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Blog: July 2016

July 1, 2016

It rained 5 mm today, so the need to water trees backed off for a day. Also the staff cancelled the wading pool cafe, so that meant there was less activity at the rink house. There was a line of cooks and they worked with the main cook to make a very nice Friday Night Supper of three kinds of enchiladas. The only problem was they made four times as much food as there were people -- the long weekend must have put a lot of people out of town.

The adventure playground sandpit was going all day long, but much less crowded and therefore more fun. The end-of-day closing was the opposite of the day before -- two staff down there while it was still light enough to see -- very thoroughly cleaning, sorting, filling in holes making sure the water had drained out of the "river." And all the shovels -- 13 small and 5 medium -- were there and accounted for. Wonderful. Now for the next step: more interesting activities, a bit more like in the old days.

July 5, 2016

The wading pool is still on an uncertain system. The pool guards don't have identifying t-shirts, and they don't seem too sure of what this year's policies are either. Some say they'll have to close for an hour between 2 and 3 every day to drain and replace the water completely, and take their lunch breaks. Some say they only have to drain half-way, and that they can have only one staff watching the pool over the lunch breaks, as long as the other one is not under 16. Today one staff was watching the pool by herself for quite a bit longer than half an hour -- the other one must have lost track of the time when she went away for lunch. There were lots of kids in the pool because of summer camps and the heat wave, and the young, new staff didn't even stop the older kids from pushing the younger ones around and shooting them in the face with their water guns. She seemed a bit overwhelmed and uncertain.

July 6,2016

The first day of the extra CELOS playground staff. Lots of plans made -- chess, checkers, storybooks, bubbles, toy-building with wood. The shed is getting more crowded but some parents are writing to the recreation director to ask for a city-issue wading pool equipment box -- that will reduce some of the crowding, if Aquatics agrees (but that's an "if").

July 7 2016

Heat wave again, and not a drop of rain. The park grass is yellow and brittle and the younger trees are looking very droopy, or worse. The park staff, as usual, focus on food almost to the exclusion of anything else. The hoses are out but they don't get moved around. There were four staff assigned to pizza day, which would better have been cancelled because it was so hot. They had put up the CELOS sun umbrellas at the seating area beside the oven, but some of the umbrellas had bunched-up fabric and exposed spines. One umbrella is already broken. Pizza day was slow -- they made only $95.50 over the two hours -- and staff were standing in front of the oven chatting. There was real reluctance to fix the umbrellas, though -- one staff said she might get heat stroke, the other one said they were busy with more important tasks, e.g. putting out more cheese. When I insisted, one staff called her off-site supervisor on her cell and loudly told her that my request was out of line. Meantime the trees continue to shrivel and "it's not my job" to even move the hoses around every two hours. So strange to see how this operation continues to slide down.

July 7, 2016

Half an hour after she started work, a new young staff person said she was experiencing heat exhaustion and was throwing up and would have to go home,. It was 27 celsius and she was helping to make salads for the market snack bar, indoors, not in the sun.

Heat exhaustion is a reason to leave work but it needs another half hour of a coordinator's time to do the paperwork with the staff who is affected. So the cook lost her salad helper and the coordinator lost half and hour. But the coordinators are in a pickle anyway, because there are new staff and also longer-time staff who never really got the hang of what they are supposed to do. So the coordinators are kind of babysitters who have to be on the lookout constantly for staff who often don't know how to go beyond the narrowest task list, e.g. "please do the dishes," or, "serve people with whatever you have on the counter at the cob cafe." So by lunchtime the playground snack bar had run out of almost everything -- mac and cheese, salads, hot dogs -- but no one there had thought to go and make or get more. The pattern of the snack bar is -- when there are more than a small number of people there, the menu is very jerky because they are often out of things. And today it was 32 celsius by 2 pm, so there were plenty of kids and families there, some camps too.

Later on it rained for 15 minutes and the rain shelter was crowded with a very friendly bunch of people who laughed and introduced each other. Nice.

But again in the evening after the market no one took down the sun umbrellas in the sitting area by the oven, staff said "not my job." One older staff person does as much work as three others, and she ended up not only cleaning the zamboni kitchen but also taking down the sun umbrellas and locking them up. She is sometimes very frustrated -- and she is even paid less than the ones who don't finish their work. Remarkable.

July 8, 2016

There was ten minutes of rain in the morning so the staff cancelled the cob cafe for the whole day. Those staff assigned to the cafe just did little tasks, slowly, rather than going home. The rest of the day was fine and there were lots of people at the playground.

"Fine" weather of course isn't really fine at this point -- it means continued drought. Yesterday's short intense rain was spotty throughout the city -- some got none -- so Environment Canada had the amount pegged at 0.6 mm. I continue to move hoses around to various young trees, with almost no involvement by staff, even those who have down time. This is partly because of the general ennui of staff and partly because their supervisor declined to direct or even encourage staff to help with tree watering.

There was a site meeting with a few tech services and park maintenance supervisors, about the wading pool and the water pipe that has three very different resources on one service. It seems like they can connect the adventure playground and the cob cafe separately by tying in to the existing soccer field irrigation pipe and trenching smaller pipe to the sandpit and the cafe. That way those two attractions won't be cut off water every time the wading pool is drained and refilled.

I can't say there was much enthusiasm for this project, but at least they said they'd add it to their minor capital list for next year. They also said they intend to remove the slippery and cracking wading pool coating and go back to the concrete surface underneath. But the idea of the adventure playground seems not to register. One of the technical staff said he had seen some "poor" recreation staff filling in holes in the sand "when it was already dark." He made it clear that he felt such a task to be beyond the pale -- ridiculous for staff to be doing. One wonders at which child care tasks he would draw that line. Should parents and child care staff stop giving toys to kids so that there would be no cleanup?


July 8 2016

standard-issue wading pool storage box

About 10 people wrote to recreation director Howie Dayton asking for the wading pool staff to get one of the standard city-issue storage boxes for their chemicals and their equipment. That way there will be more room for play materials in the playground shed.

Marcel Vieira, the recreation supervisor, who had previously turned down this request, now writes that there will be a box. The wading pool staff say they heard they're getting two small boxes instead of the standard-issue long box, not sure why. They'll still have to store their brooms in the shed, but it's an improvement.

July 9, 2016

The food at the playground has come a long way. At the beginning it was Fernando, the ice cream man with his illegal cart full of good things. Then came our Guatemalan friend Isabel cooking tortillas over the campfire. Then Isabel brought along her daughters and they offered salads and tamales. Then it was some keen cooks among the staff who brought down sandwiches and salads and park bread and the inevitable park chocolate chip cookies. When the cob cafe was built by all those little and big hands, and there was a way to heat food, organic hot dogs were added, and after a while, more salads, mac and cheese, and -- on the weekends -- leftovers from Friday Night Supper. The food was good and popular and sometimes it was hard for staff to keep up with the demand. But there were always slower times. Always, during those years, the food counter was also a place for socializing, for people to meet one another and staff to get to know people.

After the city took away the staff's ability to structure the work collaboratively, and many of the original staff left, the cafe actually rose in its profile for the new staff. "Food service" is something many of the current staff feel they understand. The ones who serve at the counter sometimes look like they could just as easily be working at MacDonald's. There's not a lot of social connection between server and served. The staff say, "Can I help the next person?" and that's about it. The main difference between Tim Horton's and the park is that at the park the staff often have to say they're sorry, because they frequently run out of food and then it takes a long time (or never) to get more prepared at the zamboni kitchen.

July 10, 2016

wading pool mess clogs up the playground shed

Another hot, rainless day. The wading pool routine has improved to the point where the water temperature is actually bearable for grown-ups -- since the water is only replaced by half once a day instead of three times as formerly. The new storage box(es) for wading pool equipment have not arrived yet, so the inside of the playground storage shed is a mess. But hopefully the boxes are on their way.

The staff are cleaning up the adventure playground area pretty reliably now, although there is still no sense that any staff are engaged with the playground or wonder how to build on what's there. We got another two picnic tables moved down to the area, since there really have not been enough places for people to sit. The latest tables were delivered for a Saturday clothing drop or something like that, sponsored by the city councillor. The parks supervisor said we could keep those tables on loan until they're needed at another event. I guess then they'll take them away and once again there will be not enough places to sit. Really. But for now, it works much better.

The water meeting last Friday never got to a place where water conservation could get on the agenda, because the tech services staff said the city wants to get rid of wading pools and replace them with splash pads.

July 16, 2017

playground shed, too full

The director's office writes that the box is "on order" (our first request was on May 13). Until it comes, there will be limited adventure playground programming, only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After the box arrives and the play materials are accessible, some of the former fun will be added for most other days too -- dress-up, cloths for tipi-building, clay sculpture, beading, board games.

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