Volume 6 Number 11, November 2005
CITY CALLS MEETING ABOUT DUFFERIN GROVE PARK, MONDAY NOVEMBER 7 AT 7
P.M., ST.MARY’S SCHOOL CAFETERIA (at the north end of the park)
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
RINK NEWS 1: WALLACE RINK
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
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
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
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 email@example.com and a park staff
person will help you get connected.
RINK NEWS 2: LATE OPENING
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
RINK NEWS 3: PLANS FOR THE SEASON
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 email@example.com or
leave him a message at 416 392-0913. You can also contact him
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 www.dufferinpark.ca, click on “city rinks.” To
contact Deirdre, call the park at 416 392-0913 and leave a
message, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skating lessons for both kids and adults are available at Dufferin Rink beginning December 10, for ten weeks: contact Mayssan@dufferinpark.ca 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 email@example.com.
He also has a beginners-shinny web site: www.tinyurl.com/8jjnj.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE MOB IN ALL OF US
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.
FIRE PERMITS IN FALL AND WINTER
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 email@example.com.
OUR PARK IS IN THE TREE PORTRAITS CALENDAR
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
THE FARMERS’ MARKET: EVERY THURSDAY 3 TO 7 P.M., ON THE RINK PAD
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 firstname.lastname@example.org).