friends of dufferin grove park
September 2005 Newsletter
posted August 30, 2005



Newsletter prepared by:
Jutta Mason

Jane LowBeer

Technical support:
John Culbert

Henrik Bechmann,
Joe Adelaars

Park phone:
416 392-0913

street address:
875 Dufferin Street


Park photographer: Wallie Seto

Quality Control Printing at Bloor and St. George

Volume 6 Number 9, September 2005



Sunday September 4. The Morris Dancers’ annual Labour Day Weekend ALE, 3 pm. to 5 p.m.
This must be the 6th or 7th year that the Morris dancers are coming to dance for one another (show off their latest dances), drink ale in the rink house, and eat pizza and bread at the oven. The ale is not for sharing (their permit is just for their own group) but these Morris Dancers are always happy to share their food (including the bread we make for them) and their music and dances. On the basketball court – a wonderful spectacle.

Saturday September 10, Annual neighborhood street fair:
For quite few years, this street fair has been organized by Liz Martin. She writes: “Getting things in order for the fall? Don't forget the GIANT LAWN SALE. If you're interested, just set yourself up on a tarp or blanket around 9:30 am. Clean out your basement and see what your neighbours have to sell!”

The street fair has the same excellent format as always: 9.30 a.m. lawn sale along Havelock on the park grass (south of the school); early afternoon (check the park phone message for exact times, 416 392-0913) games (egg race, sack race, etc.) near the baseball diamond; 6.30 p.m., potluck dinner by the pizza oven (pizza-making for the kids), followed by the Cake Walk and some dancing. For the past three years there was square dancing on the street, organized and sometimes paid for by David Craig, but getting the street closed is always tricky. So this year, part-time park staff Eroca Nicols will put on her other hat (she is a dancer) and will lead line dances, salsa, and anything else that’s fun for groups, on the rink pad after the cake walk. Eroca is consulting with long-time park friend Vivienne Smetana about the line dances. It turns out that Vivienne choreographs and teaches line dancing all over the world, including Texas and Russia.

Friday September 16, Friday Night Supper/ Cob courtyard party, 6 p.m.
For one time only on Sept.16, Friday Night Supper will be beside the playground, with pots bubbling in the new cob fireplace. Afterwards, there will be music and dancing in honour of the finished cob courtyard. The whole structure will be lit with candles and torches. The park cooks will make a lot of extra food, so no reservations are necessary.

Sunday, September 18, 3.p.m.
From Larry St.Aubin, president of the Pugalug Club: “You may remember the Pugalug we had last year at Dufferin Park. We had about 30 pug dogs attend. Everyone had such a good time at Dufferin Park that we are coming back on Sunday, September 18th from 2 to 4 pm (Rain date will be the week following). We will be meeting just west of the playground and, around 3, will be doing a pug parade around the park."

Friday September 23, 6 p.m.
This Sept.23 Friday Night Supper is in honour of our new park friends at MacGregor Park (Lansdowne and College just north of West Toronto Secondary School).  Artist Kristen Fahrig has received an “artist-in-residence” grant from the Toronto Arts Council, to do projects at that park for a whole year. Friends of Dufferin Grove Park sponsored her application, as did Parks and Recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro.  MacGregor Park is the third park in this area that’s developing friends to help look after it. (Dovercourt Park is also very lively now, with the five-year involvement of Andrea Dawber and many others in that neighborhood.)

MacGregor Park was one of the first “playground parks” in Toronto, established in the 1920’s for the children of the workers in the industries that sprang up along the railway tracks. Up until about ten years ago the park was very busy, but more recently it became a bit of an orphan. Park neighbour Anna Galati worked with Parks and Recreation staff to put better programs in for the summer, and the children started coming back. (and Anna helped us at our park for the last two weeks of August).

Kristen Fahrig will run a fall kids’ art club in MacGregor Park’s solid old field house, making big papier mache masks to prepare for an October festival there.  The art club starts Saturday Sept.10, from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, contact Anna Galati at 416 535-9032.


The mosaics are almost done. The sinks are in. The electricity’s coming so that the water heater can be installed and we can have hot and cold running water at the new cob/public health sinks.  Our master cob builder Georgie Donais says she counted well over 500 people who have put their hands (and mud-squishing feet) on this structure over the summer to help build it.  More than a dozen people have been “lead hands” at various stages, giving many days of their time to the project. What a gift to the park!

One task for September is fixing the fireplace chimney, which doesn’t take up the smoke the way it was intended. Georgie says: “We tried lowering the front (with wood temporarily) to see if it had some effect on the smoke path, but smoke just billowed out beneath it. It seems to me, in hindsight, that the chimney is too skinny to accommodate the volume of smoke. Checking Rumford plans, those chimneys are very wide at the bottom before tapering into a chimney.” Patrick Jolly, who built the fireplace, is on a bike trip through northern Ontario, but Georgie contacted him by e-mail. He wrote back from a northern internet cafe, “I suggest building up around the base of the stack, then removing cob from the inside out to create a bit of a taper.” So that’s what they’ll try.

Many people who come to look at the cob courtyard have been asking whether it can last the winter. Georgie says that there are two cob buildings north of Thornhill, a house and a church, which were built in the 1830’s and are still in use. Some cob houses in England are over 500 years old. A park friend from Yemen showed us photos of 700-year old cob houses there. So we’re hoping that this cob courtyard will last many, many winters. The sinks and fireplace will be a boon for the people who come to picnic in the park; the puppet window will be a venue for little puppeteers; the change table will be useful for the very large number of new babies who are showing up at the park; the round enclosure with its many different windows provides a staging area for kids’ adventures.

A cause for celebration: September 16 at 5 p.m., a Friday Night Supper feast at the cob courtyard. (See the “events” section of this newsletter). And to see the step-by-step progress, go to


Mark Procunier, one of the City’s Forestry managers, came to the park in May to look at the trees. We showed him a few ailing trees that we were worried about, in the playground and beside the wading pool, and a few weeks later he issued work orders to take them down. Since then, another large tree branch came down on its own near the wading pool. The fact is, many of the park’s trees are “of an age.” Many of the giant silver maples have lost one or several of their huge limbs, and more will fall down. There has been very little replanting of new trees over the past ten years, but Mark agreed it’s time to begin again.

So we’ll have another walkabout in the fall. The fall is an excellent time to plant trees because they are approaching dormancy. Many of the trees planted by Gene Threndyle in the various native-species areas were little trees planted in the fall, and most are flourishing now. (You can see Wallie Seto’s photo of the black walnuts on the park web site – click on gardens)

If the Forestry Department has a shortage of trees allocated for our park, we have many people who have already offered small trees from their own yards or their land (so far, black walnut, aspens, silver maples, various pines). Park friend Mary Wigle wants to donate a memorial tree for her dear husband. Digging up small trees from backyards and arranging through the City to pay for a tree are both good ways to add to the grove at the park.  We’ll work closely with Forestry to make sure the spots chosen are good ones and the species make sense. In addition, donors can help the park staff nurse along the trees for the first few years – make sure they’re well watered and have protection against dogs. If you have a tree to donate, call the park at 416 392-0913 and leave a message for Mayssan. She’ll connect you with the right people.


Pizza days: Wednesdays 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (not when it’s raining or really nasty out – call if doubtful – 416 392-0913). For $2 a portion, you can buy a small lump of organic pizza dough, sauce, and cheese, and make your own pizza in the oven (staff help you bake it). You can pick toppings in the park gardens to put on as well, or bring extra toppings from home. It’s a very nice way to meet new neighbours or get together with friends. September usually is the last month for pizza days until spring.

If you want to include pizza at the oven in a birthday party, that’s possible on Sundays between 11.30 and 1 and from 3 to 4.  You can book it with park staff Mayssan Shuja Uddin at 416 392-0913. The staff cost is $36 extra on top of the pizza cost of $2 per pizza. If you have more than forty people, that will need an extra staff person for another $18. To find out more, click on bake ovens and food or call the park.

Food cart: the park staff will try to keep the food cart going on good-weather weekends in September, even after the pool closes for the season.  The playground is still very busy in September, the sandpit is full of little engineers, and the park crew want to have a chance to try out the new sink arrangements and see if they can make the food cart even nicer.


Parks and Recreation recently spent half a million dollars to add eight by-law officers to their staff. These officers have been much in evidence at our park lately. At the end of August we were told that park staff need a vendor’s permit to run the playground food cart. It's a good example of what's wrong with the City’s harmonization, centralization, jamming a square peg in a round hole, etc. etc. The fact is, food at Dufferin Grove Park is not put out by a vendor. It's much more a collaboration between park users and park staff. Examples: (1) when the staff are too busy to make sandwiches at the food cart, people have to make their own. (2) If somebody forgets their money at home, they take the food free and pay some other day, whenever they think of it (nobody keeps a record). (3) If people come and help build the cob structure by the wading pool, they get free food from the food cart (or from Friday Night Supper). That's to keep up their strength while they're doing things to make the park nicer.

Food is not available like this in other parks that we know of (too bad) so we can’t be jammed in with "vending conditions for Mobile Food Vending" by-laws. These by-laws require the yearly issuing of vendor permits (next year, maybe Coffee Time could get it).

We'll take this up as one of the problems we're discussing with Parks and Recreation general manager Brenda Librecz on Sept.14, as a good example of why we want to be excused from the City’s centralizing experiment.


For fall, there is only one campfire location – the fire circle in the middle of the park. The friends of the park have a standing year-round campfire permit. Park staff will train you in campfire safety, give you water, pails, and a shovel, and kindling if you need it. For now, you don’t have to bring your own wood because we have some extra (barrels on the rink surface beside the wood trailer). You can also borrow grills from us, and a cast-iron stand, if you want to cook more than marshmallows or hot dogs on a stick. For more information or to book a permit, call the park at 416 392-0913 and ask for Matt or Mayssan, or click on campfires.

The campfire site just south of the sandpit has been removed. It’s too close to the play area, which is supposed to be freely available to all kids in the park at all times – no parties there.  When the cob courtyard is ready, we’ll try giving permits to use the cob fireplace, and see how that works. All opinions and feedback on these changes are welcome: e-mail the web site, or call the park at 416 392-0913, or talk to the staff when you see them in the park.

One VERY important reminder: the fire permits are for small cozy campfires. No bonfires in the park, ever, except on the Night of Dread.


As all park users know, Dufferin Grove Park is full of picnics every weekend. Park supervisor Brian Green has placed more tables at the park than ever, and on most nice days, every table is used at least part of the day. Picnics are the lifeblood of any park – they’re what make a park inviting and safe. So there are no costs for booking a picnic of family or friends, and thanks to Brian and his staff, you can usually find a table (or three).

Larger picnics are a bit trickier. These kinds of picnics are generally booked centrally. The Central Permits department has to allocate space in over 2000 parks all over the city. Trying to make that work is a tough job, so they don’t always let us know what they’ve booked for our park. But Dufferin Grove Park is very active, and there’s often something going on.  When people book a picnic centrally and then they find out there’s a conflict with one of our local programs, they can get pretty irate.

So in August it was time to work out a solution.  Recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro walked around the park with the staff, and they settled on a group picnic spot that can be booked by Central Permits without any worry about conflict. The group picnic area is near the south end of the park by Lindsay, under a group of fine old trees, shady and roomy, without swamping out the playground or the oven or the cob or the frisbee area, or the performance spots, or the spots where people often dance or play music together.  There’s a group picnic sign, and we think this will restore the peace for folks who want to book larger events, centrally. As for the family picnics, the campfire sing-alongs, and the birthday parties, as long as there are not more than about 20 people, they can go anywhere in the park, without booking ahead.


It’s a puzzle, how a yearly Parks and Recreation budget of $210 million (more this year) can leave so many things undone in city parks. Two years ago, our small research group (CELOS, stands for: CEntre for LOcal research into public Space) began trying to learn about where the money goes. We didn’t get many answers from City staff, so we started handing in Freedom of Information applications to the City’s Corporate Access and Information Office. Often there was no response within the 60-day limit, or we were refused access to the information, so that we had to appeal to the provincial information and privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian. Recently, Dr. Cavoukian ordered the City to release information requested by the CBC, and she said that in general City of Toronto staff are far too secretive about letting citizens know what is done with their taxes. We agree.

Over time, though, we have begun to unravel some puzzles and are getting closer with others. We found out that when the City pulled out playground equipment all over the City for safety reasons, $4,941,590 was apparently spent on repairs and replacements, but there are no records of how that money was spent. (The City sent two lawyers and three senior staff to a provincial Freedom of Information hearing to prove that no records of the City’s playground safety project spending exist, so they can’t be made to produce them.)
We found out that for the past 25 years, the City’s Claims Division could find only seven playground injury claims in twenty-five years, costing the City of Toronto a total of $35,033. In response, our park playgrounds were drastically dumbed down, at a cost of at least $5.9 million.

We found out that the City paid out total insurance premiums of $10.06 million from 1998 to 2003 to cover legal claims. But the City’s deductible is so high (now $5 million) that while the City settled $44.9 million in claims and lawsuits from 1998 to 2003 (for all claims, not only third-party liability), the insurers were on the hook for only $210,450 of that. In recent years, the premium payout was around $1.8 million a year and the insurers paid out NIL. (Nice work if you can get it.)

There’s a saying, “the devil is in the details.” On a small scale, we found out that Parks and Recreation seems to have paid about $600 per site for playground arsenic tests that take 20 minutes of pre-lab labour (i.e. put some sand in three test tubes).  On a larger scale, the City has apparently borrowed $10.3 million to hire a giant American energy retrofit company (Cinergy) to increase the energy efficiency of city rinks, including our park rink. The projected lowering in energy costs will be charged to the Parks and Recreation operating budget so that the loan can be quickly repaid. But the City’s information on existing energy costs seems to be astonishingly incomplete. It’s hard to know how results can be measured without any reliable baseline, but it’s certain that there will be an obligation to pay back over a million dollars yearly from the money that’s meant to run parks and community centres.

And on an even larger scale, the allocation of Parks and Recreation capital funds is very puzzling and we’re working hard to sort through the information we’ve gathered.  More details can be found on the park web site — click on research.

This “cleaning out of the cupboard” is meant to reduce the secrecy about how money is spent by the Parks and Recreation Division. We want an ongoing, informed, thoughtful public discussion about our parks and recreation centres. Mayor David Miller says he supports this kind of openness and public participation. So we have strong hopes that all our research efforts will contribute to his resolve. (More in the October newsletter.)


In the northwest corner of the park. At this time of the year the farmers’ trucks are overflowing with their harvest.  There’s lots of prepared food too, tasty park bread, snacks. Leave yourself extra time when you go there because it’s also a place where neighbours run into each other and news is exchanged (face to face instead of electronically!). To get on the weekly market news e-list, contact market manager Anne Freeman (leave her a message at the park or e-mail her at


Back in the second year of our market, in the fall, we celebrated the market with a “tasting fair.” Various Toronto chefs cooked some delicious small item with each farmer’s produce. The fair was very popular but also quite a bit of work, so we didn’t repeat it the following year.  Now that the market is soon beginning its fourth year, it’s time to celebrate again. On Sunday October 2, from 1 to 4 p.m., we’ll have the second-ever tasting fair, $2 per item (each one tastier than the next). The only difference this time is that the food will be prepared by various renowned good cooks from this neighbourhood – ordinary folks with an uncommonly deft touch with food. The tasting fair will be outside along the side of the rink house unless it rains, in which case it will be indoors.

This printing of the newsletter was again sponsored by Tere Oulette, the owner of a wonderful toy store called Scooter Girl Toys at 187 Roncesvalles – a very loyal friend of the park. She says she loves the park and intends to sponsor one print run every month.