On December 3, Friday night supper resumed for the season, at long tables inside the rink house, with candles, and a fire in the woodstove. There was music, too, and some special guests (early park friends who helped get cooking fires going in the park ten years ago). The supper was fun but it showed again that the rink house is not big enough to hold special events of any size. If anyone hears any park friends, including Jutta, plotting to do another special event at the rink, stop them.
But the Friday night suppers with just the normal rink hubbub are nice. Supper is available from 6 to 7.30; no reservations necessary. There is always soup, a main meat course and a main vegan course, a salad, and dessert. The main plate costs $6 unless you bring your own dishes (then $5). The soup is $2, salad is $1.50, and dessert varies according to ingredient cost. As many of the ingredients as possible are bought at the Thursday farmers' market.
Some people eat in skates (an unusual experience) and then go right out again and skate some more. Some people don't bring skates at all. There is always a campfire outside beside the rink, surrounded by benches, and people can take their plates out there if the rink house is too full or too noisy (or if they just yearn to sit by a winter campfire).
Friday Night Supper is a great way to meet up with friends after a long week at work, without the need to prepare a meal or clean up afterwards. It's not been such a good way for people to meet new people, but we're working on it. Left-overs will always be available at the Zamboni snack bar during the weekend until they run out.
Two city playground inspectors came to Dufferin Grove playground on Wednesday November 17. They walked around with us as we went over the list of the playground parts condemned in the 1998/2003 Canadian Standards Association inspection. One of the inspectors said he might have done the original report, but he couldn't remember now because there were so many inspections. No kidding - and there's been a whole lot of playground destruction all over the city as a result.
According to the Dufferin Grove playground inspection report, in addition to what was already taken out (and not replaced), half the swings on the big swing frame are slated to be removed. The climber has to go. All the baby swings on the centre structure are supposed to come off, and the little slide there too, and the broad slide nearby. All horizontal railings have to be replaced by tight vertical pickets impossible to climb. As the inspectors walked around with us, they described in each case what could happen. Kids on swings could go sideways and smash into other kids on swings. Kids could climb on a railing, fall and break their necks. The playground was full of dreadful images, smashed heads with permanent brain damage, strangling on monkey bars, complex fractures with permanent impairment from falling off the side of the slide. The only real solution, as far as we could tell, that would let the inspectors sleep well at night, would be ripping out the whole playground and starting over with a very different structure.
We said, "we don't want a new structure. We like this one." They said, why wouldn't you want something brand new instead? We said, "would you like to throw out all your living room furniture, your favourite comfortable chair, your couch, the table you got from your grandfather, and replace it all with new stuff from the bargain store?" They said.....hm.
These inspector folks, who used to be general maintenance workers, welders, carpenters, etc., are re-trained at a special course where they are urged to imagine the worst thing, the one-in-a-million disaster that could happen in any world where gravity rules. They are not trained in probabilities. Once they're trained, their mantra is: if even one child is saved from a terrible accident, all of the changes made in playgrounds will have been worth it. When we told them that the playground accidents in Toronto have gone UP since the great playground destruction that began here in 2000, they couldn't believe it. They said -- that's because parents are so panicky they'll take their kids to Emergency for anything now. But no, we said, "the number of at-least-one-night hospital stays had gone up. In other words, real injuries have increased since you guys put in what you thought was ‘safe' equipment." They were stumped.
But only for a little while. When there's a new statistic that makes no sense in this CSA safety-world, it just fades away -- it can't find a toehold. And in the end, all the blame for real or imaginary injuries gets put on the parents. "The parents are so lax at watching their kids that even the best efforts of city staff to make playgrounds safe are defeated." Perhaps city staff feel that parents should have mandatory training too, by experts -- maybe by the same experts who instilled all these hypothetical nightmares into the inspector people, nightmares that have proved so dreamy for playground manufacturers and the purveyors of more training courses.
Time to wake up! To find tools and approaches for protecting our playgrounds from our municipal authorities, go to our new "city playgrounds" page.
Rink clubhouse: open Monday to Saturday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. , Sundays: 9 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.
Shinny hockey: same hours as the rink clubhouse except Sundays. There is a (strictly enforced) age schedule. If you ever see the wrong age group on the shinny ice, do us a favour and notify the rink staff right away.
Pleasure-skating: always freely available. After 9 p.m., skating is unsupervised. Gates close at 11 p.m.
Parking: the best place to park is east of the rink on Dufferin Park Avenue (at the north boundary of the park). You have to walk west a short distance along the pedestrian walkway at the north side of the rink. Or you can park at the Dufferin Mall across the street.
Rink shinny hockey schedule:
Monday - Friday:
9:00am - 3:30pm all ages
3:30pm - 5:30pm Level 2 (about 13 to 17, medium pace)
5:30pm - 6:30pm Level 1 (12 and under and parent or caregiver, or novice adult)
6:30pm - 7:45pm all ages
7:45pm - 8:55pm Level 3 (usually 18 and over, fast-paced)
SEASONAL AND WEEKLY PERMITS FOLLOW — CONTACT STAFF
9:00am - 12:00pm all ages
12:00pm - 1:30pm Level 1 (12 and under and parent or caregiver, or novice adult)
1:30pm - 3:45pm all ages
3:45pm - 5:15pm Level 2 (about 13 to 17, medium pace)
5:15pm - 7:00pm all ages
7:00pm - 8:45pm Level 3 (usually 18 and over, fast paced)
WEEKLY PERMITS FOLLOW — CONTACT STAFF
10:00am - 6:00pm No shinny hockey. Pleasure skating both sides. (9.45 - 1.30 learn-to-skate program on part of the ice)
SEASONAL PERMITS FOLLOW
Single-occasion permits are available Tuesday and Wednesdays 10 p.m.-11 p.m., Fridays 9 p.m. - 10 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturdays 9 p.m. to closing. For adults the single-occasion permits cost $67.50. For children and youth, there is no charge. To book a permit, call the rink at 416/392-0913 and leave a message.
IN THE EVENT OF SNOW, IF RINK USERS HELP STAFF IN CLEARING THE ICE, THE RINK OPENS FASTER. WE HAVE LOTS OF SHOVELS, OR BRING YOURS FROM HOME.
RINK PHONE NUMBER: 416 392-0913
The rink phone message will tell you the current ice skating conditions
Rink information (for all city rinks) is also available on our City Rinks pages
RINK HOUSE IS OPEN 9-4 ON CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS DAY
RINK HOUSE IS OPEN 9-6 ON NEW YEAR'S EVE. ICE SURFACE WILL STAY OPEN 8 a.m.-11 p.m. AS USUAL ON THOSE DAYS.
For the past three years we've locked the hockey rink at eleven p.m. but kept the pleasure-skating side unlocked all the time. But young men in Toronto are so keen to play late-night hockey that they took to coming to our rink at 2 or 3 in the morning, to play by the half-light of the building illumination. The rink's neighbours began to have serious sleep deprivation (pucks slamming against the boards are loud!) So we've now resumed locking up the whole rink at eleven. We're hoping that the rinks located further away from houses, like High Park rink, can be unlocked at night to allow for 24 hour shinny hockey on both rink pads. Shinny hockey is a wonderful sport, winter is only four months long, and Toronto has more outdoor artificial ice rinks than any city in the world. Hopefully the Parks management will find a way to make "midnight hockey" possible this winter. If you want to encourage the city to unlock High Park rink, or other rinks more remote from houses, at night, call city rinks manager James Dann at 416 392-1122, or email him at Jdann@toronto.ca. Maybe he can help.
The November neighbourhood information meeting about the new 254-unit development being built at Dovercourt and Bloor was packed. Almost 300 people came to listen and make comments. The Dufferin Grove Residents' Association has re-formed to address issues arising from the development. Blueprints, drawings, comments, other good ideas about housing are posted at the rink house, and contact numbers as well.
Here's a gift for the person on your list who has everything. Our search for the reasons why so many parks playgrounds were torn out -and replaced with equipment that was often much inferior - has been very frustrating. So have our other fact-finding efforts: for instance, trying to persuade the city to publish a yearly list of consultants' contracts - amount, company, and what the contract was for. Why such a list? An example: not only did city council recently approve a consulting contract for $800,000 to do a "state-of-good-repair" inventory of Parks and Recreation facilities - at the same time as there's very little money to actually fix things -- but only three years earlier, they had hired a different consulting company to do an inventory of the same buildings for almost $400,000.
When there is only a finite amount of money to do good things - as there is for most of us, and it's true for tax money too - it's important to make sure it's spent well! It's time for some "transparency."
The Friends of Dufferin Grove Park have a research arm called CELOS: CEntre for LOcal research into public Space. For the past 6 months, this group has been trying to find out how money gets spent. Parks and Recreation, and the Policy and Planning section that has control of the capital funds for building new facilities and making improvements in parks, refused to answer most of CELOS' "transparency" questions directly, so we had to go through the city's freedom of information office. But even that step often got either a very slow response (much slower than the information law's 30 days), or no response at all. Finally, CELOS sent a letter to the province's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, asking to meet with her to discuss what seemed a pretty big problem of non-compliance with the freedom of information laws by the city.
Dr. Cavoukian's assistant wrote us back, saying that the Commissioner was already working on the problem (she had cited the City of Toronto as being too slow in her last annual report). The assistant commissioner also said we'd have to file a separate appeal for each request that the city had not answered within 30 days. That comes with a fee: $25 per appeal.
Our first appeal was registered on Nov.17. (We had asked the city how many lawsuits and settlements they had to pay since amalgamation, for injuries in city-owned public space. Total previous lawsuits against the city for playground injuries in the past fifty years were: one, in 1971). The provincial commissioner ordered the city to respond to our inquiry by Dec.1. But they didn't comply with that order either. So the city has now received a follow-up order to reply by Dec.8. We'll see where the province goes next.
The next appeals we have to make concern:
The park friends don't have that much money to spend outside of the park, on all these freedom of information appeals. Want to give the park a Christmas present? Sponsor a Freedom of Information appeal about the city's secrecy.
Pick your topic from our list. It's a shame that it had to come to this. But in case you have someone on your Christmas list who has everything, buy them a Freedom of Information appeal, for $25. It's a highly original present, and it's a gift that keeps on giving - sooner or later, if we can afford to buy enough appeals, the city will begin to answer the citizens' questions directly. (The gift appeal comes with a gilt card featuring one of Jane LowBeer's original park illustrations, and as we get each answer, the sponsors get a loaf of fresh park bread and a framed record of the answer put up on the rink house wall.) For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
Most of the farmers have still got lots to sell, and in the winter they're allowed to import as well (only our regular farmers can import, only organics, and only in winter). So every kind of food is available on Thursdays, most of it certified organic. Ute Zell of Stonehenge Farms has begun to bring various local cheeses to the market (not all organic but most of it made by artisan cheesemakers, including also a bit from Quebec). Anne Freeman, manager of our farmers' market, has joined the Ontario Cheese Society and made some good new connections. To find out more about what's available at our market, go to our market page. You'll find Anne's description of her recent visit to a cheesemakers' conference there. People with strollers, please take note: if you can manage it, strollers really need to stay outside during the market. Otherwise there's no room to move! NOTE: FINAL MARKET BEFORE CHRISTMAS IS THURSDAY DECEMBER 23
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 (you'll be sending a blank email to the group, and will receive an automated reply confirming your subscription).
THIS MONTH'S NEWSLETTER SPONSORED BY MEL GREEN
Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason; Illustrations: Jane LowBeer
Technical support: John Culbert
Webmasters:Henrik Bechmann, Joe Adelaars, Caitlin Shea
Park phone: 416 392-0913; street address: 875 Dufferin Street
List Serve: Emily Visser, Bernard King
Park photographer: Wallie Seto
Printing: Quality Control Printing at Bloor and St. George