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News 2006

Stairs for winter

From Jutta Mason to Parks manager Sandy Straw, May 02, 2006

access to rink entryway

This section of dirt is a main "cowpath" for people coming up from the sidewalk to the rink entrance in winter. We tried growing flowers there every year but the ground is too compacted from people walking on it. The parks workers laid that strange steep path of interlock paving stones at the left (about 7 years ago) but it's treacherously slippery in the winter and people avoid it. As you see, it's also missing some pavers.

What's needed there is some stairs. Could you find out if this can be done this summer?

Meeting date: May 26, 2006

Parks manager Sandy Straw came to look at the stair location and agreed to put them on the park to-do list for this year.

posted October 26, 2006

Path for Zamboni

The pavers have come, to get rid of those deep mud ruts by the rink, where the zamboni has to drive in the winter. The paving crew are all from Newfoundland, and they're quick. They put down the base layer on Wednesday; the top coat of asphalt will have to wait until the market is done for the week.

posted September 6, 2006

REGULATION BLUES

But the project has gotten a bit bogged down in the zealous application of rules by the City, such as this fence.

Photo by Joe Adelaars.

In the past few years there has been a new stage in the life of the park – the stage of testing whether the things that work well at the park should be banned because they might not conform to regulations or bylaws.

The zamboni crisis at the rink in 2004 was the beginning. That winter, multipurpose use of the rink house was briefly declared a health and safety infraction.

Last June, 2005, a playground user expressed great unhappiness about the possible illegality of building the cob courtyard, but by then there were too many people engaged in the project to bring it to a halt.

In July 2005 there was an anonymous complaint about people making their own pizzas at the wood oven, resulting in an order for staff to make all pizzas inside the building and rush them out to the oven. That order was quickly found to be unnecessary and rescinded.

In August 2005 there was an anonymous complaint about the farmers’ vehicles being parked at the market, but after a by-law officer told all the farmers that he would write them each $105 tickets if they returned the following week, an official permit was created. The farmers were able to continue bringing their food as before.

In November 2005 there was a large meeting at St.Mary’s High School to address the absence of a formal advisory council at the park, but the meeting participants were able to convey their confidence in a park with good staff but without a formal community meeting structure. [see results].

In February 2006 a serious standoff developed between City rinks zamboni drivers and on-site staff/rink friends, relating to our local practice of cleaning the ice one rink at a time and letting skaters continue to skate on the other rink. That issue – presented as a health-and-safety issue for the zamboni drivers – will hopefully be solved this year with the long-awaited construction of a little external paved path that allows the zamboni to travel between our two rinks without using the internal gate, therefore not requiring a guard at the gate.


Six foot high fence erected around the toilet project

In July-August 2006, complaints to the highest levels of City management, by three neighbourhood activists, led to repeated stop-work periods for the community-built addition of a composting toilet with a sculptural cob-surround, near the playground area. The worry about possible regulatory infractions made Parks management erect a six-foot-high fence to keep kids away from this project completely. A public meeting turned up no complainants willing to speak to the meeting, but a lot of ideas for how to make the project work. Parks management listened, and added input of their own, and the next day cob master-builder Georgie Donais found out that the hurdles had been crossed and the project could go ahead as planned.

This neighborhood is full of musicians: does anyone feel inspired to write a song for the park, called the “Regulation Blues”? It could have broad appeal beyond the park too, maybe become as big a hit as “Little Boxes” was in its day.

posted August 23, 2006

City TV Tests Dufferin Park Wading Pool

On August 23, City TV ran a three-minute item on their six-o'clock news, identifying Dufferin Grove wading pool as having twice the allowable amount of e-coli bacteria in the pool. This was on the basis of a secret test City TV did sometime earlier this week, after the Montreal swimming pool story came out.

The good news is:

  1. they said that the other Toronto outdoor swimming pools and wading pools they tested were fine, not like those in Montreal
  2. they said our wading pool is one of the most popular in the city.

The bad news is:

  1. The solution is a little more complicated than just dumping in a big amount of extra chlorine. People who come to this pool know that the staff chlorinate the pool frequently already. But for at least two reasons, the chlorine doesn't hold very well. One reason is that the pool is so much busier than many others, since it's so well shaded and there's so much else to do at park, that's fun. Lots of bodies use up the chlorine faster. The second reason is that organic matter like sand gobbles up the chlorine really fast. Our huge sand pit is even more popular than the wading pool, and it's only ten metres away.
  2. There are some real health concerns about the effects of higher levels of chlorine exposure on humans.

But there' s more good news.

  1. We can use science. We can do more e-coli testing, to follow up. One single sample is not a good indicator.
    (In 2003, there was a big arsenic scare about pressure-treated wood in playgrounds. The playground sand at Dufferin Grove Park was supposed to have the second-highest arsenic readings in the whole city. That scare was also on the basis of one external test. The City re-tested with four samples, and the park friends paid for an additional six samples at a lab. It turned out the arsenic levels in our playground sand are lower than what occurs naturally in soil. End of scare.)
    So we'll ask the city to test for e-coli twice a day for the next week. We need to know more than we know now.
  2. We can have an on-going informed discussion poolside, about
    • e-coli versus chlorine
    • versus no wading pools anymore
    • versus the possible long-term protection of naturally produced immunity when children have low-level exposure to bacteria
    • versus other considerations

Public discussion at the playground! There are bound to be some good ideas, worked out poolside during the remaining two weeks of summer. See you at the park, with or without water in the wading pool.

What happened next.


Dufferin Park Wading Pool

posted August 27, 2006

Wading Pool Safety Update

More questions than answers

Recreation director Don Boyle speaking to park staff

The day after City TV reported that the Dufferin Grove Park wading pool had twice the allowable level of e-coli [ed. see City TV Tests Dufferin Park Wading Pool], recreation director Don Boyle came to the park. City TV filmed him talking to the pool staff. What he was saying is that they must keep the wading pool at a higher level of chlorination than before. He said the city will not do repeat tests because at that higher level of chlorine, all the bacteria will be killed for sure. (Note: City TV's test was done as the wading pool was being cleared for the staff to add more chlorine -- already mixed up and ready to pour).

When we talked to the lab supervisor at Gelda Scientific (the lab that did the City TV tests), he was very unhappy. He said that he had tried to explain to City TV that the e-coli test was not the only factor in pool safety. Chlorine is a poison, he said, and it hurts humans as well as bacteria. But the effects take longer to show up. In twenty years, he said, "people who put chlorine in pools will be sent to jail!" He also said that more and more microbiologists feel that a certain level of human exposure to bacteria is very helpful to children especially.

The City public health staff don't agree. They would like Parks and Recreation to change to a higher standard of chlorine than what they are now using. Don Boyle says that his division's aquatic committee will consider this question in the winter. It may be that some parents of children who use wading pools and swimming pools may form an aquatic committee to study the question, and also seek citizen representation on Don Boyle's committee. To find out more: contact water@dufferinpark.ca.


Public health inspector waiting on a bench
until City TV leaves (last Thursday),
so she can talk to staff without the media there.

Meanwhile, Montreal's bacterial re-testing of its swimming pools is not quite complete, but of the 63 whose results are in, only 4 failed the tests, so the rest have been cleaned up successfully already and will be reopened. The lab that did the original tests also warned that one-third of the pools had too high levels of chlorine, and said this could cause respiratory problems as well as skin ailments.

Nothing is simple! The Dufferin Grove Park wading pool staff will do extra chlorine monitoring during this last week of the wading pool, and will share this information with pool users who are interested. They will also be seeking information from parents: did your child get diarrhea after using the pool this summer? And this week, with the higher levels of chlorine, is your child having any noticeable chlorine reactions? The best approach to this bacteria-versus-chlorine conundrum is good documentation. Park lead staff Mayssan Shuja has a degree in biology and park part-time staff Jenny Cook is finishing her Masters in environmental studies. So they can help too.


Dufferin Park Wading Pool

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