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August 2013

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


August 2013 newsletter

dangerous leaning tree in playground

Events in the park

Puppet Performance by Clay and Paper Theatre: “Our Last Best Hope” Wednesday to Sunday until Aug.18, 7 pm. Southeast corner of the park near Havelock Street.

Artistic Director David Anderson says that this year the youth employment program that funds the actors was not approved until four weeks before the opening. So making all the costumes and rehearsing was a real scramble,. But they opened on time. From Inside Toronto: “Anderson said he was inspired particularly by the Idle No More movement..... Co-written by Angela Loft, who is First Nations and a Clay and Paper alumnus, Our Last Best Hope opened July 25.... Even though the production tackles some heavy topics, such as the oil industry, Anderson calls it “a very dance-y piece filled with movement and fun.”

Sunday, August 11 from 2-5 pm. Makerkids Festival and pizza day picnic, everyone welcome

Air rocket building station, Mega croquet, Parachute and other games. Kids project showcase. From the organizers: **“Hang out with the founders, meet the volunteers, learn more about Making in Toronto, or just have fun!”**

Sunday, August 11th - 4:30-6:30 pm: Tune Your Ride Tour Launch Show - Bicycle-Powered Music in the Park

Featuring: Abigail Lapell, Dana Sitpos, Jessica Moore and special guest Ben Hermann. This show is put on by the same people who have astounded and delighted their park audience with their bicycle-powered amps (take a turn pedalling!) over the past three years. PWYC (Suggested Donation - $10)

Thursday August 22, 6.30 p.m. Scottish Country Dancing in Dufferin Grove Park

On the grass just east and south of the basketball court. The dancing gets underway at 6:30 and continues to sunset. While most dances are for those familiar with Scottish country dancing including its steps and formations, there will be opportunities for audience participation. All are welcome. You don’t need to be Scottish and you don’t need a partner. More information:

More events (including regular ones)


This is the second summer for the new “campfire orientation” sessions, half-hour recaps of how and why the campfire program was first started. Last year, there were 370 campfires at Dufferin Grove. The orientation sessions are to remind the campfire hosts that they are first of all campfire volunteers, who undertake to keep their eyes out for any trouble in the park. The hosts are also ambassadors for other park visitors who are curious about the campfires. And best of all, the campfires add beauty and warmth to the park in the evening hours. To find out more:

Friday Night Supper in the rain

This is the summer of unstable weather. Many days start out sunny and later have showers as well. That includes Fridays. Four Friday Night Suppers were cancelled for threatened rain. Then the staff decided to put on the dinners regardless of the forecast. They prepare by putting up the farmers’ market tents over the picnic tables if showers are likely. They cleaned up the inside of the rink house (normally pretty messy in summer because it’s mainly used as a staging area for park program supplies). CELOS donated additional chairs and stools for the inside, so people can sit down if they have to get out of the rain.

Two suppers since then have had heavy showers and strong winds. People came anyway, and discovered the joys of huddling under the tents with their neighbours, or gathering inside the rink house. Bad weather seems to make the food taste even better – an unexplained mystery.

The real beneficiaries of the Friday Night Supper weather are the kids. When it rains, the rink pad fills up fast with a couple of inches of water, making a wonderful place to run around and splash in rubber boots or bare feet, and play tag, or bike through the floodwaters (good practice!). On the first Friday in August the kids hit on an even better water game. They asked for the dozen or so brooms and squeegees from the rinkhouse, and they experimented, for hours, with the physics of moving waves with a push broom (also up an incline – up the rink pad’s skateboard ramps). It’s a wonderful sight, a whole rink of little kids testing the properties of water.

Yoga in the park: Thursdays 6 to 7; Sundays, 10.30 to 11.30, with Christi-an Slomka. This is a well-loved program, and Christi-an offers it free, under the big trees in the middle of the park.

Pizza days: Wednesdays and Sundays, 12 to 2pm
The make-your –own-pizza days have been going continuously since the first oven was built in 1995. The park staff make dough and set out little dishes of cheese and tomato sauce. For $2.50 you can make your own pizza, and you can add herbs and (soon) little tomatoes from the nearby children’s garden. You can bring extra ingredients from home as well. Birthday parties can be scheduled from 11 to 12 or from 2 to 3 on Sundays. To book a party, call the staff at 416 392-0913, or better yet, email them at

After so many years of making rather plain pizza, it might be time to be a bit more adventuresome. On the last Friday in July, a CBC news-van showed up to show the ovens on the six-o-clock news. The news story was actually about a backyard oven in Leslieville, where baker Craig Horning had been making extraordinarily good pizzas for his neighbours. The City’s Licensing and Standards Department felt he must be running an illegal backyard business, so they told him to stop. When we looked at his Facebook page and read the descriptions of the toppings he put on, we called him up: would he be willing to be a once-time “guest baker” at Dufferin Grove, and share his pizza knowledge? He said yes. Watch the website and the park bulletin boards for the date (it’s not set yet): everyone welcome.

Drop-in garden club: Sundays from 2 to 4 and Wednesdays from 5 to 7.
Dufferin Grove Park has a variety of gardens including native plant beds, native tree groves, a little rooftop garden, and a naturalized savannah garden, as well as vegetable gardens.

The drop-in garden club helps maintain these gardens, and is open to everyone. You can join us to help out as often or seldom as you like. From spring to fall, we meet to seed, plant, compost, weed, harvest, prune, build garden beds, invent trellises, mulch, rake, build paths, and/or anything else that needs doing in the gardens. We welcome garden novices and experts alike -- the garden club is a great place to share what you know and/or pick up new tricks. You can check out the latest update for the garden club on the gardening workboard. Meetings sometimes include a delicious lunch or snack using garden produce. To find out more:

The leaning trees in the adventure playground: finally removed before they fell over

For much of July, kids and parents using the sandpit at the playground wondered, a bit anxiously, whether the two big trees that were leaning into the playground would fall over like two others did earlier this summer. Parents kept asking the playground program staff about the trees. The program staff sent requests and photos to their supervisor: “can City Foresters cut those trees down before somebody gets hurt?” City Forestry staff came by and marked the two trees with orange dots to show they were on the list for removal, but that was in mid-July. Some playground users said that by the end of July the trees were leaning more than before – and still there was no action. Two requests from CELOS went unanswered. A neighbour posted a sign on the worst tree: BEWARE: THIS TREE IS LIKELY THE NEXT TO FALL DOWN.

Since there was still no response from City Forestry by the Civic Holiday weekend, the question was: what to do?

In conversations at the sandpit, some of the kids remembered the sound when the first tree came down in late June: “it sounded like balloons bursting, three bangs, pop, pop, pop, and then a big crash, but we ran away before it hit us.” So the question arose from some parents– should there be some kind of practice drill for the kids in the playground, a bit like the air raid drills in wartime Europe? – just to make sure they run in the right direction?

The question was only half facetious.

Somebody else said they had a friend with a chain saw, accustomed to taking down trees. “Should we ask him to just come and cut the trees down before they fall?” But the city would probably have sent a bylaw officer to fine him – citizens are not supposed to cut down trees in public space, under any circumstances.

Finally on August 7, city foresters came to cut down the trees. A relief.

The waiting period did raise some interesting questions. Who looks after the commons, only city staff or also the people who use the park? How much responsibility should park users take on themselves if there is no action when a danger arises? When does obedience to city rules and policies defeat common sense?

The questions are not easy to answer, but they need asking.

City workers construct new stairs in the park

Dufferin Grove Park is not quite flat, since it borders on the riverbed of the former Garrison Creek. Almost sixty years ago, shortly after the end of World War Two, there was a flurry of construction and repairs in all city parks, maybe partly as an antidote to five years of wartime destruction overseas. That’s when city workers first built the solid wooden stairways that traverse the little ridges and valleys of Dufferin Grove Park. Those stairs have lasted well, but lately, they finally began to “biodegrade” rather dramatically. The replacements of these classic stairways could have been done in prefab stone and cement by outside contractors, but instead, the city’s own Technical Services workers were sent in to rebuild the new stairs after the exact pattern of the old ones. The stairs curve to fit the terrain, and the steps are made of wood. The scheduling was such that the workers were rebuilding the longest stairway during the bad heat wave in mid-July, sometimes in full sun. But they did it (tough Canadians)– and the stairs look great. Now work is proceeding on two shorter stairways. Look and admire!

City Councillor Norm Kelly visits Dufferin Grove Park

On August 1, Toronto’s new deputy mayor and his wife were sighted near the adventure playground. The councillor told a park user who recognized him that he loved to see the playground with the kids building dams and bridges, playing with shovels and water. That’s a hopeful sign that the Scarborough councillor may be opening his mind a little: a welcome change. Back in November 2011, Councillor Kelly was the head of the Parks Committee. The committee was considering the new Bake Oven Policy that Parks management had devised. Dufferin Grove’s most knowledgeable baker staff, Anna Bekerman, tried to explain how bake ovens work, and why the policy would be bad for park ovens. Councillor Kelly harshly told her to be silent: front-line staff are not allowed to speak at committee meetings. The new policy was passed, and since then most park ovens get very little use. (This is not true for the Dufferin Grove ovens, “grandfathered” under the old rules.) Councillor Kelly also holds the view that citizens must pay extra fees for all “active” use of the parks (e.g. playing soccer or baseball, using bake ovens, having social gatherings, making music). Hopefully the kids digging in the playground won’t become part of the “active” category.

Park finances: still going down

Food and skate lending income is about 30% lower for the first half of this year than last year (i.e. income from January to June 2013 is $27,350 less than during the same period in 2012). It would help to compare expenses as well, but the city’s book-keeping is missing some categories, so we’ll have to wait until they make sure they can find all the expense numbers. The inconsistency of staffing and the organizational hurdles in buying groceries may contribute to the reduced income. So far, city management is allowing the programs at Dufferin Grove to continue. But last winter, General Manager Jim Hart said that the city can’t afford Dufferin Grove Park – it’s too expensive. If the city’s management troubles continue to shrink the park income, the general manager may feel it’s time to pull the trigger on the programs. Meantime. CELOS will keep following the numbers.

Heart attack on the basketball court

At the last Friday Night Supper in July, around 6:45 pm a player collapsed on the basketball courts. He had no pulse. A witness called an ambulance, while another player ran over to the supper tables: “is there a doctor here?” There was no doctor but, even better, there was a firefighter and a there was midwife. They hurried over and did chest compressions continuously until the ambulance arrived. The park staff looked for the defibrillator in the rink house, but sadly, there was only an empty box on the wall, with nothing inside. When the ambulance arrived and their crew used their defibrillator, the man’s pulse finally returned, and by the time he was taken to the hospital, he had begun breathing on his own. One of the park staff visited him at the coronary care unit a few days later, and said he’s recovering well. Wonderful news.

The firefighter/diner told us afterwards that the circumstances could not have been better – if a person has to have a heart attack. The other basketball players reacted fast, two skilled people happened to be at the supper right beside the basketball court, the ambulance took the man right to the coronary care unit at St.Joseph’s – all leading to a happy ending.

It would be nice to have a defibrillator at the park, though, not only an empty case for it. No word from Parks management so far, but Dufferin Grove program staff will send in another request.

Park equipment maintenance gets help from CELOS

1. The special accessible swing at the playground: over the last four year, accessible swings have been installed all over the city. They get very little use from special-needs children, and we recently found out why. The staff at Safehaven (a respite centre for disabled children, on Bloor and Brock) bring the children to the park every week. They told us that the accessible swing is missing a harness to keep kids from falling out. The City has now been made aware of the absence of harnesses on their swings. There’s a plan to replace all the accessible swings citywide with a different model that includes a harness. But that may take a long time, and throwing away all the existing swings seems like a waste. In the meantime, park friend and skilled seamstress Gretel Meyer-Odell is working on a harness that can be adapted to the existing swing. An anonymous park friend donated the funds for the materials.

2. the basketball meshes: it used to be that the cookie money paid for basketball meshes when they needed replacement. Now there’s a system of central ordering instead, but the new meshes are very cheap and they start to fray after only a week. So CELOS has replaced them with the better kind of mesh (from Wal-mart!), and those meshes have been holding well.

Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market, every Thursday 3 pm to 7 pm, near the rink house

From market vendor Linda Kapelaris (Country Meadows): “As I picked tomatoes today, I had to tiptoe around the frogs; we have Leopard Frogs everywhere, all sizes.. So much rain over the past month has been a boon for the frogs, which are my "pest control experts." They love bugs, slugs, mosquitoes, you name it, the best pest control money CAN'T buy. Frogs are an indicator of environmental health; we have lots of them so our place has a AAA rating from Mother Nature!! (in addition to a congratulatory letter from Pro-Cert, our organic certifier). Now that it is somewhat drier, I've placed some wading pools around the tomato plots for the frogs to take a dip. I don't want my workers to pack up & head for the lake yet."

Market manager Anne Freeman sends out a weekly market newsletter:


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web sites: Aseel Al Najim,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


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