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News 2009

News 2009

From the December 2009 Newsletter:


On July 31, Max Wallace felt moved to offer a donation to the playground in Dufferin Gove Park – $800 to buy an additional swing, accessible for kids who use wheelchairs (and for anyone else). Playground users have been suggesting this desirable addition for over a year, and Max hoped his donation would nudge the project into reality. It did. On November 24, city workers installed it! And it turns out the City doesn’t even want Max’s money. He says he’s going to donate it to the playground bio-toilet project instead.

Other good news – the much-loved “spider climber,” once on the waiting list for removal, has been repaired and is about to be repainted. The monkey bars have also been repaired and repainted, the four-way teeter-totter has had its arm replaced, and the four-way “Daisy” spring toy that broke off in the summer was replaced with a new one (that only took a week, thanks to a photo sent to City Councillor Adam Giambrone, of a tearful little girl named Ronan Denis, next to the broken-off spring toy).

Repair and good maintenance of existing resources instead of adding new debt by removal and replacement – what a good concept.

From the October 2009 Newsletter:

PLAYGROUND UPDATE: the wheelchair-accessible swing

Back in July, park friend Max Wallace wrote to City Councillor Adam Giambrone, offering to donate funds to buy an accessible swing (about $800) for the playground. Some playground users had asked for such a swing in 2008, and even made a map showing where there was space to put it. At that time, Park supervisor Peter Leiss said that the swing could be added when the capital project to replace the playground was underway.

But given the uncertainty about that project (many park users prefer to add to the current wooden playground, rather than replacing it with a metal-and-plastic structure), Max made his offer. He wanted to get the swing installed so kids could use it now. Councillor Giambrone assistant Chris Gallop asked the capital projects section to see how it could be done. In mid-September there was progress – the space suggested was deemed adequate (it’s an empty spot left after a slide was removed and not replaced, about seven years ago). Forestry still had to sign off that there would be no serious damage to nearby tree roots when the swing frame was installed.

But when the park supervisor returned from his post-strike holidays, he said that not only would the actual swing have to be donated, but the City couldn’t pay for the swing frame and installation either. That upped the funds needed to around $3000. Negotiations continue – since the City recently installed another accessible swing at Christie Pits with no outside donation, and at Oriole Park in Forest Hill, the City plans to match a private donation of $1 million with city funds of $1.5 million for an entirely accessible playground. If these and other expenditures leave the City with no funds to make the Dufferin Grove accessible swing happen, more fundraising will be needed.

Meantime, we are looking for a mystery man named Pedro Paolo, who pulled out a $100 bill a few weeks ago and gave it to the food cart staff, as his contribution to the swing. Mr.Paolo, there must have been a mistake in copying down your phone number – we want to give you a charitable receipt and we can’t reach you! Please call the park staff at 416 392-0913 or e-mail

From the September 2009 Newsletter:


The newly renovated wading pool opened a week after the strike ended, and there’s been lots of fun with the waterspouts and the new water-fountain foot-washing station (also good for squirting your friends). The lighter, smoother surface is a bit more slippery but not as scrapey as the concrete pool surface underneath used to be, and the pool looks great when the water is in.

Peter Didiano, the project manager, sent us news of the cost of the renovation: $13,250 for the landscape architect who redesigned the pool, $2,300 for a survey and slab x-ray, $196,851 for construction, and $15,000 for staff to manage the project, for a total of $227,401. The “staff management” item may puzzle park users, since City staff are already on salary. The reason why there’s an extra charge for capital projects is that the City project staff rely on a percentage of new projects to cover their budget. Big citywide projects, like for example the wading pool renovation program ($500,000 a year for the next four years) are needed to meet the staff payroll.

However, this means is that the city covers its operating costs for capital projects staff by borrowing money (the majority of capital projects are funded by new debt). It used to be prohibited under the municipal act to use borrowed money to cover operating costs, because of a potential conflict of interest leading staff to contract more city debt. The new City of Toronto Act is not easy to understand on this point, however. In any case, the City’s practice is to slot any project over $50,000 as a capital project (therefore okay to fund through debt). One unfortunate side-effect of the current system is that most state-of-good-repair projects have to be big. Small things like picnic table repair and playground maintenance mostly get lost – something that is obvious at Dufferin Grove.

Beyond that, the consultants and project managers are still working out the details of ideal plumbing for all the renovated wading pools, and they haven’t got it nailed yet. The deep, scary water turn-on and drain pits remain at Dufferin Grove and some of the other recently renovated pools, and the valves are still very cumbersome to open and close. There’s a step-by-step renovation diary on the website, with descriptions of the problems that need help. This web link has now been sent to the capital projects staff, to help avoid future mistakes at other parks, and fix these ones.

From the September 2009 Newsletter:


Park friend Max Wallace recently contacted City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s office, reminding them of the need for such a swing and offering to pay for it. He wrote:

Last year, an informal audit of the park was conducted with the family of a young disabled child to determine how the playground could be made more accessible for him. The boy and his family immediately identified the need for an accessible swing that could accommodate children with disabilities. They concluded that such a swing would bring him hours of joy and that he would no longer have to sit on the sidelines watching other children having fun on the swings. There are other disabled children in the neighbourhood, including the users of the nearby respite care centre, who would also undoubtedly benefit from such an addition.

The Councillor’s office has now involved Doug Muir from Parks Infrastructure Management, who sent his staff to take pictures and make a plan. The boy’s mother sent word to say she is thrilled, and park friends Jason Brown and Andrea Adams have offered to donate as well. Watch the playground bulletin board for updates.

From the September 2009 Newsletter:


Two-year-old Rowan Denis came to the park staff at the end of August, crying and asking where the “Daisy” spring toy had gone. Her dad explained that it was her favourite piece of playground equipment. Sadly, it had broken off its base the week before. Rowan’s dad also pointed out the missing arm on the four-way (now three-way) teeter-totter, which has been broken for over a year.

Chris Gallop (assistant to City Councillor Adam Giambrone), when he saw the e-mailed photos of the broken equipment and of a forlorn Rowan, wrote back that he had called Andy Koropeski, the new Parks manager, to help make sure the repairs happen. A week later, Mick the new welder had the four-way teeter-totter as good as new, and he and Dexter (the technical services foreman) fixed the daisy spring toy. They took the climber’s detached railing (with the steering wheels) back to the carpentry shop, so hopefully that wil return too. Rowan – and many other kids – were delighted.

From the June 2009 Newsletter:


The wading pool renovation is behind schedule. City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s office originally thought that the remaining plumbing and the new coating on the pool surface would begin as soon as the weather warmed up in early spring. Then they were informed that the maple keys would drop onto the wet concrete and so would be better to wait until they had all dropped, and sweep the area clean first.

However, the work couldn’t begin then either (mid-May) because the contractor was held up with rain elsewhere. Then it seemed that construction would begin the last week of May, but the special drain needed was on back-order and hadn’t arrived yet.

Then the back-ordered drain arrived but the contractor was busy doing the railpath park. On June 3, City project manager Peter Didiano said the contractor would be finished the railpath work on Monday June 8 and would begin the Dufferin Grove wading pool work on Tuesday June 9.

Councillor Giambrone’s assistant Chris Gallop is following the progress closely. Parks supervisor Peter Leiss has assured him that the wading pool will be ready to open on the citywide opening date of June 27. The two problems are

  1. Last fall the contractor did the work in nine and a half days, but those days were spread over two and a half months.
  2. Parks users had an agreement with the City in the last few years, that the wading pool could be open on any days when there was an early heat wave (temperatures over 29 degrees for two days running). This would apply to heat waves during the whole month of June. This year, hot-weather pool days before summer vacation will not be possible if the renovation is still unfinished.

As during last fall, the website will record all work being done.


1. Playground changes: City Councillor Adam Giambrone announced to playground users on May 15 that there will be no decisions on Dufferin Grove playground changes until next year. The councillor felt that the budget available ($75,000) was inadequate, and also that more consultation would be good.

The triangle-bulletin board in the playground has many photos of different playgrounds, and no doubt there will continue to be lots of talk among parents and kids, as they’re in the playground, about how any funds might best be spent. People are sending in pictures of playgrounds that they admired in other parts of Canada and in other countries – they are posted on the CELOS website and also on – have a look.

Meantime, Toronto’s ongoing citywide playground changes are rather uneven. At R.V.Burgess Park in the Thorncliffe Park area (North York), 30,000 newcomers (mostly families with children) are squeezed into apartments built for 12,000. Their park playground structure was demolished in the big playground purge of 2002, and it’s never been replaced. They have been told there is no money to add any equipment until 2014 (and even then only $50,000). Meantime, at Vermont Park, around $500,000 is budgeted to renovate the park, including replacing the current wooden structure with a bigger one. Dovercourt Park, which now has a wood-and-metal structure, will get a new metal-and-plastic structure in the fall of 2009. Their budget is $30,000 for a new sand base and $40,000 for the structure. The existing structure is to be discarded.

2. Playground repairs: The push for repairing, re-using, recycling, has not really reached the playground world yet. Playground manufacturers suggest discarding a playground after 15 to 20 years, and buying a new one.

The idea that fixing rather than replacing playground equipment might open the city to lawsuits is very widespread. CELOS used the Freedom of Information Act last year to check into playground-related claims against the City. There have been only nine, and eight of them had to do with swing s-hooks breaking and frames giving way. More fixing, not less, is needed!

Happily, the swings at Dufferin Grove all had new chains put on last summer. This spring, one of the wooden steps leading up to the baby slide was rebuilt, a missing carriage bolt was replaced on a platform railing, and some protruding nails were pulled out of the split rail fence. Still to do: replacing the missing teeter-totter arm and the missing platform rail with the “steering wheel.” Also the “spider” climber needs some rust sanded off and some new paint, and the monkey bars need the torn plastic coating removed and replaced with some paint. The City’s technical services staff say they’re coming back soon to do all those things. If they don’t get there, volunteers may shortly need to step up.

The throwaway-playground days may soon come to a close, as money gets scarcer. Then adaptation, ingenuity of repair, and imagination may return to playgrounds again. It will be interesting!

From the May 2009 Newsletter:


Last fall, after the wading pool closed, it got a facelift, and the plumbing was reworked. As part of the same project, the park’s main thoroughfare was paved and two new paved access paths were added for wheelchairs and strollers.

The contractor was slow – nine days of on-site work were spread out from September to December. But the contractor also took care to do a nice job, for example, adding a stone chess table that was in better shape than the one it replaced, and carefully moving the “Abe Orpen” sign from the old drinking fountain, cleaning it, then re-attaching it to the new cement water chamber. (Abe Orpen was the owner of the Dufferin Race Track, where the Dufferin Mall is now, and he paid for the first wading pool, in1955.)

The work still to be done is: enlarging the wading pool drain and covering the pool surface with a new coating. This is predicted to take at least to the end of May, and – given the speed of the last portion of the project – maybe quite a bit longer. Parks management originally said there would be no water for the cob café, and no sandpit waterplay, until the entire wading pool job was done. However, with City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s intervention, this decision was changed, and the water will be turned on for May 22 at the latest.

Once the wading pool work is done, it will be ready to operate. But this year it seems once again that Parks management has taken the position, “no opening of the wading pool before June 27, even during earlier heat waves.” Much like the winter-time outdoor ice rink opening issues, the city’s approach to using the neighbourhood wading pools needs some work. The principle that can be helpful here is “let’s use what we already have.” Turning on the water in a few wading pools during early heat waves costs very little, since the city is well-supplied with such pools already, and they are very simple to operate. For updates on the wading pool, see

From the March 2009 Newsletter:


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.”

From the February 2009 Newsletter:

Andrew Drown PHOTO EXHIBIT at the rink house – opens Friday February 13

Photographer Andrew Drown became interested in photographing details of Toronto playgrounds several years ago for aesthetic reasons – he took detail photos of the textured metal treads of the steps up to the slides, and the smooth weathering of the wooden structures. Then he found out how quickly the traditional playground structures were being torn down. He hastened to document their sturdy wood-and-metal beauty before they were all supplanted by plastic. Last year he was surprised to see Dufferin Grove playground still standing. He came to the park to talk about his project, and to show some of his images of playgrounds already gone. The photos are so interesting and evocative that rink staff asked him if he’d be willing to mount a display at the rinkhouse, He agreed, and his photos will be on display at the rink clubhouse for two weeks from February 13. The opening corresponds with Friday Night supper: come and enjoy.

From the February 2009 Newsletter:

Toronto playgrounds: a CELOS display: at the rink clubhouse during February.

On February 3 there was a small public meeting about Dufferin Grove playground at St.Mary’s School, called by City Councillor Adam Giambrone. The city’s consultant put up some slides. The councillor said this was just the beginning of community conversations, about changes to (or replacement of) the playground. CELOS has mounted a photo display on the north wall of the rink clubhouse to contribute to the discussion. All other material is welcome! Happily, there seems to be no rush – plenty of time for people to think and talk together. Kids too (of course).

Playground Meeting Announcement

City Councillor Adam Giambrone is calling an all-resident playground meeting, Tuesday February 3 St.Mary's school auditorium 7 pm

Click here to see the poster

Click here to go to the website playground pages

Click here to send your ideas

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