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November 2009

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 10, Nr.9, November 2009

Dufferin Rink, January 2009

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


At the end of October, David Rothberg donated $5000 to the park, out of the blue. That’s a hat trick (he already did this twice in the last two years). In his letter he wrote: “My reasons for asking you to take the money are:
I want the feeling of community to permeate my city
I prize activity.”

David and his wife Alicia Peres are the parents of an enthusiastic young shinny hockey player. They like the fact that the local schools, like the one their son attends, can come to the rinks and have a really good time. Portions of the last two donations found their way to Campbell Rink and Wallace Rink, and the school visits, with free hot chocolate and free skate and helmet loans, multiplied.

This fall, City management is sending a letter to all the Toronto schools saying that school classes can’t come to the city’s outdoor rinks without getting a permit. This seems very unfortunate, and also odd, since the rinks are rarely busy in the daytime, and other Toronto residents can use the rinks for free. So in the spirit of David’s donation, CELOS will contact the schools and do a little survey, asking the teachers who came in other years – will the cost and the paperwork reduce your use of the rinks? Any teachers or parents reading this, who want to register your opinion: talk to the rink staff and tell them what you think about this schools-need-permits plan. They’ll pass it along.


The solid old Maytag stove in the zamboni café finally packed it in last year after 12 years of cookies and mini-pizzas. There was no money to buy another stove, but somebody posted an e-mail on the list-serve, saying they had one to give away. So that stove – after Frank (Romco Appliance Repair) put in a new heating coil – became the new zamboni stove. One of its racks was missing. The cooks wired together three small racks and resumed the cookie-making.

But the zamboni café is no job for a second-hand domestic stove. If we laid all those cookies and mini-pizzas and bowls of soup and slices of park bread end-to-end, would they reach the moon? Jupiter?

David Rothberg’s donation couldn’t have come at a better time. Now the cooks are out doing comparative stove-shopping. The new stove should be installed in time for the rink reopening. Skaters, card players, parents with kids: just wait til you see (and smell and taste) the dishes that the cooks can prepare with a stove that’s not worn out and temperamental. Skaters get hungry, and good food will be waiting.


For about ten years, some rink friends have been trying to persuade City’s management to open the outdoor compressor-cooled 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, City 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 in 2007, so he tried again last December (2008), 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. One problem for them is that by the time rinks are ready to open, the yearly Parks budget is almost spent. If the rinks also close earlier, at the end of February, the money will be saved at the other end. But the savings don’t show up until the next fiscal year.

So a CELOS deputation at the Community Development and Recreation Committee, arguing in favour of the earlier opening, got nowhere. The earlier-opening hope seemed dead until at least November 2010, at the earliest.

Then one evening at the end of February 2009, 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 at 11 p.m. 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.

The Dufferin Rink staff are happy. For years they’ve been having to explain to disappointed kids, pounding on the rink house door in November, that the rinks are still closed. November is when all the kids get excited about skating – now they can do it.

The other neighbourhood rinks opening on November 21 are Rennie, Sir Adam Beck, and Sunnydale in the west; Kew and Regent Park South in the centre, and Broadlands, Glen Long, Irving Chapley and Ledbury in the north.

The civic-square rinks opening on November 21 are City Hall, West Mall (in Etobicoke), Mel Lastman Square (in North York), and Albert Campbell Rink (in Scarborough). For more information:, or call the City’s new information line at 311.


Rink clubhouse: open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm

Shinny hockey: same hours as the rink clubhouse except Sundays. There is a (strictly enforced) age schedule. From rink staff: “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 9:00pm, skating is unsupervised. Then it's a bit like skating on a pond: it’s mostly shinny hockey, and people are responsible for their own use of the rink.

Beginners’ free registered shinny hockey, Wednesday Nights From 10 to 11 P.M.
Each session consists of a warm up, drills and exercises to improve your skills and a fun scrimmage. This program is for those who are new to skating. Space is limited. Registration will be on a first come first served basis starting November 16, 2009. To register, e-mail Dan Watson at

Beginners’ free drop-in shinny hockey, Sunday nights From 9:30 to 11 P.M.
Each session consists of warm up, quick lesson and an organized game for beginners. Space is limited each night to 30 players, and is on a first come first serve basis. More information: or 416 392-0913. Ask for Dan Watson.

Winter Schedule 2009-2010 The large rink lights turn off after 11:00pm, and then the rink is locked.

Parking: One good place to park is at Dufferin Mall across the street. After 5 pm. there’s lots of parking across from St.Mary’s School at the north end of the park too.

Rink contacts: 416 392-0913 or The rink phone message will tell you the current ice skating conditions.



This is a website run by CELOS, giving information about all 49 municipal outdoor ice rinks, plus Harbourfront Rink. The site has maps, hours, schedules, phone numbers, ratings, and stormy-weather updates. It also has blogs about the individual rinks, with contributions from skaters. For information or comments:

Toronto has more outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks than any city in the world. It’s the free-outdoor-ice-skating capital of Canada!


On October 20, Jeff Griffiths, the City’s auditor general, attended an Audit Committee meeting, at which councillors were considering his report on Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Division capital spending.

Mr.Griffiths noted in his report that 95% of PFR capital project funding comes from debt. In general, the city’s level of debt is troubling: “the City’s $2.5 billion of net debt in 2007 is projected to rise to $3 billion by 2013. In 2006, the City raised its debt service guideline from 10, to 15 per cent of property taxes and expects to reach this level by 2011. This means that for every dollar of property taxes, 15 cents will go towards making interest and principal payments on debt. The result of this is that it reduces the amount available for annual operating expenditures.”

The auditor quoted the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division’s estimate of its “state of good repair” backlog, which staff said was $233 million in 2008 and expected to be close to $600 million by 2018. The Division, he wrote, suffers from “an aging infrastructure…” By which he meant that “many of the buildings are older than 30 years.”

Looking at the problem from what he called a “broad, high-level perspective,” the auditor called for a “master service and infrastructure implementation plan. “

This plan would be based on the findings of the external audits that the City has commissioned a number of times. On the basis of these audits, Parks, Forestry and Recreation plans to spend $747 million in the next ten years, repairing its buildings, replacing its playgrounds, and adding new features.


One way to approach a “state-of-good-repair” is to make an inventory of ALL the repairs that need to be done to ALL Parks properties. Such inventories usually try to include not only what needs to be repaired now but also what will maybe go wrong in future, and when it might go wrong. When such an inventory is supposed to cover all the parks, rinks and recreation centres across the whole city, it’s an overwhelming job.

In 2001, city staff hired the firm of WGA Wong Gregerson Architects to tell them what needs to be fixed in “recreational and cultural facilities.” That report cost $392,448. Inspectors went from place to place checking roofs and walls and wiring and water lines, etc., and writing down what shape everything was in. They wrote down what needs repair now and what may need repair or replacement later, up to a period of 25 years, making a separate, detailed report for every facility owned by Parks and Recreation.

In 2004, CELOS researchers examined a sample item of this state-of-good-repair inventory: the Dufferin Outdoor Rink report, which runs to ten pages. We found that three years after the audit (a) none of the audit's recommendations for that rink had been undertaken and (b) not one of the things that did in fact go wrong with Dufferin Rink in the course of those three years was predicted by this audit.

It may be that there were similar problems with the audit in other parts of the city. The response of the Policy and Development Division was to ask City Council for another $803,000 to do a repeat state-of-good repair audit of exactly the same facilities. They said they needed more details. Our researchers looked over the proposed new audit contract. The new details that the planning staff wanted this time were remarkable similar to the old details. So in July 2004, a group of us tried to interest city council in stopping the second audit and reallocating the $803,000 to be put into the actual Parks repair budget.

No luck at all. The $803,000 expenditure for a consulting company called Accent Building Sciences passed through council in an eyeblink.

Once the City hires such a company, the machine grinds on as before, while the company’s staff make their visits. At Dufferin Rink, a consulting engineer with a badge and a clipboard passed by one day to check for asbestos. After he had gone over the building, he asked the rink staff when the rink was built. When he heard that it was in 1993, he sighed. The information he got from city planning staff said 1961, which is why he had come to do the asbestos check. No asbestos had been added to any city buildings since 1973, so he had wasted his time.

The engineer gave the rink staff a short unhappy litany, about the troubles connected with this inventory – missing or wrong information on his facilities sheets, building visits where the doors were locked when he arrived to do his checks, unhelpfulness from staff when they did show up. Dufferin Rink staff gave him a cup of coffee and a zamboni café cookie, and then he left.

Other inventory engineers must have come and gone without making themselves known to the rink staff. The only other direct encounter with the consultants was one chilly November day in 2006 at the Dufferin Grove wading pool. I saw a man with a clipboard, struggling to open the lock on the central water outlet of the pool – his key didn’t work. It turned out that he was doing the wading pool audit, so I opened the hatch for him. I showed him the big mechanical pit too, with rusting pipes. The wading pool worked fine except for those pipes. Wading pool staff had been asking to get them fixed for five years or more. The response had always been: no money. The engineer seemed puzzled by the wading pool, and said that he didn’t know much about such pools, since his company usually did much bigger projects. But he went all around with his clipboard, writing things down. Then he left.

The 2006 audit of the Dufferin Grove’s wading pool problems showed only one “high priority” item – the broken drinking fountain. Despite this, the Dufferin Grove Wading Pool was put on the replacement list, with a price tag of $250,000. In the end, the state-of-good-repair renovation cost a bit less – $220,000. The problems with the low-priority plumbing (which had been truly in bad repair) were only half-fixed.

From a “broad, high-level” point of view, this might make sense, but on the ground – and multiplied many times all over the city (think of the playgrounds) – it adds up to trouble, with a surprising root cause. (To be continued in the December issue.)



The Children’s Storefront, started in the 1970’s by Ryva Novick and friends, has been a boon for so many children and their parents and caregivers, and inspired so many parent-child centres (and rink clubhouses!) in Toronto and beyond. On Friday October 30, a fire broke out at night in the upstairs apartment of the Storefront’s rented building. The building was destroyed and, tragically, one woman in the apartment died.

The Storefront needs to relocate, and it needs help with funds, toys, talents. To donate any of those, e-mail Ruth at


MacGregor Park users found out by chance that about $100,000 in federal stimulus funds have been earmarked to make repairs to the fine old (1930’s?) field house at MacGregor Park before it falls apart. After a quick audit by a team of consultants in August, it seems that most of the funds are planned to be used for new windows and doors that would seal better. However, since the building is unheated, that might be a lower priority than other urgent repairs, which didn’t make it onto the list. (Yet.)

The neighbourhood, adjacent to Brockton Village, is rich in carpenters, electricians, builders, architects, home inspectors, and do-it-yourselfers. Time to share your expert advice! Suggestions, so far, are posted on the neighbourhood section of To join a building tour and contribute your ideas:, or post on the neighborhood e-lists.


Same format as the last few years, except no snowstorm this year. To find out more from Heidrun (this year’s organizer):


Park friend Max Wallace offered to pay for the swing in July. However, despite some efforts by the city councillor’s office, Parks staff have still not installed it. The department is heading into its next restructuring, and staff are perhaps too distracted to attend to unsolicited gifts. A pity!


After a cold and clammy fall, the (year-round) market is so nice and warm inside the rink house, and overflowing with fall produce as well as with park bread, meat, cheese, pies, jams, fish…


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:


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