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Letters about the proposed DOLA for Dufferin Grove Park

(posted on the dufferingrovefriends list)

After the Dec.10 meeting:

Dec.13, 2018

As per the meeting on the 10th- there was no vote on the subject of the DOLA and the proposed designs, however it did seem there was somewhat of a consensus reached in the room. The consensus being that people did not support the DOLA as proposed for various reasons.

Most people present and most comments focused on the down sides of the design with particular emphasis on the impact to the green space (toboggan hill) of the park, lack of drainage, and the use of and the pea gravel. Several non- dog owners expressed they felt that there are few dog related issues at the park, that most cohabitate well with little incident, and that the down sides were far more concerning than the upsides. It seemed that most agreed it would not likely solve the problems it was set out to at the expense of a good portion of the park.

I proposed an "off leash hours" pilot which seemed to be generally supported by the room. Ana suggested that such a proposal would be a difficult journey as it would need to pass council, however seemed happy to support residents interested in pursuing it.

There was a very knowledgeable gentlemen present that was impressively educated about DOLAs around the area, Canada and the US. I've pasted in his post about the meeting on his Facebook page "Toronto Dog Park Community."

Tanya Smith

"As you know, there was a public meeting yesterday about proposed plans to build a dog park in Dufferin Grove Park. While it did not go as expected, it was a great meeting.

Two concepts were presented in hopes that one would be selected (see pics). They were both quite similar: pea gravel without trees, consistent with Toronto’s policy and standards. However, they were only about 1,000 square meters in size. That’s half the new City standard, which I now understand is more of a recommendation.

Feedback was considerable. Numerous concerns were raised about pea gravel. Other feedback included lack of trees/shade, location, the small size, interference with the toboggan hill, poor drainage, and simply what a shame it would be to replace beautiful green space with gravel.

It soon became clear that the community would not chose one of the two designs. The good news is that the community's feedback was heard loud and clear.

Councillor Bailao did a fantastic job both listening and responding to feedback. I have a lot of confidence in her, based on what I saw. She will be building a small community task force to explore other options.

One resident suggested off-leash hours, which would enable responsible off-leash activity without the need to build a pea gravel dog park or block the toboggan hill. She received a round of applause. Councilor Bailao was receptive to the idea of a pilot, even though it would mean reexamining the policy. This is so great.

So, while the future of this dog park is unknown at this point, we do know this: Dufferin Grove Park has an extremely engaged, innovative community. Their pioneering spirit has lead to a one-of-a-kind campfire program, bake ovens, an adventure playground, and a whole bunch of other things that are awesomely atypical. With support from Councillor Bailao, I'm confident that whatever happens will work out for the best. I look forward to seeing what plays out." [Eric Code]

Dec.12, 2018

Thank you Kendra for your efforts (and others) to table this issue even though many of us were unable to attend the meeting. Keeping this listserve group up to date is much appreciated and important to keep people apprised.

I think it would be important to many of us if we heard back from the councillors office as a follow up to the many inquiries and after this meeting so it is my hope that when the dust settles that there be some sort of response (not so long from now) which could address the numerous concerns made through this list-serve and or provide us with an update on the situation. If there was a contact email link or point person for communications identified at this meeting I'd appreciate anyone who may have attended to provide us with any information where we can regulatr updates on this situation. I only heard about the meeting at last minute and was unable to make it.

I do hope when the next steps are clarified that we will hear back from the councillor's office and parks- if only to get an update.

Perhaps if we do not hear back next few weeks we could table a formal letter with signatures from many concerned people?

Sarah Campbell

Dec.12, 2018

Ana and Parks have both not replied to my inquiries about how to designate the sledding hill an official hill, and their thoughts on the placement of the DOLA in a place that blocks sledding. I did not attend, but apparently there was no additional vote at the meeting. People had many concerns about the design, including the location preventing sledding. Ana said she would be going back to the drawing board, but it wasn't clear if it was about the location, or about the type of surface to be used in the DOLA.

Kendra Hawke

Dec.12, 2018

I was at the meeting although we had to leave before the end. This is my take on the information given and responses from people at the meeting before we left (and definitely keep in mind it is only my impression, others will no doubt have their own comments!):

-Concern was expressed that the Dog area proposed (both options) would be less than half the recommended size for a DOLA and as such would be too small to be of much benefit to dog owners. City Staff indicated that they felt that there was no other larger space in the park that would be suitable.

-A number of the dog owners said they would not use the space if there was pea gravel on the ground, and also expressed concern about the area being close to Dufferin. However, the City Staff responded that based on their experience at other dog parks, pea gravel is the best ground cover to use in that area.

-Concern was expressed that the area becomes like a swamp when it is wet so it would be useless then in any case.

-Other dog owners stated that, having walked their dogs in the park for many years, they didn’t want an enclosure because as far as they could see there isn’t a problem. They reckoned that there are enough fixed structures in the park and they don’t want to lose more flexible green space.

-People did not want to lose the tobogganing slopes, part of that area has already been lost to a memorial. Suggestion that the slopes be designated by the city for tobogganing.

-Suggestion from the audience that there be off leash times set up. This seemed to have a good response although the city staff said they have had lots of complaints from some parks where they tried that out. When we left there was discussion about dog owners themselves taking responsibility in some form for ensuring dog owners follow off leash times.

Ana summarized at one point and I think she did a good job. She indicated that she felt there was no point building a DOLA that dog owners wouldn’t use. She said she would ask staff to look further afield for another more suitable spot and asked for people who would be interested in sitting on a committee to look into it plus look into off leash times.

In summary, my personal observation was that the majority of the people there felt that the park was not big enough for a DOLA as it is so well used already with more density to come in the future and they favoured the city finding a larger area elsewhere, possibly in one of the new developments. They also did not want to lose the toboggan slopes. Even most of the dog owners who spoke up supporting a DOLA in the park, did not appear to support the recommended size, and/or the use of pea gravel and and/or the position next to Dufferin Street.

As I said, these are my personal observations, I am sure others present at the meeting will have their own comments. It was a full and lively meeting. I have a feeling initially it was supposed to be run by the City Staff but in actuality I thought it was Ana who did a good job of keeping it on track, and trying to summarize the various opinions.

Vivienne Smetano

Dec.11,2018

Dear Councillor Bailao,

I was unfortunately unable to attend tonight's meeting, but have been thinking a lot about the proposal for an off-leash dog park in Dufferin Grove. As both a parent who depends on having a tobogganing hill within walking distance as a way to survive winter with four young kids in my house, and a responsible dog owner, I wish to share some thoughts:

1. The current proposal to fence of the space at the bottom of the toboggan hill is destructive and unacceptable

2. As owner of a new puppy we have been making regular use of Dufferin Grove as a place to walk our dog and I must say that not having a fenced-in dog park has the consequence of ensuring that only well-behaved dogs frequent this park with their dogs off leash. If there were any issues with noise, messes, or dangerous dogs, we would have attracted them all with a new puppy and I experienced none of this with the park as it is.

I offer two suggestions:

1. Why not keep Dufferin Grove as a destination for well-behaved dogs without a designated off-leash area and include an off-leash park in one of the upcoming developments at galleria or Bloor/Dufferin

2. If it is deemed absolutely essential to have an off leash dog park in Dufferin Grove, what about the south east end of the park (Sylvain / Gladstone) which has no other competing uses like an extremely valuable toboggan hill.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter and for all the good work you do for our community,

Kelsey Carriere

Before the Dec.10 meeting:

Dec.9, 2018

Dear Councillor Bailao,

I am unable to attend the community meeting about the dog park so I would really like to make my vote count as a NO the current location and even a NO for a dog park anywhere in this park. I would like to echo my neighbours very logical reasons below. This park does not need any more furniture! We need open space for our health.

I have also attached photos of us and many others using the hill.

1. I disagree that we have a big problem that we're dealing with. The current coexistence of dog walking and other uses seems perfectly fine to me. In 15 years I've witnessed only a handful of issues between dogs and people, and they've all been mild.

2 . The loss of the gentle tobogganing hill is unacceptable. We had so much fun there when our son was small. It's a perfect hill for little kids before they can graduate to the big ones.

3. The park is getting way too full of fixed things-- benches, ping pong, memorial walk-- rendering more flexible uses less and less possible.

4. It is aesthetically an awful idea. Dog runs are gross both to look at and to use. The one at Bickford is appalling. It smells and I would never even consider going there. .

5. Other issues that have been flagged are the fact that the area floods, that air pollution is very high in that spot and the fact that it's a waste of 300K that could be spent on better things.

I really hope you are listening to the opinions of the people who use this park EVERYDAY.

Lori Cullen


Dec.9, 2018

Dear Councillor Bailao,

I can't attend the community meeting tomorrow, but I would like to register my opinions anyway. I feel that it is a bad idea for the following reasons....I hope to hear that this is not a fait accomplis. It seems like lots and lots of people are against the idea, and just because I or we did not attend the one meeting I'm aware of having taken place, does not mean we should not have a chance to weigh in as community members.

All the best

Kathryn Scharf


Dec.8, 2018

I would suggest that for those of us who are able to, that we bring our children to the meeting on Monday, at St Mary's school at 6:30 pm so that the Councillor and City staff (but let's be real it IS the Councillor who makes the final decision whether she wants to admit it or not) hear directly from the children who are going to lose their toboggan hills.

If you are not able to attend, email the Councillor a video from your kids, and if you're on Twitter, post the video and tag the Councillor. And while I know the Councillor's staff monitor this list, posting here does not have the same impact as emailing her office with your concerns: Councillor_bailao@toronto.ca

Erin George


Dec.8, 2018

I can affirm that the majority of dog owners are not in favour of the proposed off-leash area, and at a meeting held to discuss the proposed off-leash area, the problem with it interfering with the toboggan hill in the winter was brought up. By the looks exchanged by the city staff present it was apparent that the winter use of the hill had not entered the discussions, yet those of us who actually use the park know that this Is a big draw, particularly after a snowfall, when lots of kids and their parents flock to the area to launch their toboggans - and themselves - down the hill.

In addition to our dissatisfaction with the location, the proposed site is smaller than the minimum size of off-leash parks in the city, at 1500 square feet rather than 2,000. Also, to clarify a point made by another area resident, the approval of dog owners for this park was not for the establishment of a park somewhere in Dufferin Grove, but solely for a park in this proposed area. That was the extent of the “community consultation”. We had gone to the meeting under the impression that we were truly being consulted, and we would have the opportunity to work with the various city departments to find a good location in which to establish an off-leash area. As the meeting progressed, however, it became apparent that we were there simply to hear about the proposal: all of the details - location, size, footing - had already been decided. The vote to approve an off-leash area as proposed was merely a formality. Those of us who attended the meeting were disappointed to learn we would not have any input into the proposal, and were quite frankly appalled that this was considered to be our “community consultation”. The actual extent of our input was simply to agree to the proposal as a done deal.

When the meeting for the rink house redevelopment was held a few weeks ago, I pointed to this type of “community consultation” as one to avoid if we were to have a very oice in the discussions, as it does little more than provide lip-service to actual consultation.

Furthermore, with the sites at both Bloor and Dufferin and the Galleria already slated for redevelopment, we will no doubt see an increase in the number of kids in the park for winter recreation as well as an increase in the dog population. An off-leash area that is already smaller than the minimum size required is quickly going to be overrun, as it is questionable if it is large enough now for our current dog population.

Additionally, although Ana Bailao attempted to allay my concerns when I broached the topic of the new developments being required to include off-leash park space in the design, by saying the developers were being “encouraged” to give it some consideration, we all know that developers won’t and don’t respond to “encouragement”, but instead respond only to the requirements imposed by the city. For far too long now we have heard that developers are asked to build affordable housing in 25% of the units, but the reality is that the one-bedroom condo continues to monopolize the market as even one-bedroom apartments are replaced. Family housing does not exist, as two and three bedroom units are probably too costly in comparison to the multiple smaller units that can be built instead. Without the city wielding a big stick, measures such as the inclusion of a dog space and the building of family housing are too costly for a developer to even contemplate voluntarily. The result is that existing services become overwhelmed.

Of course, with the onset of cooler temperatures, the park gradually empties until only the dogs and their owners frequent the park. It is ridiculous to think that the neighbourhood dog owners will want to run their dogs back and forth along a 1500 square foot strip at the edge of the park while the field and everywhere else in the park remains empty. This year even more of the field was fenced-off for the soccer field which is only used for two to three months of the year. The new grass in the centre of the field was the rationale for fencing off the area, but why an even greater amount of the field has been placed out of bounds is a mystery. But why it has been done a second year in a row begs the question as to why the field should be off-limits to those of us who reside in the area: simply because the field is rented during the summer to soccer leagues? So now we have a situation where, for the sake of a rental fee, the use of the field is denied to the neighbourhood - unless you have a child who you pay to have join a soccer team.

However the final layout of the park is decided, we need to have a true consultative process where the community, too, has input into the decision-making process. By doing so, we will hopefully address the interests of all park users in all seasons of the year.

Carol Kidd


Dec.8, 2018: Re Dufferin Grove Dogs Off Leash Area

I won’t be able to make it to the meeting Monday; but I wanted to add my voice to concerns about the placing of the DOLA in the south west corner of the park.

My concern is re the health effects of air pollution on the people walking their dogs, and presumably the dogs themselves!

I am a family doctor, and also physician-epidemiologist with Health Canada’s Air Quality Health Information group; so I am a Canadian “expert” in the health effects of air pollution.

I am making this statement as a private Canadian; not as a federal government public servant.

In Toronto, the worst air pollution accounting for increased mortality and morbidity is from Traffic related Air Pollution (TRAP): Nitrogen dioxide, Particulate matter (PM 2.5 and Ultrafine PM) and Carbon Monoxide, as well as air toxics.

That location will expose dog walkers to higher levels of TRAP because

1. Dufferin at that point is constantly busy, and cars are often idling in traffic slow downs to enter the mall.
2. They would be close to traffic (within 150 metres)
3. There is very little tree barrier to reduce air pollution
4. Pollution would be trapped by the building on the west side, and the hill on the east side, creating a “canyon effect”, where levels of pollutants are known to be increased.
5. Dog walkers would be walking, and exercise increases the breathing rate and the amount of pollution entering their lungs.

So for anyone in “at risk” groups: Children, the elderly, people with chronic respiratory diseases (asthma and COPD), chronic heart disease (Ischemia, arrhythmia, heart failure and stroke) and diabetes, as well as pregnant women, exposure would be a health hazard, especially if one is spending 60-90 minutes a day there (morning and evening 30-45 minutes each).

See some background at airhealth.ca

If the DOLA is located there, I would think Parks and TPH would be wise to place warning signs at the entrance, about the TRAP hazard to health.

So I would strongly recommend that Parks NOT locate the off leash area there; or at the very least consult with Toronto Public Health.

I would be very happy to provide more information by email or in person at another date.

Alan Abelsohn MBChB, CCFP, FCFP


Dec.5, 2018

Below is a link showing the proposed site of the off-leash dog area. It is important to note that this site will prevent the use of the toboggan hill. Dufferin Grove is a hub of winter activity, with people moving between snow piles, the ice rink and the tobogganing hill. Part of the fun is to slide down the hill and go as far as possible towards the bushy knoll - I can't see how it could remain safe to use the hill when it ends in a fence.

I encourage all residents interested in preserving the fun of winter tobogganing to attend this meeting or email Ana Bailao, councillor_bailao@toronto.ca<councillor_bailao@toronto.ca>, to request a different spot for this dog park. I spoke to a dog owner who also disliked this location because of the close proximity to the busy road.

Kendra Hawke


Dec.5, 2018

I am a mom with a young 5 year old child who has spent every year of their life in our community tobogganing at Dufferin grove park. I know many families across our community that feel the same way- a number of us have been in touch and are quite concerned about the proposal for a dog leash off area which would ultimately impede the safety of kids and likely mean that the well-loved toboggan hills in Dufferin Grove park could not be used.

I am unable to attend the community meeting being held on Dec. 10th at St. Mary's Academy on this issue at 6:30 but I hope many of my neighbours, friends and community members will be there to express concern that any design not inhibit use of the small hills on the west edge of the park for kids of all ages (and adults) who use this area for tobogganing throughout the winter.

For those constituents in our community who do not have have access to skiing or expensive winter sports- the ability to toboggan is an accessible way for kids and parents to have healthy outdoor fun in the winter. There are not many hills like this in this part of town and I urge you and your park department to look at another area of the park to place the dog off leash area.

I do believe that people need places for pet recreation but not at the expense of children not being able to use this area for safe recreation in winter.

Surely another, better area can be found for the off leash and I urge a design either that allows the use more easily in another area of the park, or if absolutely necessary, can this off leash area not be designed in a way to allow multiple uses and not prevent kids from enjoying Dufferin Grove for tobogganing as many families have in this area for generations .

I support a mix of uses and hope that you and your office will do your utmost to make sure that fitting in a dog off leash area - does not inhibit kids using this important area for tobogganing.

Sarah Campbell


Dec.5, 2018

I would agree with this position; although my sons are well grown I remember the fun they had on the toboggan hills, and my grandchildren now enjoy the fun there in the winter. The park is so well used that I wonder whether in fact it is the right park to fence part of it off. There must be parks that are quieter and don’t have the same popular people usage as our park.

Vivienne Smietana


Dec.6, 2018

The other area they could consider using for the dog off lease is at the north end of the park between the rink and the soccer field. This would give children the toboggan hill area. I’ve seen smaller off lease areas in many parts of the city.

Annette Mangaard


Dec.6, 2018

It might impact on the students from the school who use the park, plus parents cheering on their soccer playing children after school and at the weekend use that area. What about the south west corner, the other side of the path and away from the toboggan Hill? It is the only area I can think of where I tend to see very few people. Our park is so well used which is wonderful and many thanks to Jutta but it does leave very little excess space and carving it up even more means that everyone will be on top of each other; it is not that big of an area. My husband also suggested the alternative of an area to be included at Bloor/Dufferin when it is developed.

Vivienne


Dec.6, 2018

I don't think these things are final until the building begins. The proposed new rink house is a good example. I am not sure who was at the first committee meeting. I understand how it can be easy to miss how others are using the park - some people come with pets, others with children, some shop and others have fires. It is up to the community to let planners know how busy this area is in the winter. I would argue that it is well used in the summer, too.

Kendra Hawke



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