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August 2014

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


August 2014 newsletter

Clay and Paper Theatre: Night of Dread costumes

Events in August

Saturday August 2 to August 17: Clay and Paper Theatre presents Animal Nature, Wednesday through Sunday at 8 p.m. (See article on page 5)

Tuesday August 12, 8 pm: Rhiannon Archer and Helder Brum present Fireside Tales -- storytelling. The second in a series of free shows at the main campfire circle. For more information:

Thursday August 21, 6.30 to sunset: Scottish Country dancing at Dufferin Grove Park. This is a program of easy dances -- everyone is welcome to join in jigs and reels like “Highland Fair” and “A reel for Jeannie.” East of the basketball court.

Friday August 22, 6.30 to 8.30: kickoff concert for the Tune Your Ride Bicycle Music Tour From the organizers: The 2014 Tune Your Ride Tour will take four Toronto-based folk musicians from Brockville to Toronto by bicycle. Covering almost 400 kilometres without a support vehicle and carrying their instruments and a full PA with them, these modern-day troubadours will play eight bike-powered concerts in towns along the route.

Building on the success of four consecutive years of presenting the Bicycle Music Festival in Toronto, the Tune Your Ride Collective is thrilled to follow in the tire tracks of bicycle-touring legends The Ginger Ninjas and our mentors SHAKE YOUR PEACE! by taking our show on the road with this second annual bike-powered adventure!

Drop-in yoga (free):

Thursdays 6 to 7 p.m. in the park during the summer (June to August) and Sundays 10:30 – 11.30 a.m. (July and August).

From the organizers: A free 60 minute yoga class. The class is designed for all levels and abilities to participate. An opportunity for people to stretch, discover the sense of community in the park, and connect with nature. There is something so powerful when we are able to feel the earth beneath our feet, look up to the sky, feel the breeze and give ourselves permission to play.

The Campfire program is running low on summertime slots

As of the middle of July, all summer Saturday campfire slots had been booked. There are still some openings on the other days. Look up the available spots online at

The new “Reflexology Footpath” at Dufferin Grove Park

Many people who use Dufferin Grove Park either knew Jenna Morrison personally or heard about her tragic death in a bike accident in 2011 at the corner of Dundas West and Sterling Avenue as she was riding her bike to pick up her son from school.

Jenna’s husband Florian Schuck, her family and friends, undertook to memorialize Jenna by putting a “reflexology footpath” in Dufferin Grove Park. From Florian: “When Jenna came back after a trip with her mother to South Korea in 2001, she was enthusiastic about her discovery of the reflexology footpath. The reflexology footpath consists of a bed made of concrete in which cobblestones of various shapes and sizes are embedded to various degrees. Some are upright while others are flat, protruding the surface of the concrete at slightly different heights. As one walks the path barefoot or in socks, the acupressure points of the foot are massaged.”

Construction began in June, and for most of the time was focused on the walled gardens in the centre of the two loops of the path (the path is shaped like an infinity symbol). On July 26, Jenna and Florian’s young son Lucas cut the ribbon with his father’s help, with Jenna’s mother Darlene standing beside them, as well as Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailao and mayoral candidates Karen Stintz and Olivia Chow. The opening received wide media coverage both locally and nationally, even overseas.

Since the opening, a wide variety of uses are being made of the path. Most people walk on it in their bare feet or socks, but some walk it with shoes on, some kids cycle along the loop, and someone was even observed walking their old dog around it – and the dog seemed to like it! The big boulder in the middle of one of the loops has quickly become a climbing destination for little adventurers as well. More information about how the path works is posted nearby.

Finally, more sandpit sand and shovels

Over the first half of summer, the supply of shovels at the adventure-playground sandpit slowly dwindled, and the level of sand got lower and lower. That’s just normal – so many kids use that part of the playground that shovels have to be replaced from time to time, and so does the sand that goes home in kids’ shoes. For many weeks, no new shovels were issued by the City, which made for scarcity-related unhappiness at the playground. Funds were not there for a load of new sand either. All the little dam-builders and house-builders need sand and proper tools! But at the end of July, two truckloads of sand and new shovels arrived, and the kids could get busy again. The sandpit is so simple and so well-used: all it needs is good care.

Picnic-table painting party

update Aug 18th

The Dufferin Grove picnic tables are in need of a touch-up for the fall. We hope you'll join us on August 24th, between 9:00 am and noon next to the pizza oven to paint picnic tables. Paint and brushes will be provided, though if you have your own brushes we encourage you to bring them. There will be free pizza and juice for volunteers during the public pizza time, 12:00-2:00. If you would like to join, please confirm by emailing or calling 416-392-0913.

City management has recently given permission for park users to paint the park’s peeling picnic tables themselves. The painting party will be scheduled as soon as Parks maintenance staff send over some brushes and green paint.

Public spending on park design

An interesting public discussion broke out in June in Toronto, about the cost of park projects in general and “Sugar Beach” Park on the waterfront in particular. City Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong announced that after his office spent four years trying to find out the cost of the Sugar Beach project, Waterfront Toronto had finally released the numbers. The park, just east of the foot of Yonge Street on Queen’s Quay, cost $14.1 million, including two granite rocks from Quebec for $529,800 and three dozen pink umbrellas for $11,565 each. The councillor felt that cost was extravagant.

But deputy mayor Norm Kelly disagreed with him. Here’s a quote from a June 27 Toronto Star article by Paul Moloney: “It’s the photographs of Sugar Beach that count,” said Kelly, chair of council’s executive committee. “It’s those photographs that tourists take, it’s the photographs of that beach that go into brochures and websites.
“It’s all of that first-class investment that gets projected around the world and brands us, the city of Toronto, as world class and first class. And if you don’t understand that, I would argue that you don’t understand the world that we live in.”

Star architecture critic Christopher Hume didn’t want to limit himself to calling dissenters ignorant about the realities of today’s branded photo-op world. He characterised people who question Sugar Beach as “the angry, the bored, the dumb, the cynical, the intellectually lazy, the city-haters….. Like Minnan-Wong, they are comfortable settling for second-rate.”

The Star linked Hume’s piece to a 2011 article quoting Robert Freedman, at that time the director of urban design for the city’s planning department. Places like Sugar Beach, said Freedman, “… help residents connect in an often impersonal urban centre…..It’s the space where everyone gathers, and that’s crucial for a city. You need spaces where people can come together in public to socialize.” Sugar Beach got a Toronto Urban Design Award the year it opened.

Not quite everyone in the world agrees that people who question designs like Sugar Beach are just foolish. Rosie DiManno, writing in the Star a week after Hume’s article, called it “profoundly condescending.” And there’s a broader skepticism about the religion of “award-winning design” in public space. Fred Kent, the director of the Project for Public Spaces in New York, after a visit to Toronto a few years ago, wrote a piece in his blog called “Whom does design really serve?” It’s about the park just down the road from Sugar Beach, Sherbourne Common. The park features an experiment in treating storm water with UV raditation, and therefore it cost even more than Sugar Beach: $28 million. (Waterfront Toronto declined to tell us how much of the budget was specifically for the park as opposed to water treatment – that information is not meant to be public.) Here are Mr.Kent’s comments after his visit:

“On a recent trip to Toronto, I visited Sherbourne Common, a waterfront park designed by Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg. Walking around the park, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were actually passing through an elite museum’s pristine sculpture garden. Everything is placed just so, in a way that has created an environment so totally uninviting and ignorant of how human beings want to use public space that I knew, within moments of arriving, that what I was seeing was undoubtedly an “award-winning” design.

Indeed, Sherbourne Common received a National Honor Award from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects—Canada’s highest honor for landscape design—earlier this year.

Something is desperately wrong with a system in which a place like Sherbourne Common is deemed worthy of this kind of adulation. This is a place where pieces of play equipment are separated by vast stretches of grass and pavement, siloing different modes of play and neutralizing their capacity for sparking children’s imaginations. Watching the handful of youngsters that were there trying to play on aimless gravel strips and concrete steps was almost painful. Imagine if you will a single swing poised, absurdly, alone; yards away, across swaths of pebbles and stone, some “sculptural” play equipment; and harried parents trying to keep track of their children as they dart between these far-flung art pieces….

The contrast with Dufferin Grove Park, another stop on this trip (and many trips before), is breathtaking. Dufferin features a mix of activities and types of spaces: quiet groves, bustling playgrounds, campfires, a farmer’s market, and one of the most amazing sand pits you’ll find anywhere. Unlike the visitors to Sherbourne Common, most of whom looked confused or simply lost, the people in Dufferin Grove were beaming. It’s one of the best places I’ve ever been, no question.

Park friends and program staff at Dufferin Grove have never tried to connect with the professional design world. They adapted and modified what was available –finding old benches when there were not enough places for sitting and chatting (and starting friendships), making sand and water and wood available for children’s play, encouraging the gifts of neighbours who wanted to put in more flowers or build a cob kitchen or enliven the park in the evenings with campfires. All of it was done piece by piece without any architectural design. Does that mean that those who prefer Dufferin Grove over Sugar Beach could be described as “comfortable settling for second-rate,” as the Star’s architecture critic seems to suggest? Or does it mean that park friends, citywide, who prefer their local parks over elaborate designs costing millions, know that despite the professional awards and media enthusiasm, the pink umbrella emperor may have no clothes?

Clay and Paper Theatre: Twenty Years in Dufferin Grove Park

In 1994, the Dufferin Grove Park had a little problem. The south side of the field house, out of the sight lines of St.Mary’s High School, had become an unofficial “marijuana club.” And those fellows who gathered there daily were not the dreamy kind of weed smokers. When they got high, they got energetic. The park’s main drinking fountain, used by teams who were playing field sports, was located where the “club” met. The fountain was vandalized and pushed over so many times that finally the Parks maintenance staff just put a danger fence around it and left it lying on the ground.

That year, David Anderson of Clay and Paper Theatre was looking for a garage where he could store some of the theatre’s papier-mache puppets.

Some park friends asked him if he might be interested in moving the puppets, and his puppet-making materials, into the unused park field house instead. The idea was that if Clay and Paper used the field house not only for storage but also as a workshop, there would be “eyes on the park” – and on the marijuana club. Park friends proposed the idea to the Parks and Recreation director. He thought it was worth trying. David moved his puppets in, and he started building new puppets with his group. The field house soon became a draw for people to drop by and watch what the theatre people were making.

That wholesome scene seemed to make the marijuana club guys feel they were suddenly in the wrong movie. They soon stopped coming there. The drinking fountain was relocated and repaired, so the players on the sports field could once again quench their thirst.

That’s how easily a problem could be fixed in pre-amalgamation days, before the city administration was so big. And the fix didn’t stop there. Clay and Paper began to add spectacle to the park, bringing much more in return for their puppet-making space than had been asked. Over the last twenty years they’ve presented original plays, a new one almost every year. There was a year when fire (as in bake-ovens) was the theme, another year it was finance (and Wal-Mart), another year it was the Portuguese hero and poet Camoes. Up to now there have been 19 original plays, drawing in actors and musicians and visual artists. The troupe is mostly student artists, many of them hired through the Canada Summer Jobs program. (The program relies on the federal MP’s support and is often announced at the last possible moment – a cliff-hanger for Clay and Paper’s rehearsal schedule.)

David says there have been unexpected adventures over the past 20 years. One year there happened to be political demonstrations downtown in front of the U.S. Consulate. Back at the park, when the giant puppets came out for the park’s annual Clay and Paper production, the police showed up – on horseback and with backups. It took a little while for the troupe to convince them that this was a play, not an outlier anarchist demonstration bound for the consulate. And there was another year when a robbery scene in Clay and Paper’s play about finance (called “Gold”) seemed so real to a passerby in the park that he called 911. The Fourteen Division gang squad came out very fast (and sized up the situation and left).

Of course, Clay and Paper hasn’t only been doing performances, they also put on the yearly “Night of Dread” community parade, always on the Saturday before Hallowe’en. Some years there have been a thousand people taking part. David Anderson recalls that one year, when he set off with the band and the police escort, and the parade started to leave the park, a stranger marched up to the other end of the crowd, held up a banner, and summoned people to follow him. So the parade started off in two opposite directions. Anderson had to stop the parade, remove the “parade thief,” and get the parade going back the right way.

This year an unexpected, rather painful “adventure” has caused the summer play’s opening to be postponed by a week. A cast member smashed her knee cap in a bike accident three days before the original opening date, and another cast member was sidelined with pneumonia. So the play had to be quickly rejigged for the new circumstaces, and new rehearsals were needed. The opening date is Saturday August 2.

August 2 to August 17th, 2014: CLAY & PAPER THEATRE presents Animal Nature: Wednesday through Sunday @ 8:00pm. Director David Anderson sends this quote from writer Farley Mowat: “…our failure [is] to understand, to recognize, to celebrate our non-humanity, our animality… if we could overcome this failure and come to terms with our animalilty, there may be some hope.”

The new show is inspired by Mowat’s quote. Here is the company description: “Clay & Paper Theatre’s 2014 summer show is an epic papier-mâché tale of the search for the way home. Animal Nature is filled with a decidedly Canadian mélange of creature characters and giant puppets on a fateful journey through Dufferin Grove Park. Owl, Caribou, Possum, Grizzly, Orca and Humanimal have been displaced from their homes and must address the deceptively simple question “How did we get here?” Provocative puppetry at its best, Animal Nature is brimming with original design, music, dance, and signature Clay & Paper Theatre satire and wit gone awry. With its cast of puppet tricksters and merrymakers, Animal Nature rallies audiences to embrace their inner animals, to revel in the beauty of the earth and to find the way home together.”

The Dufferin Grove Garden Club, Wednesdays 4 – 6, Sundays 3 – 5 pm, everyone welcome

From the garden program staff’s blog, July 27: “With the garlic now bundled and drying in the rinkhouse, we've got space in the garden to plant more seeds for fall crops. We'll be starting to plant peas as well as more radishes, beets, and greens. We'll also start tying our tomato plants to their trellises and, now that all the plants are getting so big, we'll make sure to leave some time for harvesting kale, swiss chard, and possibly zucchini. On Sunday, we'll start our session in the south-east part of the park as we did last week, in the children's pollinator garden.”

Wading Pools: the story to date

Now that it’s summer, the wading pools are open....sort of. They close and re-open, close and reopen, every two or three hours. Since Toronto Public Health got much more involved with the wading pools three years ago, these once well-used neighborhood play pools have become a lot less enjoyable for families.

In May, sixteen parents wrote a letter to Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s medical officer of health (in charge of the Public Health staff), asking for an in-depth conversation about the problems that are caused by the new public health routines at the wading pools. To date he has not responded. So at the end of July, one of the parents contacted CBC Radio’s Metro Morning show, and they ran the story on August 7, followed up by a CBC TV 5 pm news item later that day. Both shows included the story of another parent’s freedom of information request – showing that in the past 20 years, there has been not one incident of infection reported due to wading pools. The TV news item concluded with a quote from public health spokesperson Marco Vittiglio, giving the public health wading pool routines the credit for the “minimized outbreaks of waterborne diseases.”

Sadly, this is another example of the bad science used here by public health. Three years of their new routines don’t explain 20 years of no outbreaks (without most of the routines, for the other 17 years). And the downside of the increase in chlorination is the danger posed by the chlorination by-products, which are suspected of contributing to childhood asthma and even bladder cancer. More information: celos wading pool research.

The July newsletter outlined how institutional fears seem to have given the wading pool unit a form of compulsive anxiety disorder, causing the staff to fear the (safe) wading pool drains and ignore the (real) chlorine dangers. Wading pool management and their public health colleagues continue to avoid any direct conversation about these problems with parents, but there are small signs of change. At some wading pools, some of the time, children are being allowed to stay in the pools while they’re draining, giving them more time in the water. Some of the pool staff have been waiting for four hours before they put in new, icy-cold water. It appears, however, that on the rare hot days this past July, the state of alarm returned. Dufferin Grove wading pool was closed for three hours, for various staff deliberations, on the first really hot day in July. When the children were finally allowed in, there was pandemonium – and the staff seemed pretty rattled. But most days in July have been so cool that there have been, at most, 5 to 10 children in the water. Some smaller parks get no one all day, just two staff sitting there by themselves until the end of their shift. That’s because all the other fun poolside activities for kids were cancelled, so staff can only look at the water. This has to change. During August, the “Rescue our Toronto wading pools” slide show will be shown at Dufferin Grove beside the pool on warm days. And it’s on Facebook too.

Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market, every Thursday, 3 to 7 pm.

After a tough winter, the market has returned to its former state – heaps of good food and lots of people. One of the problems in summer is that people run into old friends, get involved in talking, and forget some of their groceries. If you do forget a bag or two, call the park staff – chances are they put them in a safe place.


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Web sites: Aseel Al Najim,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


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