friends of dufferin grove park
November 2005 Newsletter
posted November 3, 2005



Newsletter prepared by:
Jutta Mason

Jane LowBeer

Technical support:
John Culbert

Henrik Bechmann,
Joe Adelaars

Park phone:
416 392-0913

street address:
875 Dufferin Street


Park photographer: Wallie Seto

Quality Control Printing at Bloor and St. George

Volume 6 Number 11, November 2005



Some people in the neighbourhood recently got a flyer about this in their mailbox. From park friend and cob builder Georgie Donais:

I want to call your attention to an upcoming meeting to discuss the future of Dufferin Grove Park. The flyer says,"The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a framework for setting future directions for the Park use."
When I read that, I feel somewhat alarmed, for at least two reasons:
1) I read "framework" to be "governance structure" and am worried about how such structures have worked against innovation and action in other parks;
2) It seems to me that this park already has its own unique way of deciding its own "future directions" and doesn't need help from the city for this.
    I do think the city should be requesting meetings with the friends and neighbours of Dufferin Grove Park, so that they can learn how we make this park such a vital and exciting place, and how they can help other neighbourhood communities develop their own rich community gathering places. With our farmers' market, Friday night suppers, and community-supported building projects (the ovens and cob wall), you might agree that we have a lot of expertise to share with the city.
    We do need the city's help in many other areas, namely to open our rink in a timely fashion and to provide the park with an adequate budget to operate it like the "community centre without walls" that it has become. Maybe we can ask them about these issues at the meeting. I am asking you to come to the meeting to lend your voice in support of the organic way that Dufferin Grove Park has evolved, and to declare your confidence in its continuing ability to do so.
    I note that the picture on the flyer seems to be of some other park. If this is an indication of an attitude that all parks are interchangeable, then the city does indeed have a lot to learn from us. The flyer says that "your input is valued and appreciated". Let's go and find out if that is really true. If you are as concerned as I am, please consider phoning three friends to let them know about this meeting.”

There will be very good child care at the meeting, right next to the meeting room, so feel free to bring your kids.  The City is sending some “organization effectiveness consultants” to run this meeting. The City people do not wish any direct discussion of Parks and Recreation financial matters, but they are willing to carry back any such questions to City Hall. So this meeting may also be an opportunity to show city staff that there are more people than just Jutta Mason who wonder where the money goes.


* Mrs. Katie Price, our park friend in Calgary who gave us the “grandmother grant” two years ago, recently sent us a parcel of about a hundred brightly-coloured dishcloths that she knitted with cotton yard. You’d think it was Christmas, the way the park staff welcomed this gift. They have to do a lot of dishes, and Mrs. Price’s dishcloths are the best. (Well, except for our farmers’ market knitting teacher Jan Schallert’s dishcloths, which are just as fine, only not so numerous.)

* Tere Oulette,
the owner of a wonderful toy store called Scooter Girl Toys at 187 Roncesvalles, and a very loyal friend of the park, once again sponsored this printing of the newsletter. Tere says she loves the park and she’s sponsoring one print run every month.

* Bruce Whittaker, a park neighbour, woke up at 2.30 a.m. recently to hear awful sounds of crashing and smashing in the park. He called the police, who by good luck happened to be in the area, and who arrived within minutes.  They arrested a young fellow who was using rocks to smash the taps on the cob courtyard sinks, the newsletter boxes, and the mosaic diaper-change area. He had put particular effort into smashing the little kids’ painted tiles. That may give us a clue – could it be that this young guy was the same one who did the other, similar pattern of damage?
    The young man was charged with “mischief under $5000” and we’ll try to follow him through court and see if we can get the judge to order him to do community-service hours learning how to repair cob walls and do plumbing – at this park.
    Silvie Varone was looking at the broken newsletter boxes that she’d made for the park, and saying she’d have to build them new. But some of us asked her to try and glue the original ones back together, so we can see the mend-lines. We want the cob courtyard to show its stories. The cob wall is strong because of all the hands that built it. It can absorb a lot of stories – even the story of a young, foolish man who (from rumours we’ve heard around the park) may have come into a lot of trouble in his life already, and who decided to destroy kitchen sinks and the drawings of children. If this guy is lucky, and the cob builders get their hands on him, he may learn how to build, instead of just destroying. If he’s even luckier, he may decide that building is much more fun than snorting powders that make one guy have the destructive strength of three.
    Bruce stood out in the cold and the dark of the park in the middle of the night for over an hour, giving his statement to the police. Not a good way to pass a night – but a real gift to the park. The gift of Bruce’s time and tiredness began to bring the vandal into focus as a real person rather than an imaginary horde.


In the last newsletter, there was news of a major rebuilding project at Wallace Rink that would cost almost $1 million but would leave the slummy rink change house and outdoor seating area untouched, and dangerously cut off as before. Many rink users wrote and called the City, with success. The City staff responded, and the project has now been postponed for a year. That means rink staff and rink users can put their heads together and come up with an improved building plan.
    This winter, Wallace Rink, Dufferin Rink and Campbell Rink will function as a “cluster,” thereby making shinny hockey permits easier to get, and thus attracting more rink users to Wallace to help solve the (serious) design problems there.  One idea is to have a Lego model of the rink in the change area, that can be rebuilt in many different ways by rink users as they try to work out the best ideas. Another idea is to paint different versions of the building blueprints on the slummy change house walls, for discussion. A picture is worth a thousand words!
    If anybody has extra Lego pieces in their cupboard, consider donating them to Wallace Rink to help the project. And if anyone knows any workers at the Lego factory (in Kitchener?), maybe you’d ask them for a few sackfuls, to support this project of community architecture?
    The process would also make an interesting movie, and we’ve asked Cavan Young to think about it (he made the NFB “Citizen Zamboni” film about the safety inspectors).
    To pass on your good ideas or get more involved, call the park at 416 392-0913, or e-mail and a park staff person will help you get connected.

Back in 2001, city council cut the outdoor rink budget citywide, down to only 10 weeks a year. Since then it’s been a struggle every year to add the weeks back in again, in this winter country full of hockey and skating lovers, of all ages and both genders. (Portuguese kids seem to love hockey more than anything, and Chinese kids are coming up fast behind, with a growing group of Jamaicans – who knew?) We thought the city had got our message last year; they opened a few rinks on November 27, and many others on Dec.4. But this year all rinks are scheduled to open on the same late date, December 10 (with the exception of two rinks staff “training” rinks opening on December 3, of which Rennie Rink is one and we may be the other). Harbourfront Rink, for comparison, opens on November 19.
    Many rink users sent e-mails to the City to protest the delays, resulting in a response from Parks, Forestry and Recreation General Manager Brenda Librecz. She wrote that this year’s schedule is actually a gain in rink time from last year. However, there seems to be some math problem in the City’s calculation, since there is actually a net loss of four weeks overall.
In this neighbourhood, from the middle of November, kids are knocking on the rink house door and stopping park staff on the street, saying: is it open yet? It's very sad having to say over and over, no it's not open, you can't skate yet.
    Treating all the rinks exactly the same is called “harmonization.” This can be seen as an equity issue or merely an unacceptable lack of responsiveness to citizens. It creates a situation where people who want fresh air and exercise are firmly turned away, at the same time as the Recreation Division's mandate is supposed to be increasing physical activity.
    So this is the year to educate the City councillors, and get them to re-visit their ill-considered 2001 decision to shrink the rink season everywhere. We’ve started a petition, to be sent to all the City councillors who voted for this measure (posted on the web site).  For more information, and to get copies of the petition to circulate among your skater friends, call the rink at 416 392-0913 and leave a message or e-mail

This winter, Wallace Rink, Dufferin Rink and Campbell Rink will function as a “cluster,” thereby making shinny hockey permits easier to get. There will also be open women’s shinny times at all three rinks, and for the first time, there will be all-day Sunday open shinny at Wallace Rink. (There’s very little shinny hockey available at city rinks on Sundays – a leftover of the old Toronto ban on Sunday sports?)
    Wallace Rink and Campbell Rink still have seasonal permit spaces left: to book one,  e-mail Manny at or leave him a message at 416 392-0913. You can also contact him through
    WOMEN’S OPEN SHINNY is on Wednesdays 9 to 11 p.m. at Dufferin Rink, Thursdays 8.30 to 10 at Wallace Rink, and Sundays 6 to 8 p.m. at Campbell Rink. Also, Deirdre Norman has organized a Women of Winter City-wide women’s shinny tournament for January 6-7 at Dufferin Rink. For more information, look on the web site at, click on “city rinks.” To contact Deirdre, call the park at 416 392-0913 and leave a message, or e-mail her at
    Skating lessons for both kids and adults are available at Dufferin Rink beginning December 10, for ten weeks: contact to get more information and to register. Skating and hockey classes are also offered at Wallace Rink beginning January 7. Rink coordinator Manny Silva writes: “Registration is Dec 10th. We offer learn to skate levels 1, 2 and 3 ages 6-12. Hockey school 3 age groups 6 to 8, 9 to 11 and 12 to 14. All programs are for 8 weeks at a cost of $26 per course.”
    There’s “Learn to play shinny for adults,” taught by Lawrence Barichello, at Dufferin Rink on Sundays at 6 p.m. to 7.30. Registration is on Nov.20. From Lawrence: “All adult beginner men and women are welcome who can basically turn and stop on skates. This is for beginners only.  The idea is for people who have really never played before to learn the basics. If you can already play and have skills you will not be allowed to participate. $90 per person for the whole season.  (This fee goes to the City for cost of ice time only—lessons are free!) This season, we will be collecting the entire $90 fee in advance during registration night.” There will also be additional ice time for practice games, times TBA. To contact Lawrence, call 416-530-4810 or e-mail him at  He also has a beginners-shinny web site:


This past summer it became evident that the gardens in the park have got too big for the voluntary gardeners. (Our park gets no City gardeners.) Reema, Klaudia, and now Chris, put their heads together with the park staff and made a plan that involves some shrinkage.  It also involves more composting; moving perennials into areas that had annuals in them until this year; and planting lots of donated spring bulbs.  
So the day after Hallowe’en, the project began.  
1.The many self-seeded sunflowers in front of the building were removed (they’ll re-seed again) and their flowers were stuck into vases or given away to passersby.
2. The bricks that park friend Margie Rutledge arranged ten years ago in a flower pattern (but are now surrounded by weeds) were lifted and used to pave over a much-trampled flower bed beside the farmers’ market area. (Too much foot traffic – but for a good cause).
3. The unrotted vegetable scraps in the compost were moved to a new bin and the rotted compost that was left in the bins was spread out over the children’s gardens to help the pizza vegetables grow well next year.
4. The three-chambered compost bin in the children’s garden was were dismantled, and new single-chamber bins (old skid bins donated by Downtown Lumber and brought here by park friend Alan Carlisle) were started near various gardens (more to come). The plan is to have each small compost bin stay in its place for a year, leaching out good nutrients to the gardens nearby and yielding half-done compost in fall, which can be spread into garden beds in the winters, to finish decomposing there. Then the bins get moved to the next lucky location. This style of composting will need the least labour power.
5. The perennials beside the rink will be now be moved to the beds at the front of the rink house, and the gardens beside the chain-link fence will be narrowed to leave room only for  Arie Kamp’s morning glories and Ben Figueiredo’s grapevines. That makes more room for the rink access path. The gardeners are hoping to add a few more roses at the front – donations welcome.
6. Next comes the preparation of a large new tree nursery/perennial bed beside the cob courtyard. That whole area will first be planted with a mystery donation of six bags of best-quality spring bulbs. (Bulb donations are always welcome!)
7. Uyen Dias, a City arborist, will map out some locations for tree replacement (now postponed to the spring). A few trees – good small native stock from neighbourhood gardens -- will be planted before the snow flies.  Our best counsel for tree planting came from park friend and landscaper Gene Threndyle, whose little tree nurseries in various parts of the park are thriving – with minimal labour.
8. Those people who dug the foundation for the cob courtyard found that the soil down there is pure sand, so Georgie Donais suggests leaving the leaf piles there instead of vacuuming them up (by the City). Brian Green, the City maintenance supervisor, has agreed – so if you see a parks worker hauling the leaves away from the playground, ask them – in a friendly way – to stop! The leaves will add much-needed humus to the sand.
9. If you want to help out with any of the gardens, you’ll get a warm welcome. Let the staff know and they’ll connect you: call the park at 416 392-0913 and leave a message, or e-mail


The annual “Night of Dread” on October 29 attracted more than two thousand people at the height of the parade. Organizer David Anderson and his Clay and Paper Theatre put together a program in the park afterwards that included giant puppets, cyclists with fire in their wheels, live music, candle-lit shrines, and the “burning of the fears” around the bonfire at the very end. By the time the group gathered around the fire, many people had already left, but the crowd was still big enough that it was hard for an un-miked voice to be heard. So the costumed “master of the fear-burning” didn’t say much – he just held up the painted signs one by one and then put them into the fire, where they burned with sparks flying dramatically high.
    The crowd shouted out the “fears” as each sign was held up, and after a time, it began to seem that it wasn’t fears that were being burned, but the things themselves: “cops,” “old age homes,” “SUVs,” and of course “George Bush,” over and over again. There was chanting of “Burn! Burn! Burn!”  and loud cheering within the circle around the bonfire, and for a few moments it seemed that maybe the crowd was sliding into a vindictive spirit.
    Those moments provided a pretty gripping whiff of a big fear that affects many spots in the world at the moment – a fear of people’s intolerance surging into violence. Only this time it wasn’t “them.” It was just a hint, in ourselves – a reminder not to be complacent about how nice we are, or how good this neighbourhood is.  The Night of Dread parade was a spirited occasion and lots of people had a lovely time, dancing on the streets and in the park, with stilt walkers and puppets and many people in wonderful costumes. But such occasions can have a double edge, showing us things about ourselves that are truly scary.


There are three campfire sites in fall and winter: the campfire circle in the middle of the park, the cob courtyard fireplace, and the campfire circle right by the rink. The park staff will give you free wood for the cob courtyard fireplace – to encourage activity down there and discourage more visits by a vandal. The water is turned off and the taps are removed for the winter, but electricity is still available – the park staff can switch it on if needed. One important reminder: the cob courtyard is for everyone, all the time – if you have a fire down there, don’t spread out over the whole courtyard, and welcome others who come by.  Georgie Donais says we need cob ambassadors.
    The other fire permits cost $10 and you have to bring wood. To find out more, or book a permit, call the park at 416 392-0913 and leave the staff a message, or e-mail them at


The Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation, which helped fund the cob courtyard project (and before that helped us get the current park web site started) puts out a very handsome “Tree portraits” desk calendar, showing many old giants from various Toronto parks. In the 2006 version a Dufferin Grove Park red elm is featured for the month of June. The photographer is Geoffrey James – who is not only internationally renowned but who lives in this neighbourhood. He and his wife buy their food at the farmers’ market. Small world! The text comments about our park, by Pleasance Crawford, hit the nail on the head about the need to plant young trees in this park. She has many interesting things to say about all the parks and the different trees, and there’s a foreword from Margaret Atwood. It’s a thoughtful, intelligent calendar with luminous black-and-white tree pictures that you can get lost in. No wonder that last year the calendar sold out early. If you want to place an early Christmas order, the Parks and Trees Foundation phone number is 416 397-5178. (And the money will go to other good projects in Toronto parks.)


The farmers’ trucks are still overflowing with their harvest.  There’s lots of prepared food too, tasty park bread, snacks. Leave yourself extra time when you go there because it’s also a place where neighbours run into each other and news is exchanged (face to face instead of electronically!). To get on the weekly market news e-list, contact market manager Anne Freeman (leave her a message at the park or e-mail her at