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M. G. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Ombudsman,

I am including below a letter that you have no doubt already received from others. This is an important issue for me as a member of the Dufferin Grove community. The park has been a formative place for my children in Toronto and stands out as a model for how the City can work with its communities for good. To hear that it is now threatened in this way is disheartening and speaks to a short-sightedness within the City. I hope that you will hear both sides clearly and be able to help us find a resolution that continues to work, rather than 'fixing what is not broken'.

Thanks for your time and commitment to a solution.

text of our shared concern:

For the past fifteen years, various community members have been working with city staff to build Dufferin Grove Park into a lively community commons. In the past year, this effort has come under sustained attack by Parks, Forestry and Recreation management. The front-line staff at the park have been warned that they are in conflict of interest for their community connections, and last week we heard that the long-time recreation supervisor will be removed from this ward. We believe that his transfer to a back office at Metro Hall to work with building cleaners is a punishment for his support of our efforts, and is also meant to send a message to his colleagues.

The problem has a larger context. Recreation supervisors are an important point of connection between the city and its neighborhoods. Parks and Recreation management has a new policy of moving all these supervisors across the city to new locations, discarding existing working relationships with the community in favour of ever-tighter central control. We're concerned that this approach is causing lasting damage to what works well in our neighbourhood public spaces. Our concern extends to the waste of talents and taxes, as restrictive policies proliferate in the Parks and Recreation Department, and a culture of timidity takes over. Direct appeals by citizens to management are rebuffed.

At Dufferin Grove Park we are now facing a crisis. There is no doubt but that a continuation of the administration's present approach will soon result in the collapse of what we have built together with locally-responsive city staff over many years.

Can you help us?

L. V. wrote to his hockey team:

Please send the Toronto ombudsman, Fiona, a letter TODAY. You can use the template on the park website, as I did below. If the city goes through with what it is proposing, Dufferin Grove park could end up like any other homogenized park, void of personality and community... So, if you can spare 10 minutes TODAY, let's overwhelm the ombudsman with our concerns...

http://dufferinpark.ca/home/wiki/wiki.php

Please forward as you see fit. Thanks so much.

 

Dear Fiona,

I have been a happy member of the Dufferin Grove Park community for almost 10 years, the entire time I've lived in Toronto. I play hockey there every winter, and have enjoyed many of the year-round events that contribute to the unique vibe of this park.

For the past fifteen years, various community members have been working with city staff to build Dufferin Grove Park into a lively community commons. In the past year, this effort has come under sustained attack by Parks, Forestry and Recreation management. The front-line staff at the park have been warned that they are in conflict of interest for their community connections, and last week we heard that the long-time recreation supervisor will be removed from this ward. We believe that his transfer to a back office at Metro Hall to work with building cleaners is a punishment for his support of our efforts, and is also meant to send a message to his colleagues.

The problem has a larger context. Recreation supervisors are an important point of connection between the city and its neighborhoods. Parks and Recreation management has a new policy of moving all these supervisors across the city to new locations, discarding existing working relationships with the community in favour of ever-tighter central control. We're concerned that this approach is causing lasting damage to what works well in our neighbourhood public spaces. Our concern extends to the waste of talents and taxes, as restrictive policies proliferate in the Parks and Recreation Department, and a culture of timidity takes over. Direct appeals by citizens to management are rebuffed.

At Dufferin Grove Park we are now facing a crisis. There is no doubt but that a continuation of the administration's present approach will soon result in the collapse of what we have built together with locally-responsive city staff over many years. Can you help us?

Thanks, Fiona.

D. R. wrote to the Mayor, Councillors and the ombudsperson:

Dear Mayor, Councillors and Ombudsperson,

Please don't change the community-driven and community-building way in which the Dufferin Grove park and rink are currently organized. I don't know what happened in Leaside, but you would be throwing out one of the City's best examples of civic cooperation if you force Dufferin Grove and all other rinks into the same straitjacket.

I actually live closer to the Trinity Bellwoods rink -- it's a sad rink in comparison to Dufferin Grove -- and rarely go there. First of all, it's difficult to get accurate information on when "free" skating time is from the annoying, impersonal automatic telephone recording, and secondly, "free" skating is rare, making it a rink I don't use with my child. At Dufferin Grove, children of all ages come from across the city to skate anytime; and there is always a game of shinny going on the second pad. In addition, there is nothing to draw community members to the Trinity Bellwoods rink in the winter. It remains underused, except by hockey playing teens and young men, for the most part, which is good, but doesn't appeal to the whole community.

In other words, having more official city control doesn't always mean good things for the community.

As a member of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund Investment Committee, I know how important volunteer and citizen involvement is to the City. Rinks like Dufferin Grove thrive on that energy, making the city parks an inviting place for people of all sorts.

Please use Dufferin Grove as a model for how other rinks could evolve to attract more community members. Send staff to study it and replicate it elswhere, rather than closing down the elements that are so needed for people and families who are isolated enough in our busy, urban centres. (Also, please send us back our rink supervisor! Tony was great to work with, though we hope we can build a relationship with the new person too.)

DON"T mess with what works!!!!!! PLEASE resist centralization and bureaucratization -- let local, creative, innovative, community-based events blossom and flourish as they are and work to create more, not less of this in our city.

M. F. wrote to the Park supervisor:

Peter,
I have spoken with the Deputy Mayor regarding the attached statement and he would like to communicate his support of the current organizational system of Dufferin Grove...Also, you might want to communicate the free skate concerns to the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park. Thank you Peter.

Y. B. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Fiona Crean,

I'm writing to you today out of concern for what i have recently heard is happening to at least one well loved local park. Via the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park, I have come to understand that Parks and Recreation management is making a move to homogenize its offerings. "Management says: No community boards of management for arenas. And in the case of outdoor rinks, the message this year has been getting ever more insistent: No campfires. No skate lending. No mini-pizzas. No woodstoves. No zamboni cafes with cheap food. No easy collaboration between rink staff and rink friends."

It seems to me that the collaborative model that has made Dufferin Grove Park the award winning, and much loved community hub that it is, ought not be destroyed through such restrictions.

From what I understand, it seems the City's administration is methodically breaking the connections between communities and locally-responsive Parks and Recreation staff, in the interest of ever-tighter central control. I'm concerned that this approach will causing lasting damage to what works well in our neighbourhood public spaces. My concern extends to the waste of talents and taxes, as restrictive policies proliferate in the Parks and Recreation Department, and a culture of timidity takes over.

This would seem to be a matter for in-depth consideration by the two committees of Council which have charge of Parks and Recreation. Attempts to interest them, however, have thus far been unsuccessful.

Can your office help in this situation?

More information about this extraordinarily engaged park community can be found here - http://dufferinpark.ca/home/wiki/wiki.php#communityconnections

Thank you for taking the time to look into these concerns.

K. S. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Fiona Crean,

I'm writing to you as Ombudsperson to help save Dufferin Grove Park's unique family and community based activities.

Every Sunday, we go to Dufferin Grove to skate and have lunch at the Zamboni cafe and every summer, we spend many days there with the kids. Not only do we go there because we can meet lots of our friends there and enjoy the urban oasis, but we know we can get healthy snacks and food there. Instead of hot dogs, chips and fries that you find at other arenas or attractions like Ontario Place, the zoo or Centre Island, you can get healthy home made soup, and the best oatmeal cookies you have every tasted. You can make your own pizza using herbs from the community garden.

Not once have we ever been to Dufferin Grove and failed to run into someone we know! In summer, you don't even know it is in the city anymore. Friends of mine refer to it as "the cottage". Part of what makes it unique is the food stand and the chess and reading, or art and singing provided by park staff and community members.

Why ruin this wonderful atmosphere, created and run by the community and hard working park staff? Rather than ruining Dufferin Grove, why not look at this model for other parks, as other parents have tried to do? Under the new Parks plan, the word "equitable" is being used to mean lower the bar so no park has what Dufferin Grove has, including Dufferin Grove - why not raise the bar and share this community based model?

I keep reading that the City of Toronto is overbudget, so why not let things run as they are in Dufferin Grove instead of needing more money or bureaucracy to run things. Why bog this down in red tape? And it seems kind of mean to make Tino DeCastro go sit at City Hall after all the good work for Duffering Grove.

It would be really unfair to the community to change the way the Park is run, so please help keep it like it is.

J. B. wrote:

To the Ombudsman,

I am alarmed at reports that senior City staff are seeking to implement a fast food franchise model of parks management. http://dufferinpark.ca/newsletter/wiki/wiki.php/#tino Under such a model, it would become more difficult for the community to work with local park supervisors to create innovative programs without going through a mountain of red tape.

Dufferin Grove does not have the fanciest equipment or state-of-the-art facilities. It has a COMMUNITY, and that is why people come from all over the city to enjoy this wonderful park. Please do not allow parks staff to threaten the community-driven vitality of Dufferin Grove.

Parks do not need more red tape and bureaucracy. What they need are staffers that are empowered to engage the local community.

M. B. wrote to the ombudsman:

Hi,

I am writing about Dufferin Grove Park and changes to the way it is administered and managed.

The Park and community are fabulous - really great. My son and I go there - winter and summer for many different events - my son is 5. The big sand/mud pit makes summer in the city worthwhile.

But, over all it is a community driven park, with it's camp fire pits, wood stoves, organic farmer's market, music events, little cafe with fresh baked treats of cookies and hearty bread and healthy cheap freshly made foods. This community plants gardens in the warm months and has many events all year. We have enjoyed skating and theatre in the park.

I can go on and on singing the merits of this park and it's community driven "get it done attitude". There are so many other events I haven't listed here. It is for all ages and all incomes. Quite simply it works and it works very, very well. You can see the many happy faces light up the park.

And now, simply put, the city Parks and Recreation management wants to close the community driven element down. This would stop the events there. Please see: http://dufferinpark.ca/newsletter/wiki/wiki.php/#tino

I and my family really encourage you to not change Dufferin Grove Park's management system - it works and in my mind should be a model followed by every park in the city.

E. G. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Fiona Crean.

I am sending you a letter to tell you that I love my neighbourhood park. It is wonderful and a huge part of what I love about living in Toronto. We put up with crime and congestion, but the activities in my park balance off some of what some of my friends move to the suburbs to avoid.

I love the dufferin grove park and the good that has been done for our community through the involvement and initiatives there. It is incredible. In the summer to see people from all different cultures using and taking ownership of the park, picking up someone else's litter and helping with the gardens, it is inspiring.

It is a great example of things that work in our city when people who care are empowered. My life is better because of the work that my neighbours have done. Tino Castro is an excellent manager, helping us in all sorts of ways. Jutta Mason has created a fantastic support with neighbourhood volunteers and logic minded friends. I love this.

I am a single mom and artist in the community that has been working on getting rid of my most recent brain tumour. I am always shocked at how Tino can remember the peculiarities of my situation and really helps us. I understand that Parks and Rec wants to move the managers around. I don't think this makes any sense. The point is that he is really good at what he does and is appreciated for that. Why move him into a role where he has less impact? My community will suffer as a result.

I don't get it.

I have heard the news about the new budget. Increasing fees for community centres will be rough on my neighbourhood. Most of the thousands of park users don't have a back yard or access to much that many other Torontonians enjoy. Many are new to our city and the warmth they are shown is pretty precious and an important part of their lives too. It is very family like. The Dufferin Grove Park is a very special place because of the community support and involvement.

We should be rejoicing and celebrating the good and not dismantling what is working.

Please step in and have a look at what Parks and Rec is proposing for my park.

A. H. wrote to the ombudsman:

Letter to Fiona Crean, Toronto Ombudsman

Dear Madam:

For the last fifteen years, our neighbourhood has been working with city staff to build our local parks – Wallace Emerson, Campbell, McGregor, Dufferin Grove, etc – into lively community commons.

In the past year, this effort has come under sustained attack by Parks, Forestry and Recreation management.

The front-line staff at the park have been warned that their community connections put them into a situation of conflict of interest, which is ridiculous. Last week we heard that the long-time Ward 18 recreation supervisor will be removed from this ward. The community believes that his transfer to a back office at Metro Hall to work with Building Cleaners (of all things) is a punishment for his support of community efforts, and is also meant to send a message to his colleagues.

I am appalled at the low nature of the internal politics within this city department. It is an unjustifiable waste of resources.

Can you help?

C. K. wrote to the ombudsman:

Here is the email I sent to the 3 emails suggested: As a former Toronto resident, living at Harbord and Ossington, I have grave concerns with regards to the future of Dufferin Grove park. Dufferin Grove park, as it exists today with heavy community involvement, unique... intiatives and a culture all onto its own, STILL draws ME and MY FAMILY as a TOURIST to Toronto for the events that take place within Dufferin Grove park. I am extremely upset to hear that many of the unique aspects that color Dufferin Grove park are being threatened by homogenization. What DO the other parks offer? Not a whole lot. What community is created by some of the other parks? Last I looked....Christie Pits was being used as a garbadge dump and the lovely park at Broadview save for its sports activites had people hiding in the bushes smoking crack and getting up to other so called unsavory activities. Dufferin Grove park, on a Saturday afternoon, evening etc is so filled with activity that unsavory behaviours do not happen or do not happen at the expense of the feeling of community safety. Individuals who may otherwise been attracted to the seedy side of park life are invited to engage in one of the many community activities that are taking place i.e. pizza parties, baby showers or whatever else. (I being one of the expectant mothers baby showers who invited a few park goers to join in) I ask you, what do you WANT the parks to do? What is the mission statement of park and rec. Ask yourself, is the role of our community parks simply to function? Or to thrive. My family met at Dufferin Grove, from all over Ontario for many occasions. Be it a baby shower, a day of fun, a pizza party. In fact, my first son, his first walk out of the house was to Dufferin Grove Park. I knew that there would be tons of fun for us to sit and watch in our haze of recent childbirth. Please do not take our park as it lives today, away. If anything, please consider Colleen K. Former Resident of Toronto Current Tourist of Toronto

Tim Posgate wrote on his blog:

Dufferin Grove Park is one of the best family places in town, hands down! It is run with great spirit by community folks that care. There are such great events, food, parties, Farmers market, skating, swimming and everything you can imagine all under the shade of some nice old trees that are spread all over the park.

Somehow, every now and again the City of Toronto seems to threaten the idea of this perfection by taking it over fully and trying to make it like all the other parks.

It really is hard to believe and I would only guess that none of the people trying to do this have ever spent much time there and definitely don't have kids.

If you are one who uses this park and wants to get involved in keeping it going the way it is now, here is some info.

To CONTACT THE OMBUDSMAN regarding this issue you may visit the website at: http://ombudstoronto.ca/

W.S. wrote:

I spoke to the ombudsman's assistant introducing myself by name and as a resident of Ward 18.

I explained to her the changes that were coming and that many of us in the ward did not want those changes.

She said she was aware of the issue and had already received a few emails. This was around 1:30 pm.

Among other things, I told her we liked Tino and that moving people around would bring instability to the park.

She responded by saying it was an employment matter and that we were to go to the ombudsman as a last resort if a service was not provided and to work things out with Brenda Patterson.

I told her we tried but we weren't getting anywhere.

She said she needed some documentation on what has been happening between the friends of the park and the city.

She took my contact info and we agreed to keep in touch.

E. L. wrote:

Dear Fiona Crean, Ombudsman of Toronto, Councillor Davis, Brenda Patterson, and Sue Corke,

Why, and for what logical reason whatsoever, does the City of Toronto want to take away staff from a magical, inclusive, special place like Dufferin Grove Park, and stop them from supporting and engaging an officially 'at risk, priority and vulnerable community' in the Davenport Riding? Why, when a group of people, such as Jutta Mason, and Anna Galati, create such a creative, vibrant community hub, does the City of Toronto want to lessen community involvement in a park which is a bright light in the center of our city? This is one of the most active and beautiful inner city parks I have ever seen, and it is because of the work of its staff.

Dufferin Grove, and all its events, makes the City of Toronto great, and builds community in the most positive ways- through art, healthy food, and sport. Those who work at Dufferin Grove Park have done much to create outreach for the farmer's community, to encourage healthy and sustainable lifestyles, and to engage all kinds of children in Ward 18, for those who live Toronto to enjoy our city a little more each day.

Please allow Dufferin Grove to continue to thrive, grow, and support community members in the Davenport Riding and beyond. In the Davenport Riding, asthma and morbidity rates are among the highest in Canada due to air quality and poverty, and each day, when I see children skating on the rink, playing in the sandpit, or families attending farmer's markets, is a day that those statistics lessen because of Dufferin Grove providing an example of alternate, healthy lifestyles to affect change in our community.

Please don't break what is not broken, and what does many constituents a world of good to level the playing field for children and adults of all socioeconomic status to teach them how to build a sustainable, constructive community. Dufferin Grove has gone from a very dangerous place to become a beloved, overflowing, active park because of their hard work, and a place for many different cultures to meet and congregrate.

D. O. wrote to cityrinks:

I think we should keep the camp fires and the snackbars etc in the rinks because it makes us happy and safe so i say yes to keep the rinks and the snack bars, camp fires please for the fun of skating and hockey

P.S. wrote to farmers' market manager Anne Freeman:

I have a comment about the letter to the ombudsperson that I think is important - and because there is no place to comment on the website itself, I was hoping that you would pass this on for me.

While I think the idea of a letter that can be sent in is great, the drafting of this letter doesn't have enough information in it to really give me a sense of the issue. While the letter talks about problems, I still didn't know what the actual issue was. Because I'm new to the neighbourhood and I love the services and community stuff at Dufferin Grove, and I'm interested in city parks and services policy - I clicked further and joined the facebook group to learn more. But I think the letter itself should include that information - with either an extra paragraph or sentence or two - otherwise the letter doesn't communicate to people what the actual problem with the re-shuffling of staff is and relies on people doing more digging to actually "get it".

I think including something as simple as "Many of the services we offer residents, services that both build community and provide a healthy lifestyle for a vibrant city, are threatened by the proposed reshuffling of staff and homogenization of services. Our ability to offer a well-organized farmer's market, community dinner, skate-lending, cheap food and other affairs are fostered by and dependent on involved and informed city staff who are informed, responsible and innovative. Taking away the capacity that's been built and preventing it from being shared harms not only our community but all of Toronto." in the form letter would be a lot more informative for people like me who care about the issue and for people that we need to convince to help us.

If you could pass this on to the website person, or the letter designer, I would be very grateful!

From Jutta Mason to P.S.

Anne Freeman forwarded your letter. I'm hoping that you might post it to the facebook group, to clarify some of the issues that you feel are missing....? We'll put it on the web site "community comments" too, with just your initials. Every bit helps, thanks! (And I'm hoping you sent your expanded version to the ombudsman)

By the way, have you had a chance to read the longer explanations in the February park newsletter? You might find them interesting, to give a little background, and of course there is a lot in the newsletter archives too, if you really want to poke around a bit.... archives.

The things at Dufferin Grove Park were never exactly meant to be a service. This was just something that grew up among people in an odd little corner of the city (across from Wal-Mart!?) at a particular moment in time. In the current municipal climate, it may not be viable, but other odd and interesting things will come along at other times, as the next wave moves in (like you!). Thanks for writing me in such detail -- that's rare, and appreciated.

Bernard and Emily Kingvisser wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Ms. Crean,

For the last fifteen years, we have had the privilege of working with various community members and City of Toronto staff committed to developing and sustaining meaningful urban relationships to build Dufferin Grove Park into a lively community commons. We raised our two young girls at this park, skating in the winter and playing in the wading pool in the summer. We taught our children how to make pizza at the pizza ovens and ate among our community at Friday night suppers. We shopped at the farmers market on Thursday afternoons and joined hundreds of participants at Dusk Dances. The programming at Dufferin Grove Park is well known - and has only been possible through the collaboration of City staff and local residents. Our children are the result of this remarkable community, and we remain so grateful to share in its success.

In the past year, this concerted effort to create real and meaningful community has come under sustained attack by Parks, Forestry and Recreation management. The front-line staff at the park have been warned that their community connections put them into a situation of conflict of interest, and last week we heard that the long-time Ward 18 recreation supervisor will be removed from this ward. We believe that his transfer to a back office at Metro Hall to work with building cleaners is a punishment for his support of our efforts, and is also meant to send a message to his colleagues.

The problem has a larger context. Recreation supervisors are an important point of connection between the city and its neighborhoods. Parks and Recreation management has a new policy of moving all these supervisors across the city to new locations, discarding existing working relationships with the community in favour of ever-tighter central control. We're concerned that this approach is causing lasting damage to what works well in our neighbourhood public spaces. Our concern extends to the waste of talents and taxes, as restrictive policies proliferate in the Parks and Recreation Department, and a culture of timidity takes over. Consultation with citizens (and, we are told, even their city councillors) is lacking, and direct appeals by citizens to management are rebuffed.

At Dufferin Grove Park we are now facing a crisis. There is no doubt but that a continuation of the administration's present approach will soon result in the collapse of what we have built, together with locally-responsive city staff, over many years. Can you help us?

Please contact us and let us know what can be done. And accept our thanks in advance for your consideration of this complex issue.

C. V. wrote:

I am a very concerned parent, contacting you in the hope that you will encourage the City to leave Dufferin Grove Park in the hands of the community that is currently running it. Thank you C. V.\\ Parent of 2 Children aged 4 and 6.

Pamela Cuthbert wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Madam,

For the last fifteen years, various community members have been working with city staff to build Dufferin Grove Park into a lively community commons. I am disappointed to learn that in the past year, this effort has come under sustained attack by Parks, Forestry and Recreation management. This city-centre park is an important gathering place for families, friends, youth and elderly alike -- and a leader in the increasingly popular movement to support local food systems through a weekly, year-round farmers market. A true urban gem, it deserves the City's support.

The Park's managers have informed me that front-line staff at the park have been warned that their community connections put them into a situation of conflict of interest, and last week they heard that the long-time Ward 18 recreation supervisor will be removed from this ward. This is a problem with a broader context: Recreation supervisors are an important point of connection between the city and its neighborhoods. Parks and Recreation management has a new policy of moving supervisors across the city to new locations, thereby discarding existing, working relationships with the community -- and all in favour of ever-tighter central controls. Consultation with citizens (and, we are told, even their city councillors) is lacking, and i am disappointed to learn that direct appeals by citizens to management have been rebuffed.

Dufferin Grove Park is now facing a crisis. There is no doubt but that a continuation of the administration's present approach will soon result in the collapse of what we have built, together with locally-responsive city staff, over many years. Can you help us?

H. P. wrote:

Dear Toronto Ombuds and General Manager Brenda Patterson-

I am writing you today to ask you to please do what you can to ensure the survival of the community element of Dufferin Grove Park. I am a resident in the area and I chose to live in this neighbourhood because of all that Dufferin Grove Park has to offer.

My family does not have a car so our way of enjoying the seasons is by visiting the park. Whether it is skating, playing in the playground, jumping in leaves or watching the new flowers and plants bloom, we do this in Dufferin Grove. Many of those things we could do in other parks but Dufferin Grove is a special place. I can go with my child and stay all day because I know I can buy healthy food when I am there and we can take part in a variety of activities - most of which are provided by the community (books, playing checkers, watching outdoor plays or shows, dance/music lessons).

I feel that my son is safe when I am there as there is a strong community that looks out for each other and the park (keeping it clean and maintained).

My friends who live in other neighbourhoods and other cities are jealous of the park. Let's use it as an example on how we can improve our neighbourhoods, rather than take it away because it is unique. Let's use it to showcase how great Toronto is ... and build on the ideas!

Equitable access, quality, inclusion, and capacity building. These four pillars are found in Dufferin Grove like nowhere else that I know of.

Again, please do what you can to keep Dufferin Grove as the amazing center for our community that it is.

C. P. wrote, Feb 17:

To whom it may concern,

I'd like to echo those that have already written to express their concerns and displeasure at what is potentially happening at Dufferin Grove.

I'd like to in fact go a step further to say that if we shut down these communities and the services they provide, then we have taken a giant step backwards in time. Why don't we just don on the puritan uniforms of our ancestors. Let's ban alcohol across the city, let's ban Halloween - as it just incites the heathen ways of those community-minded folk who want to contribute to their community. For god's sake, get your heads out of your beaurocratic asses and see what the Friends of Dufferin Grove have done for an entire community. In fact, these groups should be encouraged across all the city. Trinity-Bellwoods is another fine example where community Puritans (i.e. rate payers that live on Crawford) are enhibiting that park to be something spectacular for downtown Toronto. Why not a wine bar like in the great parks of Europe?

A concerned community member and parent living at College and Dovercourt.


February 18, 2010
M. L. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Fiona Crean,

Congratulations on your role as Toronto Ombud. I know you bring a long and distinguished record of human rights and equity work to this current post, the very existence of which is a testament to the vitality of the democratic community spirit that has made Toronto such a successful city.

I'm writing to you about the latest threat to Dufferin Grove Park, a community that has amazed, moved and exhilarated me since I first began going to the park with my infant grandsons. I could never have believed that a park could stimulate so much creativity in young and old, foster such strong bonds of friendship, stimulate so much community investment and commitment to neighbourhood betterment, give birth to such a festivity of art, crafts, wholesome food and, above all, the kind of safe, lively, free outdoor play for children that is rare beyond rubies.

The farmers' market, the skating lessons, the folk dance lessons for preschoolers, the cricket games, the Dusk Theatre ---it all springs from the most powerful sense of community I ever encountered, in all my 70 years as a born Torontonian. (The parks of my childhood were desolate. The only adults who came there were the flashers who lurked by the bleachers).

Time and again, I have attended meetings at the park where city bureaucrats have come to lay down the law and refuse permission or flexibility around some rule, real or imagined. At more than one meeting, I have been shocked by the incomprehension of Brenda Patterson. She was trying to be fair, she was citing the rule book, and seemingly without any malevolent intent ---solely out of bureaucratic control ---she was willing to threaten everything that had been so lovingly and painstakingly built up by citizen effort.

Dufferin Grove is magical, and it is all built on the people who have come together there. Experts come from all over the world to see how it was done. And now, to see it on the verge of being undone, for no human reason, is simply too painful a loss.

Someone in the city power structure must intervene! The fate of the city's most diverse and vibrant community cannot rest in the hands of one indifferent bureaucrat!

Please do your best to prevent this.

C. T. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Madam Fiona Crean, Ombudsman

When I hear “Dufferin Grove Park is in trouble!”, I must respond immediately.

Toronto’s Dufferin Park is working. It is a place in my city where my toddler is learning about trees, campfires, gardens, cooking, music, live theatre and arts and crafts. It is at this park where we meet fellow Toronto families, from diverse backgrounds, who share our community spirit.

The families and friends of Dufferin Park are working hard to build a strong forward-thinking community. We are looking to you for your support and to achieve new accomplishments together.

J. M. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Ombudsman:

The Dufferin Grove Park is in jeopardy of losing its ability to be a centre for community based activism and community spirit. It is a community driven park, it has camp fire pits, wood stoves, organic farmer's market, music events, little cafe with fresh baked treats of cookies and hearty bread and healthy cheap freshly made foods. This community plants gardens in the warm months and has many events all year. It has a "can do attitude". It is for all ages and all incomes.The city Parks and Recreation management wants to close the community driven element down. This would stop the events there.

There have been meetings with Kelvin Seow, Malcolm Bromley, Brenda Patterson, and Councillor Janet Davis, i.e. all the way up the line.Parks and Recreation management is making its move to homogenize its offerings. Management says: No community boards of management for arenas. And in the case of outdoor rinks, the message this year has been getting ever more insistent: No campfires. No skate lending. No mini-pizzas. No woodstoves. No zamboni cafes with cheap food. No easy collaboration between rink staff and rink friends.Over the past two years, the Ward 18 recreation supervisor has not managed to completely cut his community ties, or completely forget his “let’s make it work” approach to his rink staff. So at the end of January, management let him know he was leaving Ward 18. He’s not the only recreation supervisor being moved away from the communities where they have relations with the neighbourhood and the local councillor – almost all of them have been transferred to new wards. But Tino DeCastro is not reassigned to another ward. For his “let’s make it work” experience at the Ward 18 rinks (and all year round), he is to be sent to an office in Metro Hall, liaising with building cleaners.

This is simply not acceptable to curtail community development and citizen participation in the city core. This is bureaucracy at its worst. Something must be done to keep neighbourhood initiative from being shut down. I have felt for a long time that Dufferin Grove is a best practice and should be treated as such. What can the ombudsman do to recognize how much of a need there is for citizens to stay involved in their local communities to make them thrive to deter crime and to build neighbourliness. This is not the time to standardize offerings and make them all pale, jaundiced replicas of each other. Respect the vibrancy of Dufferin Grove and secure its future by having the Parks and Recreation Department stand down and lend its support to the community initiative.

K. S. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Ombudsperson,

I understand that there is a move afoot within parks and rec. to standardize programming at parks / rinks and to either advertently or inadvertently shut down the wonderful things that are happening at Dufferin Grove Park (in the form of The "recreation service plan"?) I moved to the neighborhood precisely because of these things, and it would be devastating to have the community element removed from the park. This would be dragging DG-- an international award winning (see pps.org)-- down to the lowest common denominator. People all over Canada have been inspired by all of the programming, from the food to the campfires to the playground/sandpit, pizza making, farmers market and theatre in the park. Why on earth would we want to do anything but encourage this community- and public space-building initiative?

Apparently any consultation about this plan has been completely pro forma. I have certainly heard nothing about any opportunity to have input on it.

As a case in point, I understand that the Parks Supervisor (Tino de Castro) who has been helpful to enabling all these outside-the-box initiatives, has been shifted to a job supervising cleaners at city hall. His work has been in sharp distinction to other staff whose perpetual contribution is to try and shut down anything grassroots and community-driven, either because of overwork, risk aversion, apathy or general irritability at having to think differently about different parks.

Hmmm. The shift of Mr. De Castro is either a bad mistake, or has a more intentional strategic motivation. When anyone wants to understand or find out about what is going on in the bureaucracy, nothing but hurdles are raised.

I heard you on the radio saying that this is a priority for you-- ensuring lines of accountability and transparency among city staff, and facilitating public input. This might be a good starting place.

Thanks for your attention.

A. wrote:

I just spoke to the Ombudsman's Office and they have received about 90 emails (plus phone calls) so far and they are drafting a formal response.

They cannot cannot interfere with "staff" choices as this is out of their jurisdiction. However, we can make a case for "administrative unfairness".

The office has asked if we can help provide documentation to back up the claim of unfairness (ie. the last letter received from parks and rec.) and other helpful documents. Once again a strong case must be made regarding 'unfairness', not 'staff selection'.

I was asked to help provide any helpful documentation, but I do not think I am the one to do this. Can someone help take care of that?

Kind Regards,

Jutta Mason wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Ms.Crean,

Today I sent you an e-mail about a crisis at Dufferin Grove Park, and how it reflects a much larger problem at Parks, Forestry and Recreation. The writer below (Angela Read) has let me know that you are sending out a response, and that you have asked for more documentation. Since this alert originates from me, I am certainly well prepared (too well, alas) to submit any documentation you require. I will wait to see your letter.

A. S. wrote to the ombudsman:

Ms. Crean,

I am watching with alarm the bureaucratic train wreck that the city seems intent on pursuing at Dufferin Grove Park, and indeed across this self-proclaimed "city within a park".

I will refrain from simply copying and pasting a well-worded missive from the park website, as I'm sure that you've seen quite enough of it by this point. I shall instead offer up a few of my own thoughts.

I have lived in Toronto for over 20 years, having come from a small town in Northern Ontario. During my childhood, we lived an idyllic existence with many friendly neighbors, and a great community feel. When I moved to Toronto (a much larger city), I found quite quickly that 'neighborhoods' meant quite a different thing down here. There was isolation, and an impersonal undercurrent to the city. Some years later, I moved to College & Dufferin to raise my young family. It was then that I discovered a magical place called Dufferin Grove Park. I thought I knew what a proper neighborhood "should be" from my youth. But I was immediately taken by the community that had (and continues) to evolve around Dufferin Grove. It was a place that I embraced, and it was a place that in turn embraced me and my family.

My enthusiasm has been tempered, however, by years of hijinks brought about by the machinery of the city, specifically the department of Parks & Recreation. Many, many good things have been done at this park, but for every little miracle there seems to be a jab from the city in turn. Every step forward seems to be matched with an attempt by some bureaucrat with (I presume) an MBA to march two steps back. It is getting tiresome.

Dufferin Grove Park works.

I will now point out that I am a tax-paying property owner, and it is my (mistaken?) impression that I am paying the salaries of those that (purportedly) run the city, specifically, the managers in the department of Parks & Recreation. They work for me, and they work for my family. I'm sorry if the antics of the park don't fit into the one-size-fits-all strategy being pursued by the departmental managers. But it is what I want, and it is what thousands of people who embrace the park want.

In closing, I shall make a financial appeal. I own a house close to the park. If I were to sell this house today, it's value would be raised simply but putting the words "Close to Dufferin Grove Park" in the ad. If the park gets marginalized and loses it's magic, then I will stand to lose money. A great deal of money.

Please instruct the Department of Parks & Recreation to work WITH Dufferin Grove Park. Stop the transfer of Ward 18 recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro to metro hall. Establish lines of communication so that instead of fighting the success of Dufferin Grove Park, it instead embraces it, and spreads it across the city.

B. C. wrote:

When I visited my local rink this weekend, I was alarmed to hear that the human touches that make our recreation facilities such a pleasure to visit are in peril. My family and I are regular users of Wallace Emerson and Dufferin Grove and have always been thankful for the City providing frontline staff with the ability to respond to community initiatives and to truly support community building and sustenance in our city. As a former Parks and Rec employee back in the 90s, I noticed that staff were often hampered in our ability to respond to actual community, and assumed that the last decade or so of leadership had learned the valuable lesson of empowering frontline staff rather than seeking to control them. Has amalgamation taught us nothing? If the Province had the foresight to support its cities and urban centres rather than “govern” them—in the sense of a governess, doling out instruction and sporadic funding to unruly children rather than true parenting which includes guidance, support and flexibility—we might be living a different reality in Toronto today. Clearly, Parks, Forestry and Recreation has had a good thing that for some reason, someone has decided to tamper with. Please ensure that any changes to the current structure are well thought out and have the interests of individual communities in mind. In an era of budget tightening, the creativity and commitment of frontline workers must be given a voice in how we will continue to build safe and inspiring communities.

Please do your best to ensure that the concerns of the constituencies directly affected are heard and respected.

C. K. wrote:

As a former Toronto resident, living at Harbord and Ossington, I have grave concerns with regards to the future of Dufferin Grove park. Dufferin Grove park, as it exists today with heavy community involvement, unique... intiatives and a culture all onto its own, STILL draws ME and MY FAMILY as a TOURIST to Toronto for the events that take place within Dufferin Grove park. I am extremely upset to hear that many of the unique aspects that color Dufferin Grove park are being threatened by homogenization. What DO the other parks offer? Not a whole lot. What community is created by some of the other parks? Last I looked....Christie Pits was being used as a garbadge dump and the lovely park at Broadview save for its sports activites had people hiding in the bushes smoking crack and getting up to other so called unsavory activities. Dufferin Grove park, on a Saturday afternoon, evening etc is so filled with activity that unsavory behaviours do not happen or do not happen at the expense of the feeling of community safety. Individuals who may otherwise been attracted to the seedy side of park life are invited to engage in one of the many community activities that are taking place i.e. pizza parties, baby showers or whatever else. (I being one of the expectant mothers baby showers who invited a few park goers to join in) I ask you, what do you WANT the parks to do? What is the mission statement of park and rec. Ask yourself, is the role of our community parks simply to function? Or to thrive. My family met at Dufferin Grove, from all over Ontario for many occasions. Be it a baby shower, a day of fun, a pizza party. In fact, my first son, his first walk out of the house was to Dufferin Grove Park. I knew that there would be tons of fun for us to sit and watch in our haze of recent childbirth. Please do not take our park as it lives today, away. If anything, please consider Colleen K. Former Resident of Toronto Current Tourist of Toronto

A. M. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Ms. Crean

I write to express my feelings about the importance of a strong community in my part of Toronto. I love living in this city and chose to buy a home in this area in large part due to the close and supportive community that was created around Dufferin Grove Park. I have found a haven within the large city of Toronto where I have established close friendships myself and have found a wonderful community for my daughter. We regularly use the park and attend functions such as plays, musical performances, festivals, dinners, skating, etc. These activities and the community that supports them are invaluable for me and my family.

In recent months the efforts to maintain and grow this welcoming and supportive community have come under attack by the very organization that should be supporting it and using it as an inspiration for other parts of this beautiful city. I understand that the staff of the park, who devote their extraordinary talents and skills to nurturing this community have been intimidated by officials from Parks, Forestry and Recreation. In addition, the recreation supervisor who has worked so well with the community has been advised he will be transferred to a different position.

The position he now holds is an important link between city neighborhoods such as ours and the City itself. It is vitally important that the person who holds this position establish a good working relationship with the Community, including park staff, and develop a strong understanding of what works in each unique community. These relationships become important bridges between the community and the city and are the most efficient way to utilize the limited resources of the city. Interfering with these relationships is a waste of the talents of those involved and leads to waste and misuse of limited public funds.

I am very concerned that the approach that is being taken now will cause a breakdown of the important community hubs that have been established for me, my family and my neighbors. I want to be consulted about these issues before decisions that seem to me to be destructive are made. Are you willing to help this community and, assuming your answer is yes, how will that happen?

D. R. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Ms. Crean,

I’m writing to support the initiative to re-instate the recreation supervisor who was working with the volunteer staff at Dufferin Grove. The issue may sound rather trivial but I don’t believe it is. Before I explain, let me, In the interest of full disclosure acknowledge that I support Friends of Dufferin Grove and have made it the largest beneficiary of my charitable donations for the past several years.

In the nearly forty years I’ve lived in Toronto I hardly have a friend who, when considering a place for athletic and/or social purposes, hasn’t chosen a private club. I have resisted the choice because private clubs tend to be restrictive -- members tend to be defined by income, religion, or ethnicity -- and that doesn’t work for me. I like public space because in it I have more of a chance to meet my neighbours. My attitude is personal but I think, in our Toronto, its not insignificant. In our Toronto the idea of neighbour is important. Diversity does not naturally breed neigbourliness. In fact the opposite is true.

If you accept that public space ought to be the locus of neigbourliness, then you must ask which public space works to that end. Allow me to offer a personal view. Have you ever gone to a public swimming pool in summer? It is astoundingly chilling – and I’m not speaking of the water. I’ve rarely visited a pool at which the staff hasn’t treated me as a potential rule-violator rather than as a guest. Securities exchanges around the world do not close more precisely on time. Pleasure and ease, the lubricants to neigborliness, tend to be foreign to the places: You get in, you get out, you go home.

Contrast the experience with Dufferin Grove. Dufferin is friendly, vibrant, human. It lends itself to conversation. You meet people there.

Why the difference? I’m no expert but it seems to me that the explanation lies in who manages the two spaces. Pools are run by city staff. They come from away. To them their job is just that -- a job. Dufferin is run by volunteers. Most of them live in the neighbourhood. What they do, they do because it makes them feel good.

Dufferin Grove’s success has come about with more opposition from the city than support. Its astonishing that this would be the case. The place has become a Toronto treasure. Its also become a potential gift to the city in that the city can use it as a model for what public space might be – at absolutely no cost. The current recreation supervisor understands Dufferin’s pulse and soul. I urge you to help nurture Dufferin and the initiative it represents by, in the present instance, working toward having him remain Dufferin’s contact with the city.

Jutta Mason wrote to D. R.:

Thanks for copying me on your eloquent e-mail to the ombudsman. The only thing is, Dufferin Grove is not run by volunteers. All the people who work in recreation there are part-time recreation staff, working for $9 - $17 (top) per hour. The CELOS funds add programming but the basic responsibility is with the City. That means, running the park is cheap for the City but not free -- it does make (good) use of our taxes. The rec staff fooled you because they act like volunteers -- i.e. friendly and enthusiastic and inventive. And almost all of them do live in the neighbourhood.

Their "volunteer" mentality is the reason they are being warned about "conflict of interest." City staff are supposed to remember at all times that they work for "the corporation of the City of Toronto." They are not to do things on their own initiative but to follow direction. If there is no policy allowing staff to run a zamboni cafe or a $2 skate rental program at city outdoor rinks, then it should not be happening. Part-time rec staff from Dufferin Grove should not EVER be getting together with city staff or park users in other parts of town, to talk about how to make a community campfire work. Part-time staff are at the bottom of the hierarchy. If they have questions or suggestions they must only approach the city staff directly above them. Otherwise they can be warned and then disciplined. I'm not kidding.

That's how so many talents and gifts are wasted across the city, and that's why there have been such strenuous efforts applied to Dufferin Grove -- to get it back into the fold. Wrong-headed, for sure -- because when staff are encouraged to act like volunteers, they may work wonders, like at Dufferin Grove.

You were mistaken about the Dufferin Grove recreation staff being volunteers, but you see the reality at the park more clearly than management does at the moment. I sure hope their vision clears in time.

D. C. to the ombudsman:

Dear Fiona Crean,

For the last nine years I have had the privilege of hosting an event at Dufferin Grove Park. I have always had a positive experiance and the staff at Dufferin Grove has always gone beyond the pale to help. We have always been considered part of the scheduling at the rink. We have never had to obtain insurance, permits and donated money for the ice time. This year it all changed. A month before our event was to happen we were told that we would need insurance, permits and have to pay for the ice. We were then informed that this was all part of a bigger plan to centralize the ice scheduling.

I worry what this approach might have to the community as a whole. Is a centralized approach really the best route to go? I realize that the city is in a financial bind and needs to find money to pay its bills, but is it best to take the public out of "public parks"?

I understand that in the past the scheduling for the ice and park events was left in the hands of the local park committees. What is the reason behind this change? Is this for the best for communities that have put so much time and effort into making the parks work?

I have also heard that city staff that have worked with the community have found that this relationship has put them in a conflict of interest. I have also heard that because of this conflict one of the city staff have been transferred. Is this a punishment for helping the community have the park that we want?

I would think that these affiliations would strengthen the bond between community and city. Parks and Recreation management has a new policy of moving all these supervisors across the city to new locations. I am concerned that this new way of doing business will disrupt the community feel of the park and add unneeded waste and cost to the city.

Can you look into this situation to make sure that the parks continue to serve the people in the community and not the whims of upper management? I believe that the parks have been well looked after with the community model that has been in place. To replace it with people who do not know the park, the people or the community seems like a recipe for disaster.

I appreciate your time on this matter and look forward to your response.

R. R. to the ombudsman:

Dear Ms. Crean,

I am the mother of two young, lively boys and expecting my third. For as long as I have been at home with the children, Dufferin Grove Park has been a haven for me both in winter and in summer. Wherever I go in my travels, whether they are local, provincial or abroad, people have heard of this park and/or are envious of all of the amazing things that it offers, due in large part to the engagement of its staff and the leadership and support of its management. Kudos come from all over the world and yet it seems that Dufferin is set to become a victim of management "best practices". I would urge you to see for yourself the great work that is going on in this park and perhaps find ways for other public spaces around the city to emulate its model, rather than let it go the way of so many good initiatives that do not conform to a popular theory of how things ought to work. I am too tired, in the third trimester of this pregnancy to more eloquently articulate the situation at Dufferin Grove Park than has been outlined by a letter you may have already received and so I enclose the body of that letter below in order to bring to mind exactly the work that Dufferin Grove Park does and the situation in which it currently finds itself.

Please don't let Dufferin Grove Park become the victim of a new business model but instead look to it as a good place to see how to do more great things in this city and with our public spaces.

Thank you very much for giving this your attention and I am confident that you can help us find a positive solution.

text of our shared concern:

For the last fifteen years, various community members have been working with city staff to build Dufferin Grove Park into a lively community commons. In the past year, this effort has come under sustained attack by Parks, Forestry and Recreation management. The front-line staff at the park have been warned that their community connections put them into a situation of conflict of interest, and last week we heard that the long-time Ward 18 recreation supervisor will be removed from this ward. We believe that his transfer to a back office at Metro Hall to work with building cleaners is a punishment for his support of our efforts, and is also meant to send a message to his colleagues.

The problem has a larger context. Recreation supervisors are an important point of connection between the city and its neighborhoods. Parks and Recreation management has a new policy of moving all these supervisors across the city to new locations, discarding existing working relationships with the community in favour of ever-tighter central control. We're concerned that this approach is causing lasting damage to what works well in our neighbourhood public spaces. Our concern extends to the waste of talents and taxes, as restrictive policies proliferate in the Parks and Recreation Department, and a culture of timidity takes over. Consultation with citizens (and, we are told, even their city councillors) is lacking, and direct appeals by citizens to management are rebuffed.

At Dufferin Grove Park we are now facing a crisis. There is no doubt but that a continuation of the administration's present approach will soon result in the collapse of what we have built, together with locally-responsive city staff, over many years. Can you help us?

C. S. to the ombudsman:

If there is indeed a policy of moving city staff when they are perceived to become attached to a community, I beg you to do all you can to have this policy reconsidered. Dufferin Grove has been a beacon of innovative community building for the entire city for years, and the staff "on the ground" there are to be highly commended for their ability to allow what is truly important about making a great public space available to all. The park is a model for all parks. The facilities are clean, there are clear rules, but there is also lots of people doing overlapping activities and managing it with minimum friction.

There is no way to make everyone get along perfectly, there will always be problems. Taking away the people who understand them is not going to make the problems go away, and will undoubtedly make everyone very unhappy.

A. P. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Fiona Crean (Ombudsman, City of Toronto),

Like many people in the extended neighbourhood of Dufferin Grove Park my family and I are drawn to it and inspired by it. Indeed, we think it serves as a strong example of how activities and solutions to problems in public parks and rinks, etc., can be efficient, sensible, cost-efficient, and hugely effective -- particularly when generated by the very community they serve and with the responsive help of City workers who understand the local situation.

The proof of this is evident to anyone who visits this park. The vibrancy and cheerfulness of the place makes any visitor think, “I want to be a part of that.” And because the people who have generated the solutions, activities, and vibrancy are of the community, it becomes clear to anyone that he or she can be a part of it.

This model works. The City of Toronto needs more places like this: public spaces in which the City is responsive to the needs of its community by being open to community-generated solutions. We do not need more red tape, or one-size-fits-all solutions. Good relations with responsive City workers – such as the recreation supervisor of Ward 18 who I understand was recently transferred away from the park -- are part of the building blocks of our community. Please help us by understanding and supporting non-centralized models – such as Dufferin Grove Park – that have proven successful.

With best regards,

J. B. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Madam,

My family and I have lived in the Dovercourt park neighbourhood for over 14 years and have been visiting Dufferin Grove Park since our first son was born more than eleven years ago. What we have experienced over the years is really quite phenomenal and can only be viewed as a successful experiment in public space management. My children have learned to skate here, they have made wood oven pizzas, had birthday parties, celebrated Halloween, eaten exotic foods, "worked" with staff to serve food, sat around fire pits drinking hot chocolate, had BBQs, watched plays, shopped and tasted at the organic market, played tether ball, taken dance classes, built cities in the enormous sand pit, made rivers with a running hose, played safely in the wading pool for hours, made cob ( a type of adobe) for the park structure, planted in the garden and made many many friends with kids, families, dog walkers, childless people and the elderly at Friday night suppers and innumerous other opportunities to interact with the community as a whole. Could this have happened at another park? I doubt it. Could it have happened in a comparable inner city park such as Dufferin Grove is? I highly doubt it.

What makes Dufferin Grove special as I see it is the ability for a community to come together and make things happen and for City staff to allow this to happen. For that I thank you.

For reasons that have not been explained to me I understand that the way the City approaches things is changing and not for the better. I ask that you consider the implications of breaking this model that, in my view works so well and ensure that not only Dufferin Grove continues to operate successfully but that you spread this knowledge so others in the city can put into practice what works so well in Dufferin Grove,

S. S. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Madam,

It’s come to my attention that Parks and Recreation has implemented a new policy requiring park supervisors to be redeployed to new neighbourhoods. This is most alarming for communities who have collaborated with city staff to build wonderful public spaces such as Dufferin Grove Park. Although I don’t live near Dufferin Grove Park, I’ve traveled across the city to enjoy the incredible things it offers. Our wedding celebration bread was baked in its ovens, my high school students have skated on its rinks, I’ve played in a women’s shinny tournament while my infant & husband cozied by its wood fire. I’ve taken my parents to its community dinner (even though they live in Leaside) because it is a model community for all citizens. I understand and share the concern about haphazardly moving supervisors to new locations.

Recently, some of the kind folks at Dufferin Grove (friends of the park, as well as city staff) helped me and a neighbour organize a rinkside campfire at our local east end park. Without their help, experience and knowledge, it never would have happened. What has become commonplace at Dufferin Grove was a bureaucratic nightmare for our park because staff had no idea how to handle our request for a campfire. Having done it once, however, it seems hopeful that the seeds have been planted for more special gatherings like the one around our skating fire. Indeed, our park’s recreation supervisor hopes to bring his kids to the next one.

However, it’s disheartening to learn that relationships like the ones we are beginning to build with our own recreation supervisor & front line staff may be doomed from the outset. Will they risk being reprimanded or redeployed to manage Metro Hall’s building cleaners if they work too hard to support the blossoming park community? Is the mediocre status quo of our park what we have to look forward to?

Please help restore & improve the necessary framework to make our public space work as it should.

J. H. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Fiona Crean,

(cc. dufferingrovefriends@googlegroups.com, Councillor_Giambrone@toronto.ca)

The recent removal of Tino DeCastro from his position as manager of the Wallace Emmerson Community Center is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the city's recent anti-community activities.

It's no secret that there has grown, in several neighbourhoods in the city, a feeling of connection and involvement that has driven a revitalization of services and the ways in which they are delivered. Groups have formed around parks and recreation centers and allowed people to connect in ways largely unseen before in the city. This has encouraged citizens becoming involved in their neighbourhoods and getting together with city employees to help "make things work". Fundraising and locally funded groups have done a great deal to promote this movement, and cost the city nothing. These citizen driven initiatives have been a huge success in terms of delivering services to the community.

For some unknown reason, such unbridled success has seemingly caused the Parks and Recreations Department to do everything they can to stop it! Their underhanded and prohibitive attitude (which has been detailed in other places, such as the DufferinGroveFriends website, and will not be repeated here by me) has gone a long way to sour the working and recreational environments at many city parks.

Is this the publicly stated mandate of the department? Why is there a concerted attack on our communities? What is the city going to do about this problem?

J. M. wrote to the ombudsman:

Dear Ms Crean:

It's come to my attention that one of our family's most beloved Toronto spaces, Dufferin Grove Park, is in danger of losing its autonomy, placing its lively and creative relationship with surrounding communities in jeopardy.

Dufferin Grove Park could perhaps be seen as almost a model of what an urban park ought to be: in an ideal central location serving many regions of the city, it seeks to involve a highly participatory community while fostering great working relationships with local artistic production companies, organic food vendors. This park pulls off so many diverse endeavours it sometimes boggles the mind. As anyone who's been there can attest, visiting Dufferin Grove Park is a totally different experience every single time.

Yet while this park could serve as a role model, it is a model which I also believe could never be successfully applied in many areas around the GTA: in a more suburban region, for example, or one with less desirable transit routes, an entirely different model should apply.

It is my fear that in standardizing parks within Toronto, the city will - let's face it; clumsily - remove key individuals who have helped to foster these essential community relationships and place leadership of the park in the hands of those who live elsewhere and do not understand fully its particular assets.

I truly believe we ought to strive to become the "City within a Park," as the Parks, Forestry and Recreation slogan claims. And if that is the case, I believe the parks' needs - each park's unique and special requirements - must always come first.

Thanks for listening,

{moi}

p.s. I have cc'd Joe Mihevc, our own hard-working city councillor, in the hopes that he will get involved to whatever extent he can in helping keep this park - an amazing free resource quite essential to many of his constituents - as free and amazing as possible.

F. S. wrote:

Dear Fiona Cream,

I have been an active member of the Dufferin Grove community, as well as simply an enjoyer of the park since I moved to Toronto in the early 1990's. I have had the pleasure of being part of, and witnessing, the growth and development of this unique community space. Throughout my years, I have always admired and appreciated the hard work of BOTH community members and Park's Staff whose energy and enthusiasms have combined to create a healthy, active, creative space in what was once a needle infested, unfriendly downtown park.

For the last fifteen years, various community members have been working with city staff to build Dufferin Grove Park into a lively community commons. In the past year, this effort has come under sustained attack by Parks, Forestry and Recreation management. The front-line staff at the park have been warned that their community connections put them into a situation of conflict of interest, and last week we heard that the long-time Ward 18 recreation supervisor will be removed from this ward. We believe that his transfer to a back office at Metro Hall to work with building cleaners is a punishment for his support of our efforts, and is also meant to send a message to his colleagues.

The problem has a larger context. Recreation supervisors are an important point of connection between the city and its neighborhoods. Parks and Recreation management has a new policy of moving all these supervisors across the city to new locations, discarding existing working relationships with the community in favour of ever-tighter central control. We're concerned that this approach is causing lasting damage to what works well in our neighbourhood public spaces. Our concern extends to the waste of talents and taxes, as restrictive policies proliferate in the Parks and Recreation Department, and a culture of timidity takes over. Consultation with citizens (and, we are told, even their city councillors) is lacking, and direct appeals by citizens to management are rebuffed.

At Dufferin Grove Park we are now facing a crisis. There is no doubt but that a continuation of the administration's present approach will soon result in the collapse of what we have built, together with locally-responsive city staff, over many years. Please take into account the importance of preserving and supporting what helps create an actually liveable Toronto, rather than a bureaucratically practical system. Sincerely and with hopes of change,

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