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March 2009

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 10, Nr.3, March 2009

Outdoor rink in March, minus 3 celsius

For an independent community email list service and discussion group, see dufferingrovefriends

Events In March


March is the “brown month” in the park, also the mud month. But the rink clubhouse is dry and warm. The park cooks normally suspend the Friday Night Supper program in March and April, but this year they’re having too good of a time trying out new recipes. And there are important things to talk about (see below, and pages 5-6). Also, the economic slide is making cheap meals with neighbours at the park even more attractive than before. So the cooks are continuing with Friday night suppers.

Supper is on from 6 to 7.30, in the rink house. There is always soup, a vegan entrée, a meat entrée, a side dish, a salad, and dessert. Most of the groceries are bought at the organic farmers’ market on Thursday, and most of the cooking is done in the outdoor wood-fired bake-ovens. It’s very delicious food, and conforms largely to the 100-mile “locavore” boundary. There’s a suggested donation, all of which goes back into the park, and to pay for the groceries. But if you can’t spare the cash, donate at some other time – nobody goes away hungry! (Of course, if you feel like donating more than the suggested amount, that’s fine too.)


- March 13: Cob, Chickens & Community
Georgie Donais brings her pictures and stories of Portland, Oregon’s annual gathering, the Village Building Convergence, showing how the city nurtures community innovation and connection between citizens. And backyard chickens.

- March 20: Crime in the Neighbourhood
Michael Monastyrskyj has been following up local arrests in court for over a year. This is his first report back, telling real-life neighbourhood stories ranging from illegal wine sales, to arson, to gun arrests.

Click on poster to enlarge it.

- March 27: Music of the hydraulaphone
Dave Gildiner is bringing this new instrument, developed at the University of Toronto, back to the park. It will be set up in the front room, close to a drain – it makes sounds with jets of water! Local musicians will be accompanying the other-wordly sound.


Booked so far are: April 3, Mike Sullivan from the Weston Community Coalition, on the Georgetown Rail Corridor expansion; April 10 (Good Friday, no supper); April 17: Jutta Mason on Dufferin Grove Park as a community lab; April 24, Belinda Cole on the City of Toronto Act and how it affects local democracy. More topics TBA, suggestions welcome!


West End Bikeway Improvements - Open House

Tuesday, March 10, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Parkdale Public Library, Auditorium 1303 Queen Street West (between Cowan and Brock). This announcement was forwarded to on the Brockton Neighbourhood e-list by Farzana Doctor:
”As you may know, last fall the Toronto Cyclists Union and the City of Toronto invited cyclists in the downtown west end to submit their ideas for ways to improve cycling conditions in the area south of Bloor Street bounded by the Gardiner Expressway, Bathurst Street, and Parkside Drive. The deadline for submissions was November 5th, and nearly 70 responses were received. On November 27th, we hosted a follow-up meeting with those who submitted ideas to review the submissions and help prioritize bikeway projects that can be implemented in 2009 and 2010. An on-site cycling workshop to "ground proof" the suggestions was also held the following Saturday.

The input gathered through this collaborative process has been reviewed by City staff over the past few months. We invite you to attend a follow-up open house to learn more about the proposed projects and share your thoughts with us.”


From Dewson School parent Tori Smith: “Did you go to Dewson Street Public School? Were you a Dewson teacher or a Dewson parent? This year is the 125th anniversary of the school and we’re looking for all former Dewson folk to help mark the event. If you have any stories, photos or memories of the school contact me at or phone the school at (416)393-9120. On May 2nd (from 11-3) the school will be holding a open house and party with entertainment, historical displays, old-fashioned games, and, of course, birthday cake. There will be a chance to meet old friends and even record your memories on video. Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate the history of our school and our community!”


March 31st 2009 at 7:15 pm, Casa de Alentejo, 1130 Dupont Street (at Gladstone)
After the 23-hour hydro outage January 15-16, there was a follow-up public meeting at the Parkdale Library, to talk to Hydro One and Toronto Hydro representatives about what happened. Some people described the costly damage to their houses, mainly from frozen pipes and cracked boilers (for people who have radiators). Hydro’s investigation into the Dufferin transformer was not finished then, so M.P.P. Tony Ruprecht has scheduled a follow-up public meeting on March 31. Hydro One and Toronto Hydro staff will attend to talk about what their investigation showed and what they intend to do to prevent a recurrence (the blackout was caused by a sprinkler malfunction at the Dufferin Transformer Station, just north of the east-side Dufferin subway entrance). In the meantime, CELOS has posted meeting minutes and lots of other blackout-related materials on the website. There are some helpful “sadder-but-wiser” accounts from homeowners on what they would do next time, to avoid the broken-pipes damage. There are diagrams and blackout maps from the City and from Hydro. There are stories from elsewhere that put our local blackout in context – two weeks later, 1.3 million homes in the U.S. lost their hydro after an ice-storm that put both Kentucky and Arkansas into a state of emergency – some homes were out for longer than a week.

But just because we were luckier than others doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared for the next time. Any contributions to the CELOS material are very welcome: send them to An example: who knows an electrician who can convert gas furnaces so that they can run during a hydro blackout? How many people in the neighborhood have generators, and what can they tell us?


There is no formal association called “Friends Of The Park” at Dufferin Grove, but the park certainly has a lot of friends, and it’s time for these friends to tell their park stories.

Here’s why: Parks and Recreation management downtown have recently said they have many concerns about what goes on at Dufferin Grove Park, from the playground’s cob courtyard café in summer, to Friday night suppers, to the skate rental program, to the many un-permitted school visits to the rink. And there has been a suggestion that the recreation staff who run most of the programs must stop handling cash (for cookies, swim diapers, skate-rentals, pizza days, etc.), otherwise they might even be at risk of being investigated by the City auditor.

There is a wide gap between the message from downtown that Dufferin Grove is a place that breaks all the rules, and the sense, by park friends, that Dufferin Grove is a park that works unusually well.

It’s no wonder that there are different perceptions. Since the city was forced to amalgamate, and got so much bigger all at once, staff restructuring has been almost uninterrupted within Parks and Recreation. The general manager has been changed three times in ten years, the Parks director was suddenly dismissed three weeks ago, and very few of the staff who helped at the beginning are still around. It’s time for park friends to tell the park’s history, for all those who don’t want to lose it. Get ready….


RINK NEWS Dufferin Rink closed for the season on March 6…. …and so did all the other neighbourhood outdoor rinks whose season had been extended into March. Too many warm days, and too many rainy days – on March 5 it was 16 celsius and when that strong March sun came out, the rinks turned into ponds.

City Hall Rink at Nathan Phillips Square is still open until March 15, and Harbourfront Rink plans to keep its ice in until the end of March Break (March 22).


Is a website about all the city’s compressor-cooled outdoor rinks (49 of them – Toronto has more than any other city in the world). The website is not run by the City but by CELOS, (CEntre for LOcal research into public Space, pronounced “see-loss”), the little research group that got its start at Dufferin Grove Park in 2003.

The home page lists the fourteen rinks that are scheduled to remain open until mid-March, with links to their google maps and contact information. The website also has “rink diaries” covering the whole rink season, with lots of stories, and pictures of many outdoor rinks all over the city. And then there are the posted accounts of the various ice maintenance intrigues, the ice-and-sunshine cliffhangers, the short-lived triumphs, the one-step-forward-two-steps-back tempo of negotiations (if any) with rink management, the unexpected plot twists.

Here’s one such plot twist. For about ten years, some rink friends have tried to persuade the City’s outdoor rink management to open the rinks earlier, during the weak-sun days of mid-November, and close them when the sun gets high and strong at the end of February. This would be a shift in the season to correspond with the angle of the sun – basically a return to the rink season that used to be the norm.

This idea couldn’t find any friends at City Hall. Then about a year ago, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong got interested in it, and began trying to gain support for a citywide rink season shift from his councillor colleagues. No luck last year, so he tried again in December, asking for a staff report on how much it would cost to open fourteen rinks on November 21 this coming November (2009).

The staff report was very unfavourable to the idea. And a deputation at the Community Development and Recreation Committee, in favour of the earlier opening, got nowhere. The earlier-opening hope seemed dead until at least November 2010.

Then late one evening a couple of weeks ago, Jutta Mason got an e-mail from Councillor Minnan-Wong. City Council was meeting very late that night (until 2 a.m.!), to discuss the City budget, and the councillor wrote that he had managed to get the earlier opening date back onto the agenda. Not only that, but the tired councillors who were still in attendance voted 17 yes to 15 no! (Councillor Adam Giambrone says he was one of the “yes” votes.) So the earlier-opening resolution was snuck in again and passed.

Councillor Janet Davis, chair of the Recreation Committee, was quoted in the Toronto Sun the next day, saying that there is no money to do this, and that if the earlier opening went ahead next season, either our taxes would have to go up, or programs would have to be cut. City staff had estimated the cost at an extra $172,000 for the two weeks. But that doesn’t fit with the numbers that shows:


If the 14 designated rinks open on Nov.21, that means: Number of these rinks opening on time in 2009: 1 (City Hall Rink: scheduled for Nov.21)
Number of these rinks opening 1 week early in 2009: 5 (West Mall, Mel Lastman, Albert Campbell, Dufferin, and Rennie: already scheduled to open Nov. 28)
Number of these rinks opening 2 weeks early in 2009: 8 (Hodgson, Broadlands, Glen Long, Irving Chapley, Kew, Regent South, Sir Adam Beck, Sunnydale: scheduled for Dec.5.)

Broadlands, Glen Long, and Irving Chapley rinks are in North York. Rinks there have their own caretaker-zamboni operator, on-site anyway. The extra wage cost for those three NY rinks is therefore: $0 The minimum ice maintenance standard accepted by Parks for 9 central-Toronto major single pads for the whole of the past rink season was: 1-2 times in 24 hours.

The number of full-time Parks lead hands that have ice maintenance as part of their job description is: 59. If lead hands spend 1 hour of every workday between Nov.21-Dec.5 resurfacing a rink, with each rink being resurfaced twice a day, they could easily fit this into their other work (i.e. putting the parks “to bed” for the season). The additional staff cost to resurface outdoor rinks for the 1-2 extra weeks: 0.

That calculation would bring the earlier-opening cost closer to $80,000 (to power the rink compressors). That’s less than half the staff report’s estimate.

Those numbers were sent to Councillor Janet Davis, but there was no response. So City Council may still reverse its earlier vote and go back to the late-opening schedule. Stay tuned, at….


Jes Clauson-Kaas, who works for a very large Danish engineering firm called COWI ( recently wrote to the website: “I was reading on your home page and your ideas fit very well with a project we are starting up with Copenhagen municipality. We want to explore the possibility of treating and storing urban rainwater run-off for wading pools, fountains, recreational use and for making a more dynamic urban landscape. Especially with the increasing extreme rain we are experiencing, there is a need to temporarily store water within the city, in a way a controls flooding….and why not make a pleasure out of it?”

Mr.Clauson-Kaas asked for permission to use some park photographs we have on the website. When we asked if it wasn’t illegal in Denmark to reuse stormwater in this way, he said that they are very conscious of possible contamination, but. “… we have identified many of the components in run-off from different surfaces like roofs, parks, streets, etc. Roof water quality depends on roofing material and concentration of birds. Around Copenhagen Harbour for example, there are very few birds and according to the building code you are not allowed to use copper, zinc or tar (environmental toxins) for your roofing. Therefore we can swim in the harbour and eat the fish we catch. One of the issues we will study is if the rapid water treatment technologies available can make the stormwater safe for wading pools.”


Suri Weinberg-Linsky, from the Weston Community Coalition, recently wrote to the “dufferingrovefriends” neighbourhood e-list about the huge expansion planned for the rail corridor near here: '' “I wanted to introduce myself and touch base with regards to the Air Rail Link and GO Transit upgrade that will be taking place along the Georgetown Corridor which is just west of your location. As you may or may not be aware, the announcement of the link to Pearson from Union Station was made back in 2003 and in 2005 was scheduled to go forward and be built along with the GO upgrade''.

Our community of Weston, one of the oldest villages in Toronto, found out how it would devastate our neighbourhood: closing all our level crossings, effectively cutting the residential side off from the business main street including our Farmers' Market and increasing the train traffic from the current 65 or so trains per day to over 200. Based on the announcement and potential devastation, we formed a community group called the Weston Community Coalition.

We made some inroads into the Environmental Assessment process back in 2005 but that all changed last year with the new EA's for all transportation projects which will fast track these two projects and not allow for full assessment. Now, in 2009, we have found out that it won't just be the 140 diesel trains (which we object to) plus a few extra GO trains but will end up being over 350 trains per day by the time they do the Air Rail Link and the full upgrade to the GO service. It will effectively become the most heavily used corridor in all of North America and we believe the world! All trains will use diesel locomotives, not electric. We have been told that electrification is not possible and to move on. We keep pressing to find out why.

''Which leads me to why I am e-mailing you. While Dufferin Grove is not directly adjacent to the track line as we are, your neighbourhood will suffer during the season due to the extra diesel fumes and particulate matter hanging in the air. With over 200 diesel trains per day as an immediate projection, we can only imagine what our air will look like and smell like on a daily basis and what effect it will have on our 30 year old market not to mention our daily lives. The Georgetown Corridor is heavily populated by people from all walks of life, rich and poor and all deserve to know what kind of environment they will be living in in the years to come. By 2014, 5 short years from now, if Metrolinx has built the 2 systems they are insistent on proceeding on, we will have somewhere between 364 to 414 trains per day all running on diesel -- currently, we have under 70 trains daily.''

Why diesel, you might ask? Because they are cheaper than installing electrification and having to purchase new rolling stock. So our provincial government, which claims to be 'green' and 'environmental' would have all of us believe that by adding more diesel trains to service the GO Transit community, we are taking cars off the road and therefore are 'greening' our public transit. The Air Rail Link (ARL) is not public transit, however, and will be run by a private consortium similar to that of the 407 highway and in fact is the same company. They will charge whatever they wish and only a few stops will be made along the route -- not as public transit but as a private, for-profit elitist rail link for business class travellers…..……..

Please visit our website and get the details on this situation. We are asking all the communities, the ones that surround you, to also get involved and on board, so to speak. We have met with a variety of people in Brockton Village, Roncy, Parkdale and Liberty Village.

Our website is and our Chair can be reached via this website. We would be very happy to meet with your group at any time or send you information that you could send out if that is better for you. We are hoping to get more people especially from your catchment area to become involved as we are concerned that they are unaware of the situation. The Councillors and MPP's in your ridings are aware of what is happening but have been silent because their constituents have.”

A sample from the website:

This is a key issue for the city of Toronto. When completed, this project will have 368 diesel trains along the corridor, and if ViaFast service is built it will climb to 414. Even at 368 it is the busiest heavy rail corridor on the planet, so far as we can find. It is unconscionable that in this day and age, we are not electrifying this corridor which goes through some of the most densely populated parts of a major metropolitan area. Just the air rail link diesel trains will produce 6 times more particulate matter pollution than the cars they take off the road, and provide only a small decrease in Greenhouse Gases over cars. So far as we know, no studies have been done to examine the effects of this level of heavy diesel traffic on human health, or on wildlife at the various river crossings.

Metrolinx has told us that they have tight deadlines to complete this project, (2014, we think so it can be in time for the Pan Am Games). No work has been done on electrification, so this project undergoing this Environmental Assessment cannot be electrified, they have told us

The message from the Weston Coalition started a long thread of very interesting and thoughtful responses on both the dufferinparkfriends list and the brocktonneighbours list. All the responses are posted on the website, click on the “neighbourhood” tab. They’ll soon be invited to do a speakers’ series presentation at Dufferin Grove. The childcare area will include some toy train setups….


From Anna Bekerman, Dufferin Grove garden coordinator: the garden volunteers have begun the task of starting seedlings inside the rink house. Spring is coming! If you want to find your green thumb, contact Anna at or call the park at 416 392-0913 and leave Anna a message. Last season the garden club got together on Saturday afternoons, digging, planting, attending to the excellent compost bins, learning and swapping plant lore, and then, a bit later, harvesting the bounty from the vegetable gardens. Food that’s grown in the park goes to the park cooks for the park cafés and community dinners. Kids get to pick cherry tomatoes, peppers and herbs to put on their bake-oven pizzas. The flowers and naturalized areas add pleasure to park promenades.

Community gardens have been part of the park since 1993, when kids and parents at the playground planted the first little flowerbed around the corner from the brand-new sandpit. The park gardens change as the gardeners change. And garden volunteers get to go home with a few of the just-picked lettuces and the shiniest peppers – plus here and there a fresh-baked loaf of park-oven bread or cinnamon buns. Part of sharing labour is sharing food – an exchange that may increase in importance in these difficult economic times.


Market manager Anne Freeman sends out a weekly e-mail to market list subscribers every Wednesday, telling what’s on offer that week. She writes: ”The power of the sun must be what’s making the phone ring and the internet lines buzz this week, as outdoor season vendors get in touch about plans for Dufferin Grove this year. I'll keep you in suspense about the details for now, but I can say there's lots to look forward to, both familiar and new.” Some of the new this year will be more fruit, more fresh lamb, more early greens, and a farmer who grows “the world’s best asparagus” (according to another farmer). To get on Anne’s market news list, subscribe on the market main page of the website. That way you won’t miss the news of the first asparagus, or the first strawberries, or the first corn, all local and in season.


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web sites: Henrik Bechmann, Aseel Al Najim,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


March newsletter sponsor: Edward Cayley.

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