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News 2009


Newsletter excerpts

From the December 2009 Newsletter:

FRIDAY NIGHT SUPPER AND EVERYDAY FOOD AT THE ZAMBONI CAFÉ

The tasty market-food suppers will be on offer every Friday night after 6, to eat at the regular rink tables or at the bar-stool counter. However long the leftovers last, they’ll be served on Saturdays too. Every day of the week there’s Mary Sylwester’s warming soup, Sosnicki’s perogies, the mini-pizzas and Beretta’s hot dogs and the park cookies. Apples, too. All that fresh air makes skaters hungry.

From the November 2009 Newsletter:

A LITTLE SKETCH OF CITY DEBT

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

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

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

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

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

From the November 2009 Newsletter:

A SURPRISE PRESENT

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

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

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

From the October 2009 Newsletter:

WISH LIST FOR THE PARK

City Councillor Adam Giambrone says he wants to do a park walkabout sometime in October, to consider ten park improvements that might be put on the longer-term capital-projects wish list. That could mean paving the remaining dirt paths, putting in a stairway at the hill near the market, installing the bio-toilet at long last, making a better drain at the sandpit, laying flagstones at the bake-oven eating area, or any number of other suggestions.

Now that Mayor David Miller has announced he won’t be running again, there is a lot of bustle at City Hall, and it may be a while before a date is set for this park walkabout. Watch the newsletter, website, and park bulletin boards for an update.

From the October 2009 Newsletter:

CHARITABLE STATUS FOR CELOS, at last!

At the end of September, CELOS (The CEnte for LOcal research into public Space) received its charitable registration number from Canada Revenue. Because this little research centre is unusual, the process took well over a year and had substantial help from a lawyer, Ted Hyland, who does this kind of work. He also helped CELOS clarify its mandate:

  1. To conduct both practical and theoretical research on issues concerning parks and public commons.
  2. To build a library of resource materials for, researchers, governments, and particularly members of the public who are interested in structuring parks/ public commons so that they contribute to the enjoyment of their communities.
  3. ''To provide a forum at Dufferin Grove Park and elsewhere where people can come together to discuss issues relating to parks and public commons.

The website is already pretty crammed. To have a look, go to celos.ca ''

From the October 2009 Newsletter:

A TRILLIUM GRANT TO MAKE A RESOURCE LIBRARY OF PARK REGULATIONS

The Ontario Trillium Foundation recently awarded a $24,000 grant to CELOS (the CEntre for LOcal research into public Space) to research the laws, regulations, policies and guidelines that help or hinder community initiatives in parks and public spaces. Belinda Cole is the main legal researcher. Henrik Bechmann, the longtime webmaster of dufferinpark.ca, is working on a database application, to give easy access to people or groups who want to understand the regulations, policies and guidelines that scare people away from trying things or enjoying our parks to the fullest. This research involves talking to lots of interesting people and community groups. To find out more or to contribute your experience, go to celos.ca.

From the October 2009 Newsletter:

HOMELESS IN THE PARK

Park users will have noticed a tent near the playground, and two other homeless people sleeping on benches. The park program staff have been working with the Parks Ambassador Program and Streets to Homes to set up cold-weather housing for these folks. Dufferin Grove Park has often had temporary park users staying overnight, sometimes for weeks, rarely longer. Some of their stories are posted on dufferinpark.ca on “about us.” The stories are as varied as the people, and many of these temporary residents contributed their special gifts to the park in one way or another.

From the September 2009 Newsletter:

A WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE SWING FOR THE PLAYGROUND

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:

A TRILLIUM GRANT TO MAKE A RESOURCE LIBRARY OF PARK REGULATIONS

The Ontario Trillium Foundation recently awarded a $24,000 grant to CELOS (the CEntre for LOcal research into public Space) to research the laws, regulations, policies and guidelines that help or hinder community initiatives in parks and public spaces. Belinda Cole is the main legal researcher. Henrik Bechmann, the longtime webmaster of dufferinpark.ca, is working on a database application, to give easy access to people or groups who want to understand the regulations, policies and guidelines that scare people away from trying things or enjoying our parks to the fullest. This research involves talking to lots of interesting people and community groups. To find out more or to contribute your experience, go to http://www.celos.ca.

From the September 2009 Newsletter:

ANOTHER “SISTER PARK”

The Thorncliffe Park women’s committee has been working for several years to try and improve that community’s centrally located R.V.Burgess Park. In the process they have become a kind of “sister park” to Dufferin Grove, with swapping of staff and ideas. (Look for some of the foods we ate there, on the new zamboni snack bar menu this winter.) The women’s committee just sent this invitation: “We would like to invite you to a bazaar preparing for Eid (holiday at the end of Ramadan) for Tues Sept 15 from 3-7 pm in the park. Rain date will be Sept 17.” Going to one of their park bazaars is like going to the Middle East, without the hassle of an airport. Directions on dufferinpark.ca.

From the June 2009 Newsletter:

BEVERLEY COBURN’S MONDAY NIGHT RUN/WALK CLUB: everyone welcome

Bev is a certified personal trainer and certified Older Adult Specialist with considerable experience in sports training. She runs Active Age Fitness. She writes: "I have noticed that neighbourhoods with active running and walking clubs in Toronto seem to be friendlier and safer. So I started the Monday Night Run/Walk Club in February, and there has been an excellent response. There is a different route every week with maps provided - historical tidbits about our neighbourhood will keep you focused on the scenery rather than your quads. You will really get to know the area and have good company at the same time! Meet 6:30 p.m. every Monday at the Chelsea Lofts, 1375 Dupont St, SE corner of Lansdowne and Dupont. Easy-pace run or walk, everyone is welcome."

From the June 2009 Newsletter:

MARSH FOUNTAIN REBUILDING

The fountain at the little marsh near Dufferin Street lasted for 12 years, but then it began to falter. Gene Threndyle, who built the fountain with help from park staff in 1997, figured out a simpler arrangement and brought his landscaping crew over to the park at the end of May, to remove the metal “soup bowls” that used to catch the water, and replace them with a concrete circle that can channel the water back into the pump chamber (the water recirculates). As soon as the City plumber, Tom Feeney, installs the pump for the season, the new system can be tried out.

From the June 2009 Newsletter:

WIFI IN THE PARK: WIRELESS TORONTO

The park’s wireless “hotspot” internet access has been intermittent, so at the end of May, the Wireless Toronto people came to reconfigure it. Gabe Sawney and Michael Perreira brought some new parts that will hopefully allow access from most parts of the park. They brought along a PhD student from Auckland New Zealand, Alex DeFreitas. Alex is studying the effect of free wireless internet access on how people use the internet, so he’ll be walking around the park this summer, looking to talk to people who are catching up on their e-mails under the trees.

In the years since the Wireless Toronto folks installed the wireless access at Dufferin Grove (with start-up support from Kijiji), it’s been interesting to see who comes to use it. Newcomers living at Dover Square, who have a laptop but not the funds to pay for home internet, are one group. Young travelers are another, especially in summer. Andrew Akiwenzie, the fisherman from Georgian Bay who sells at the farmers’ market, brings his computer down to the market because he only has dial-up internet at home, and he can work faster at the park with the high-speed wireless.

The people from Wireless Toronto do their connecting work as a gift to the community. They welcome helpers, to hook up more cafés, community centres, parks, etc. To find out more, or volunteer: http://www.wirelesstoronto.ca

A gift goes to fixing and painting park picnic tables and benches


Bruce Whitaker and Rodney Litigio, who have a company called Buyingblock.com, came by the park at the beginning of May, to donate a check for $500 for much-needed paint and wooden slats to repair the picnic tables and benches at Dufferin Grove Park. Last winter they donated kids' skates to the Dufferin Rink skate rental program. In Parkdale they've paid for additional basketball hoops in a community centre, and sponsored a soccer team in Roncesvalles.

Bruce (who used to live right at the edge of the park) and Rodney started Buyingblock.com three years ago. Bruce says "we wanted to make it much easier and less costly for a buyer to buy a home and for a home owner to renew services. Services include mortgages, real estate, inspection, home insurance, life insurance, legal, energy audit, moving and phone/internet/cable. Not only do we provide the services but act as a concierge to ensure the whole experience goes smoothly. For every buyer we offer some kind of donation to the neighborhood where the buyer lives. For every Dufferin Grove resident who transacts with them, we will also be donating a tree to the park." That's a pretty inspiring way to do business.

From the May 2009 Newsletter:

4th Annual Dufferin Grove Clothing Swap, May 9, 10.

From organizers Eroca Nicols and Silvie Varone: “It's that time again! Clean out your closets and come on down to the swap! All clothing leftover will be donated.

10am-2pm Saturday May 9--Drop off clean clothes preferably organized into men's, women's, children's. Bring in 10 or more items and receive 10 tickets.

10am-2pm Sunday May 10--Come to the swap with your 10 tickets and get a "new" item for each ticket.”

To volunteer or for more information: 416 392-0913 or staff@dufferinpark.ca

BOOMERANG STORY (WITH POEM)

On April 28, Michael Edwards sent this note to the neighbourhood e-mail list: “I just returned today from Germany. I bought my children a boomerang there. They threw it parallel to the ground it zipped along then made a right turn and flew straight up and lodged in a tree about 60 feet up. I spent about two hours in Dufferin Grove park this evening throwing stones at it with no luck. I'm wondering if there are any archery experts out there who could help me to retrieve it. Any ideas welcome.”

Various pieces of advice were posted to the e-list. One person said that although the Germans are a clever people, they may not have figured out yet how to make boomerangs. Another person wrote: ''“My suggestion is shoes. Shoes on a rope are very effective in this situation. Birkenstocks work too.”'' Another person suggested trapping and training squirrels for boomerang retrieval. Then on May 1, Michael wrote that his boomerang had come back, washed out by the rain from the previous night. This news prompted Daphne Ballon to write a poem for the e-list:

boomerang come back to me/ you landed in the highest tree/ I trained a squirrel I tossed a shoe/ but now I don't know what to do
my boomerang came back to me/ flushed by rain from yon 60 ft tree/ so it's true by golly they always come back/ by gravity if spin they lack

From the April 2009 Newsletter:

NEWS ABOUT COURT VISITS: Confira Imports and the Kiss Cup Bar/Café

It’s been over a year now since CELOS researcher Michael Monastyrskyj began to follow local arrests through the courts. Of the 13 criminal cases Michael has been following, 9 are still before the courts, some not due until the fall of this year.

Some of the charges were not criminal, but were laid under the provincial offenses act – people were charged with violating regulations. Those charges are also moving through the courts and slowly being settled. For instance, the Globe and Mail reported last April (2008) that “Toronto police seized 46,680 litres of wine - red and white - in vats, buckets and large plastic jugs, worth an estimated $120,000....Five weeks of surveillance led to Confira's warehouse on Dublin Street, police said....Police said the owners of the company and six store owners have been charged with unlawfully keeping, offering and selling liquor. The company could face fines of up to $500,000, while each individual could face penalties of $250,000.” Dublin Street is near College and Lansdowne, so CELOS followed the case. On March 19, 2009, two people from Confira Imports pleaded guilty to several charges. The rest of the charges were dropped (apparently because of some errors in the investigation) and the two Confira Imports people was fined only $3000 each. They must have been relieved!

Another prosecution under the Provincial Offenses Act involved the Kiss Cup Bar/Café on the north side of Bloor St. between Emerson and St. Clarens. From Michael Monastyrskyj:
“In the summer of 2007, members of the local community group Dig In started noticing drug dealers hanging out at the Kiss Cup. Police were already aware of the problem as was Councillor Adam Giambrone's office. In 2007 and 2008 the bar was raided more than once.\\ ''In June 2008, the bar was temporarily closed for various liquor violations. The owners, people by the name of Ying, sold the business to another family. The new owner announced his resolve to clean up the place, and he put his daughter and his son-in-law, Kam Ho Law, in charge. The drug dealers, who were then excluded, were angry, the owners were threatened and the Kiss Cup twice had its windows smashed.''

Despite this, on September 20, 2008 two police officers entered the bar and issued twelve provincial offences tickets to the new owners of the Kiss Cup for various violations. Six of the tickets were issued to the previous owners, the Yings, while the other six were issued to Kam Ho Law. (This owner has since sold the business; apparently the experience with the police was the last straw for the family.)

On April 3, the owners had their day in court to fight the tickets. The family was already sitting in court before 9 a.m. Kam Ho Law approached the Crown attorney who suggested he talk to the police officer to see if they could come to an agreement to settle without a trial. The whole family, including the children, and an interpreter who speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese, went outside with the officer. When they came back, the officer told the Crown that the family still wanted a trial.

The interpreter approached the Crown and said Kam Ho Law wanted to talk to him. The Crown agreed, and said he was ready to proceed on three charges, but would agree to withdraw two of them if the owner would plead guilty to a violation of the Fire Marshall's Act and pay a $150 fine. The Crown said Kam Ho Law had locked the front door when there were people inside the bar, "You can't do that."

Kam Ho Law said the charges weren't fair and that the police officer was engaging in an act of revenge because of a confrontation that had happened earlier. The Crown attorney replied that he wasn't there and that he didn't have anything against the Kam Ho Laws. He repeated, "You can't lock the door with people inside." During the discussion, Kam Ho Law pointed out that some of the tickets showed the wrong date.

When the family still insisted on a trial, the Crown attorney stood up and told the Justice of the Peace he was withdrawing all the charges, because "upon review of the informations" he noticed there were two different dates on the tickets. The family was told they were free to go, because the case would not proceed.

The courtroom was almost empty. Seeing me, the Crown attorney asked if I had a matter before the court. I said I was with the family and that I was just observing. The owner said I was a member of the community who was monitoring the case.

Afterwards the family invited me to a restaurant to eat with them. They told me their version of what happened when they were issued the tickets. They say they never locked the door, but that they did push against the door to keep drug dealers out. They said they have DVDs from their security cameras that show what happened that night and that they were prepared to show those DVDs if the matter had gone to trial.

The Kam Ho Law family also said that the Chinese interpreter had told them not to fight the tickets, they wouldn't be able to win. But as it turns out, the interpreter was wrong.”

Michael Monastryskyj posts what he hears in court on the celos.ca website, except when a case is under a pre-trial publication ban. As the cases are settled or withdrawn, the publication bans are lifted one by one, and then Michael can add all his previously hidden material. It’s pretty fascinating, and this summer Michael will consolidate his year of local court stories into a short book.

Criminal cases: The Dufferin Grove park sexual assault charge, February 2008.

The only case directly involving Dufferin Grove Park (rather than the larger neighbourhood) was an arrest of a young man for sexual assault in the park one cold night in February 2008. This case was scheduled to be tried in May 2009, but recently the Crown attorney in charge of the case told Michael there isn't going to be a trial. Michael writes: “She also said that if people at Dufferin Grove have worries about what happened last February, they shouldn't, because ‘It's not that kind of case,’ i.e. that this is not a situation where there are likely to be attacks on strangers in the park. She couldn’t say more, but she told me if I'm interested in the final outcome I should be in court on May 5, because the case will probably be resolved then.”

A mystery, one of many mysteries in the courts. Michael welcomes anyone who wants to accompany him to any of the court visits, to get a first-hand view of how courts function. To contact him: mail@celos.ca.

From the March 2009 Newsletter:

SPEAKERS’ SERIES RESUMES AT FRIDAY NIGHT SUPPER

March is the “brown month” in the park, also the mud month. But the rink clubhouse is dry and warm. The park cooks normally suspend the Friday Night Supper program in March and April, but this year they’re having too good of a time trying out new recipes. And there are important things to talk about (see below, and pages 5-6). Also, the economic slide is making cheap meals with neighbours at the park even more attractive than before. So the cooks are continuing with Friday night suppers.

Supper is on from 6 to 7.30, in the rink house. There is always soup, a vegan entrée, a meat entrée, a side dish, a salad, and dessert. Most of the groceries are bought at the organic farmers’ market on Thursday, and most of the cooking is done in the outdoor wood-fired bake-ovens. It’s very delicious food, and conforms largely to the 100-mile “locavore” boundary. There’s a suggested donation, all of which goes back into the park, and to pay for the groceries. But if you can’t spare the cash, donate at some other time – nobody goes away hungry! (Of course, if you feel like donating more than the suggested amount, that’s fine too.)

MARCH SPEAKERS’ SERIES TOPICS

- March 13: Cob, Chickens & Community
Georgie Donais brings her pictures and stories of Portland, Oregon’s annual gathering, the Village Building Convergence, showing how the city nurtures community innovation and connection between citizens. And backyard chickens.

- March 20: Crime in the Neighbourhood
Michael Monastyrskyj has been following up local arrests in court for over a year. This is his first report back, telling real-life neighbourhood stories ranging from illegal wine sales, to arson, to gun arrests.


Click on poster to enlarge it.

- March 27: Music of the hydraulaphone
Dave Gildiner is bringing this new instrument, developed at the University of Toronto, back to the park. It will be set up in the front room, close to a drain – it makes sounds with jets of water! Local musicians will be accompanying the other-wordly sound.

APRIL SPEAKERS’ SERIES:

Booked so far are: April 3, Mike Sullivan from the Weston Community Coalition, on the Georgetown Rail Corridor expansion; April 10 (Good Friday, no supper); April 17: Jutta Mason on Dufferin Grove Park as a community lab; April 24, Belinda Cole on the City of Toronto Act and how it affects local democracy. More topics TBA, suggestions welcome!

TIME FOR DUFFERIN GROVE PARK FRIENDS TO TELL THEIR STORIES

There is no formal association called “Friends Of The Park” at Dufferin Grove, but the park certainly has a lot of friends, and it’s time for these friends to tell their park stories.

Here’s why: Parks and Recreation management downtown have recently said they have many concerns about what goes on at Dufferin Grove Park, from the playground’s cob courtyard café in summer, to Friday night suppers, to the skate rental program, to the many un-permitted school visits to the rink. And there has been a suggestion that the recreation staff who run most of the programs must stop handling cash (for cookies, swim diapers, skate-rentals, pizza days, etc.), otherwise they might even be at risk of being investigated by the City auditor.

There is a wide gap between the message from downtown that Dufferin Grove is a place that breaks all the rules, and the sense, by park friends, that Dufferin Grove is a park that works unusually well.

It’s no wonder that there are different perceptions. Since the city was forced to amalgamate, and got so much bigger all at once, staff restructuring has been almost uninterrupted within Parks and Recreation. The general manager has been changed three times in ten years, the Parks director was suddenly dismissed three weeks ago, and very few of the staff who helped at the beginning are still around. It’s time for park friends to tell the park’s history, for all those who don’t want to lose it. Get ready….

From the February 2009 Newsletter:

IS DUFFERIN GROVE PARK MANAGED BY A “CIVIC COMMITTEE”?

On February 7, John Barber wrote a piece in the Globe called “Let local groups manage their own parks, without a tangle of bureaucracy.” The poster child is Dufferin Grove, which, he writes, “a determined civic committee has rescued from bureaucratic control.”

Where is this “civic committee”? There actually isn’t one. Committees slide into bureaucracy much too fast. The liveliness of Dufferin Grove began under a different regime, in the 1990s, when Recreation staff were encouraged to talk to park users and community centre users in the day-to-day, and to act on what they heard. After the forced municipal amalgamation in 1997, and the resulting patchwork of parks and recreation cultures, that kind of collaboration began to atrophy for lack of support. At Dufferin Grove, park friends were told there was no budget for a year-round recreation staff person anymore, and so there was a “goodbye to the park as we know it” party on February 18, 2001. This was not a protest meeting but a celebration of the park.

The party was so well attended, and so many people came to a follow-up meeting with their ideas, that the staff cuts were postponed.

The following year, pressure to “harmonize” Dufferin Grove with all the other parks built again. Phone calls were not returned and, with another round of staff restructurings, the connection between park friends and recreation management became very fragile. But by then park friend Emily Visser had started a park web site and a neighbourhood news e-list. In May 2002, then-Recreation-Director Don Boyle brought his recreation manager, James Dann, to a special community pizza supper around the ovens. He was astonished to see the hillside around the oven covered with people. Etobicoke parks, where he came from, are not like that, he said.

There was not enough bake-oven pizza to go around that day, but it was good news otherwise. Manager James Dann was given the green light to resume collaborating with park friends. Over the next few years he and his recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro gave steady support to the park’s recreation staff as they worked with park friends to establish the zamboni kitchen, Friday Night suppers, a skate rental program, a volunteer gardener program, and other improvements too numerous to count (including giving staff support for the farmers’ market).

Then came the next wave of restructuring, with new management systems again. Campfires were temporarily suspended, and community building projects, from the composting toilet to the youth garden to the rink-house access steps, were stopped. Silos were strengthened to the point where on-site Recreation staff were ordered not to speak directly to the zamboni staff during the rink season. New policies about bake ovens, farmers’ markets, gardens, and campfires were developed in far-off meeting rooms. Park friends were not welcome at those meetings.

Even through that time, the old pattern of collaboration stayed intact. Park friends wrote letters and called City Councillor Adam Giambrone. No programs were lost, and collaboration didn’t die out.

The definition of a park friend is “anyone who is a friend to the park.” By now there are so many park friends, who have so many points of connection with the recreation staff. That’s why the park is lively. It’s not a membership club, there’s no committee running things – who has enough spare time to run a park? City staff run it.

From the February 2009 Newsletter:

CITY HALL: EVERYBODY’S SWAMPED

When the different cities that now make up Toronto were forced to amalgamate in 1997, they started on a program of “harmonizing” their services. Although that sounds musical, it isn’t. Globe columnist John Barber recently described it differently for Parks and Recreation: “…it began with a long round of tortuous policy-making designed to ‘harmonize’ the existing, human-scale patchwork. The result was a hideous tangle of rules and regulations encasing surprise fee hikes….” Last year, the attempt to raise fees dramatically and reduce the number of free programs failed. General Manager Brenda Librecz left, and so did Recreation Director Don Boyle. Then a few w+eeks ago, Parks Director Paul Ronan was suddenly fired by acting General Manager Brenda Patterson. Nobody seems to know why.

Meantime, the councillors are struggling to carry out their task of exercising oversight. Our little research group CELOS, which collaborated with on-site rink staff to publish a booklet on the city’s 49 outdoor rinks last year, tried for over a year to present their findings to the councillors, without being able to get a slot on the agenda.

Now Councillor Janet Davis, who blew the whistle about the surprise fee hikes last year, has been made chair of the committee in charge of recreation programs. CELOS (which continues to monitor the outdoor rinks), sent her reports and asked to meet with her. At first there was no response at all. Then – after many e-mails from rink friends all over the city – she agreed to meet. But she couldn’t make time until the very end of the rink season, and she couldn’t meet on site at one of the 49 rinks. No time.

Councillor Davis is also on the Executive Committee, which is now like the Mayor’s cabinet, so it’s no wonder she’s busy. She says she’ll meet: but will she be too run off her feet to listen? We’ll report back here.

From the February 2009 Newsletter:

OUTDOOR RINK MEETING WITH COUNCILLOR JANET DAVIS: she says yes, but no date yet.

The cityrinks.ca website has posted a letter that CELOS sent recently to Councillor Janet Davis. She’s the new head of City Council’s “Community Development and Recreation Committee”, which oversees the outdoor rinks (among many other things). The letter outlined some rink issues that need to be addressed, and asked Councillor Davis for a meeting. She didn’t respond at first, but after many rink users e-mailed her, backing the cityrinks.ca request, she agreed to meet. She said she couldn’t meet at a rink – not enough time. (Councillor Davis is also on the Executive Committee, a kind of cabinet for the Mayor.) No meeting time has been set yet, either. This is a difficult world where the councillors have no time to attend to the rinks whose oversight is one of their (many) tasks. They are swamped. What is the alternative?

On January 12, City Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong proposed to Council’s Community Development and Recreation Committee that the city’s outdoor rinks be opened two weeks earlier next winter. This is something rink friends have been requesting for ten years, so it was time to make a deputation, in favour.

From the February 2009 Newsletter:

Song bird nesting boxes for the park

Some years ago, long-time park friend Pat MacKay donated several hundred dollars to make some nesting boxes for the park. Gene Threndyle (who built the marsh fountain in the Garrison Hollow on the west side of the park, and who helped plant many of the other native-species gardens in the park), says he’d like to begin. He writes: “we need to find a knowledgeable local birder who knows what kind of birds we might reasonably hope to attract to the park and what kind of a box to build for them”. If you are that person, please talk to the staff, or e-mail them at staff@dufferinpark.ca, and they’ll pass it along.

From the February 2009 Newsletter:

Dufferin Grove staff on the road: Thorncliffe Park winter festival February 15

The mid-and-high-rise housing development called Thorncliffe Park in Don Mills was built in the 1970s for 12,000 people. It now houses 30,000 people in the same space. Many of them are children, whose parents are newcomers working hard to get established. In 2001, the area’s main park (R.V.Burgess park) lost its playground structure to the City’s CSA project (see p. ). There’s no budget allocated for a new structure until sometime between 2013 and 2017. Until then, the parents have to find other ways to make fun for their children. They invited Dufferin Grove to be their “sister park.” So three Dufferin Grove staff – Anna Bekerman, Jenny Cook and Lea Ambros – are going up to contribute a winter cooking fire to the Thorncliffe Park winter festival.

From the January 2009 Newsletter:

WHY THE DUFFERIN RINKHOUSE IS SOMETIMES TOO CROWDED

In early January, on a cold, cloudy Saturday after the holidays had ended, the rink house was so full of people changing into skates or eating Mary’s Sylwester’s lentil soup, that there was not one more place to sit. Outside, most of the benches were full too. It’s no fun having no place to sit. The City of Toronto owns more outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks than any city in the world, 49 of them – so why is this one sometimes so crowded?

The answer is easy, everybody knows why. It’s crowded because of the skate rentals, the zamboni café, the woodstove with the rack for drying mittens, the double pad of (mostly) good ice, and the great rink staff who run the entire operation, including zamboni-guarding, shovelling snow, applying band-aids, and keeping the see-and-be-seen youth crowd in line. Dufferin Rink is not heaven, but it’s a very nice place to go.

A couple of years ago, the Dufferin Rink staff asked Tino DeCastro (recreation supervisor) if they could start doing the same kind of work at Wallace Rink. He said yes. With City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s help, the rink change room was redesigned with some big sunny windows. The rink staff added better enforcement of the code of conduct, plus skate rentals, snacks, kids’ books, and weekend campfires. Now Wallace Rink is a very popular place too. When Wallace Rink finally gets good ice maintenance (hopefully very soon), it may get too crowded at times, just like Dufferin Rink.

It would be nice if this kind of thing were contagious, spreading to a few more neighbourhood rinks, to reduce the crowding.

CHRISTIE RINK SKATE RENTAL AND SNACK BAR: NOT THIS YEAR

Dufferin Rink staff, working on the principle of making good use of existing city assets, got involved with running Christie Rink this year. But it was tricky from the beginning. The week before the rink was set to open, an order came from downtown advising the removal of the rink wood stove on the grounds that (1) wood stoves in public buildings are against the fire code and (2) permission for installation had not been properly granted. Since neither of those reasons turned out to be correct, the wood stove was allowed to stay. But problems continued. Dufferin Rink staff had worked with CELOS and the Women of Winter Tournament to assemble a Christie rental skate collection. But it turned out that the Christie/Trinity Recreation supervisor was not happy with rink staff handling cash, so the $2 skate rental times were limited to two hours a week. That left out even the daytime school groups. The same limitation prevented the use of Christie Rink’s kitchen for more than two hours a week. Doing a healthy-snacks rink café, to bring in more families and school classes and improve the week-night youth scene, takes more than two hours a week. Too many blocks! Too bad. So “making good use of city assets,” including unused existing kitchens (and under-used existing staff expertise) will have to wait for another season.

From the January 2009 Newsletter:

CITYRINKS.CA WEBSITE

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

Toronto has more outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks than any city in the world. It’s the free outdoor-ice-skating capital of Canada! It makes sense to run these rinks better, and to get the word out to skaters sooner. Until the City’s information sources improve, cityrinks.ca is available. Response time to a rink user e-mail varies from half an hour to two days, and there’s as much follow-up as the rink user asks for.

People usually write in about problems, but not always – sometimes they just want to share their pleasure at the existence of the rinks. The problems that cityrinks.ca hears about are most often related to ice maintenance (see page 6). There are also some glitches with scheduling, and – for a few unfortunate people – there’s late-night noise. Shinny hockey players, if you want to play midnight hockey, don’t do it at a neighbourhood rink! Cityrinks.ca is putting together a list of rinks that are far away from houses, soon to be posted on the home page.


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