Project gave out grants this year for food-related projects all over the city. Our park received one of these grants, thanks to tireless proposal-writing help from Caitlin Shea, Jenny Cook, and Anna Bekerman. Soon we'll have a proper kitchen that's bigger than the closet we now cook in. It's not very large (10 feet by 7 feet) but big enough to share among many community people. This means that it will be easier for Dufferin Park Youth Works to run the food cart at soccer games; easier for the people making Friday night supper; easier to bake park bread.

Baking is important for the staffing of the park. Our park's staff budget is tiny in relation to all the many things that are done in this park summer and winter: we have $61,000 to cover all staff costs year-round. This can't possibly pay for all the things that need doing, so we sell bread to pay for the rest of the staffing. Making and selling bread funds many things that make the park work better. This is a short-term solution to a longer-term problem within city parks: how come, with a Parks and Recreation budget of about $210 million dollars a year, there's not enough money to pave rutted park roads or fix rink zambonis? Or to staff parks so that they work well in their neighbourhoods? This is one of the questions considered in the book about parks which we are working on, funded by the Metcalf Foundation. Stay tuned.


Soccer field: The field was completely re-sodded last fall, the first time in many years. The fences protecting the new grass came down in the last week of May and now the field is playable (it's still a bit bumpy but the park staff say they'll roll it soon). It's used by St. Mary's High School Monday to Friday in the daytime until the third week of June; by the Toronto Eagles Soccer Club Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings plus Saturday until 2.30; and by the Portugal 2004 Soccer Club on Thursday evenings. From 3 p.m. Saturday and all day Sunday, the soccer field is not booked - it's there for community use. Tell your friends.

Cricket: Many people in this area love to play cricket. There are cricket pitches at Eglinton Park and Sunnybrook Park, but that's pretty far away. Maybe this is the year we can get a cricket pitch put in at our park. If you want more information about this, call the park and leave a message: 416 392-0913.

Sandbox and sandpit: The maintenance staff brought a bit of new sand for the little playground sandbox and a truckload of sand for the sandpit. The plumbing department fixed the water outlet near the sandpit so that the kids can use it to make their rivers and waterfalls again.

Dirt path: The main path through the park is unpaved, and after the winter it was extremely rutted and bumpy. The maintenance crew have now graded it twice and filled in the channels made by erosion. That means that wheelchairs and strollers can use the path again. It's a stop-gap measure: the real solution is to pave the path (this idea was first suggested by a park commissioner in 1925, and sometime about 20 years ago half the smaller paths in the park were paved). The main walkways in the park should be paved, but there's no money to do it. Grading at least makes the path usable.

Basketball backstop and hockey rink gate: The Parks Division came and repaired damage done by the case loader during winter storm cleaning.

Playground fence: The maintenance workers came and replaced cedar rails that had been vandalized during the winter, so now the fence is whole again. (Remember that dogs and high school students - during school hours - are not permitted inside the playground enclosure. If you see any, you can ask them to leave, and if they don't leave, please come and get the park staff. The playground is for little kids and their caregivers.)

Marsh fountain: The artist/gardener who built the fountain in the native-species wetland, Gene Threndyle, has altered the fountain slightly to guard against standing water (because of the West Nile virus warnings). So now the fountain's water is moving all the time and no mosquitoes can breed there.

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