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can this continue?
NEW BAKE OVEN POLICY passed on Nov.22, 2011....

by the Parks and Environment Committee -- to charge fees to baker volunteers. See the Star article

We believe this policy will stop bake ovens in their tracks. Here are some baker reactions on Youtube: bake oven fees

Here's our deputation (it fell on deaf ears).

Here's our earlier response to the city's bake oven policy. It's in the same format as the policy so that the two documents can be compared more easily. Our approach was to maximize community oven use and stress the need for a collaborative relationship between City staff and bake oven users. This version was not accepted by staff and therefore not considered by the Parks Committee.

News 2010

From the October 2010 Newsletter:

Can the Dufferin Grove snack bars and skate lending programs be adopted by the City?

For almost a year now, Dufferin Grove program staff, CELOS, and city management have been in talks about park programs that involve staff in handling cash. CELOS has been partnering with the city in running the food programs, but CELOS needs to step back now. CELOS stands for Centre for Local Research into Public Space,” and the food and skate lending programs were part of that research. That research is done and the results are in – it turns out that year-round food and winter skate-lending in parks both work well. On top of that, the small extra income generated can enrich the broader park programming.

The logistics for integrating that research with City programs are tough, though. At a meeting with Parks, Forestry and Recreation general manager Brenda Patterson in September, she said she’d have to bring the issue to the new city council in 2011. Meantime, two recreation supervisors (Tino DeCastro and Dave Hains) and the Toronto/East York recreation manager (Kelvin Seow) have been meeting with park program staff Mayssan Shuja Uddin and Sarah Cormier, all of them trying to fit what goes on at Dufferin Grove into the city’s template. (The city used to run lots of snack bars directly, but they got out of that after amalgamation.) One of the few remaining models in the city is the East York Curling Club, where recreation staff run the bar that goes along with any curling club. Last year the club was audited by the City Auditor, not because there was any suspicion of misappropriation but just because city staff were handling cash and serving alcoholic drinks. A three-month audit resulted in many detailed suggestions, so complicated that a year after the audit began, the new cash handling measures are still being finalized. When Dufferin Grove staff visited the curling club, a new cash register system was just being set up. The system costs about $5000, and it does inventory, gives receipts, and even includes categories for “spillage” and “complimentary” – when VIPs are invited to an event.

The checking of inventory is one of the obstacles for Dufferin Grove programs – if park staff have to enter every slice of bread and every mini-pizza into they system, there won’t be time left to make the food. It’s an example of a City policy direction that may not work in the long run – turning the program staff into bean counters, or – more accurately – toilet paper roll counters and pen counters. Already, every City roll and every City pen will soon have to be recorded and submitted for checking. CELOS would welcome any information from our readers, about studies done elsewhere that include a detailed cost accounting of such measures. What is the real cost for City staff having to do all that investigating, recording, re-checking, and analyzing of toilet paper or bread slice dispensing? What is the benefit?

An interesting and timely question, and another good topic for CELOS research. To follow these negotiations, go to CELOS/cash handling.

From the July - August 2010 Newsletter:

FRIDAY NIGHT SUPPER by the oven, 6 p.m

This is also a weekly fundraiser for park programs. All the surplus goes to adding more programming at the playground in the summer. A win-win! General information: Everyone welcome. No reservations are necessary. Park cooks use ingredients from the Thursday farmers’ market. Cost: by donation. Suggested donations (to cover cost of materials plus park program fundraising): soup $3, main dish $7 (choice of meat or vegetarian/vegan), salad $2.50, dessert $2.50 - $3 depending. Pay less if you don’t have the money, more if you want to help more. Cooks this year (taking turns) are Mary Sylwester, Matt Leitold, Yo Utano, and Leslie Lindsay. Supper is served until 7.30pm. Bring a blanket to sit on – the park’s picnic table supply has diminished from 45 to 25.

From the July - August 2010 Newsletter:

A bake-oven café as a “third place”?

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg wrote a book 20 years ago, called “The Great Good Place.” It got a lot of attention. He had researched 150 years of social places – not home, not work, but “third places” where people could relax among their neighbours – pubs, coffee shops, general stores, barber shops. His descriptions of Minnesota’s outdoor beer gardens, which were family-oriented meeting places with weak lager, good food, colourful gardens, open-air performances and a mix of ages from babies to grandparents, match some historical descriptions that inspired park reformers in the early twentieth century. In 1920, one of North America’s best-known playground crusaders, Henry Curtis, lauded the German beer garden (euphemistically called the “concert garden,” because it always had an orchestra). “In many ways the German concert garden is the most delightful community playground in the world. There is excellent music, there is shade, and good refreshments are sold at reasonable rates. There is a delightful social atmosphere throughout it all, and at the edges are abundant playgrounds for the children.”

Now that the sugar maple shading the bake oven area is almost dead, maybe it’s time to think about how to make that area work as more of a “third place” social space for park users. Park friend (and landscaper) Gene Threndyle suggested years ago that a flagstone patio would be good by the oven, with a low stone wall and some kind of arbour with climbing plants to provide shade. Friday Night Supper has become a very pleasant occasion for gathering by the oven. Maybe it’s time to make a little café spot there – and the food income could also help to pay for the building materials.

Any park café, including the zamboni café and the cob café, will work best if city staff run it. This already happens, unofficially, but CELOS is still far more involved in the day-to-day than is desirable. Last winter, Dufferin Grove staff and CELOS asked the city to bring in their internal auditor, to confer about the present system of staff cash handling, for park food and skate lending. (The Dufferin Grove recreation staff have been running these for years, but not with the city’s full blessing.) Anila Lalani, an auditor from the City Manager’s office, has now come to help. If food is allowed to continue at the park, a little outdoor bake oven café could be a fine “third place.”

From the March 2010 Newsletter:

SUNDAY March 28, Noon till 3:00 p.m. 12th annual MATZAH BAKE at the bake-oven

From organizer Mitch Davis: “ Join us at Dufferin Grove Park to bake Matzot in the wood burning outdoor oven. See if you can mix, kneed, roll, and bake in 18 minutes or less.

Materials and instructions provided (but bring your own timer if you want to aim for 18 minutes). Everyone is welcome; bring the kids. Coffee will be provided by Ezra's Pound Cafe.  Look for dufferin grove park matzah bake” on facebook. Suggested donation to cover expenses: $5 per family.”


Catherine Porter, made aware of the “local versus central” problem with Parks, Forestry and Recreation, wrote a second column on the topic on February 25, this time about the use of the bake-oven at Christie Pits. She wrote that the “Friends of Christie Pits” were alarmed that the tighter central control on permits was about to stop their Friday night drop-in pizza-making gatherings. If permit policy meant the park friends were going to be charged for a permit every time they wanted to have a Friday evening pizza gathering around the oven, and that they’d have to cover the staffing cost as well, pizza nights would stop.

The column really touched a nerve. The Star got a record number of comments, most of them angry at the City, and apparently from all sides of the political spectrum. Councillor Davis sent a letter to everyone who wrote to her: “Never, at any time, has the Friends of Christie Pits been asked by recreation staff to obtain a permit or pay a permit fee for the community pizza nights that have been hosted at the park. We consider these events as part of our recreation programming offered in partnership with the community. We look forward to a continuation of this program and can assure you there are no plans to change this arrangement.”

But the back story on the use of public bake ovens is a bit more complicated. The city has four parks with ovens: Riverdale, Alexandra, Christie Pits and Dufferin Grove. Only the oven at Alexandra Park was built directly by the City. That oven – built without consulting any of the people who used the other three – is too small and doesn’t work well. The others are public gathering-places around food, as they were meant to be. However, the Parks department has given signs in the past three years that they don’t want any more ovens. A policy was created, again without any user-consultation, that would have made it much more cumbersome to use the ovens. The policy was then stalled by the protest of oven users who heard about it. Apparently it still sits on a shelf somewhere in Etobicoke.

Neighbourhoods that wanted to add an oven to their park have been told that no new ovens are being approved (even with outside funding) before the policy is in place. And that’s where it sits, three years later. Meantime, from time to time, park supervisors have created rules that make it harder to use the ovens, or have suggested public ovens are unsafe to use.

Catherine Porter wrote to the dufferingrovefriends list: “It seems Janet Davis has not spoken to either the Friends of Christie Pits or the parks staff there. Her source is Malcolm Bromley. I am very sure that the Friends were given this message from the people running the program. Now, whether the people running the program were mistaken, I don't know.... What I do know is the Friends of Christie Pits have since been told they will not need to get a permit or pay for park staff .... That's the good news.” Time to talk about ovens, together.

In April 2010, Porter wrote a follow-up piece on bake ovens, called "Why is it so hard to get permission to build a bake oven?"

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