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December 2007

posted December 7, 2007

Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 8 Number 12, December 2007


Latest news

posted December 20, 2007


After last January’s campfire ban, the rink-stairs barriers, and more recently the almost-cancelling of a third of the outdoor rink season, the mood between CELOS and Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) was not very happy. (CELOS is the little public space research group that began at Dufferin Grove park about five years ago.) So in November, CELOS board member Jane Price wrote a letter to Brenda Librecz, asking for a meeting. Brenda is the general manager of PFR, and she’s awfully busy. But she invited CELOS to come and meet with her for 90 minutes on December 20, and so Jane, CELOS researcher Belinda Cole, and Jutta Mason went down to City Hall.

Brenda brought her assistant Wynna Brown and her director of Management Services, Ann Ulusoy. The conversation (in a little huddle in the corner of an empty and gigantic Committee Room Two) touched on many points, and actually went on for two hours. It seemed that the desire to pull together instead of doing the tug-of-war was shared on both sides. Brenda said, so let’s try it, let’s try and develop a new model of working together.

Open conversation seems to be the first thing. Brenda said she plans to invite one or two people from CELOS to speak about their work in local city parks, at a citywide supervisors’ meeting in February. Around the same time she’ll bring Jutta along to a meeting of a local PFR staff “Neighbourhood team.” And Wynna Brown will help to defuse crises like the campfire troubles before they get big.

So: friendly relations between park friends and City Hall return, just in time for the holidays. That’s a pretty good Christmas present, to everyone involved.

Events at the Park


This season's winter craft fair at Dufferin Grove Park will be set up outside along the rinkhouse, in the market tents. From organizer Lisa Logan:

“There will be wonderful and wild hand-made goods this year including Woodworks, Knitwear, Glass designs, Print Work, Dolls, Cashmere Scarves, Buckskin creations brain-tanned by designer Dano, Revolution Wear featuring salvaged and found materials, Jewellery and more. All are produced by non-professional crafters bringing great deals to you for the holiday season! There will be hot drinks and food available from the Dufferin Grove kitchen, as well as Yasi's Place, Tim's Crepes and Chocosol.”


The Zamboni café is open seven days a week, serving park cookies, hot chocolate, mini-pizzas, organic hot dogs, Mary Sylwester’s vegan burgers and warming farmers’ market soup and muffins, park oven bread and butter, Sosnicki’s perogies, and other surprises. On Fridays, and often on Saturdays, the food is a little more elaborate for those rink users who’d like to have supper and skate or visit there with friends.

How the money works: all the food is also a fund-raiser for other park activities. The (very cheap) prices suggested on the menu board are to cover the cost of materials and to add a bit of money to the park fund. If you can’t pay that much, don’t! If you can pay more, do! (It all goes to a good cause – for instance – a cord of wood for the rink woodstove.) If you can’t pay at all, even to cover materials, swap some work for food – the park staff are often swamped, and a bit of help with tidying the rink house or snow shoveling is much appreciated. Or swap something the park can use – a load of scrap-wood from home, for instance, to burn in the bread ovens. If you forgot your money at home, just tell the staff you’ll bring it later. It all works out.


Most Sundays there will be a campfire with hot chocolate beside the rink, to keep warm by when it’s too full in the rink house. There will also be a campfire on many market days, for skaters to warm up when the rink house is full of market-goers. Birthday skating parties can book campfires (since no party can book the inside of the rinkhouse – too crowded). Get in touch with rink staff (, or 416 392-0913, or talk to them in person) at least 48 hours before you want your campfire – that’s the rule since last year’s tightening.

And of course there’s always the woodstove inside, with books and magazines on the shelf and the windowsill, for people who want a warm break from skating.


From neighbourhood street fair organizer Liz Martin:

“As a longtime park supporter, I've persuaded Sumach Press to offer $5 of the purchase price of The Women's Daybook 2008 (List: $15.95) as a special fundraiser for the park. It's a practical as well as beautifully illustrated desk-top format agenda, featuring work by Canadian women photographers including Laura Berman, who took the lovely image of the park ovens which graces this year's cover. With lots of room for keeping track of your life in roomy double-page spreads, along with insightful texts by the artists on the theme of "Neighbourhoods," this is a perfect gift for the holiday season. If you're interested, contact me at and I'll drop one off if you're nearby, or you can get them at the rink (ask staff at the zamboni café snack bar).”


Shinny hockey schedule

Monday – Friday before 9 p.m.:

  • 9:00am - 3:15pm all ages (New: on Monday and Friday the rink may not open until 10am, for occasional extra ice maintenance – check at 416 392-0913)
  • 3.15pm - ice maintenance
  • 3:30pm - 5:30pm Level 2 (about 13 to 17, medium pace)
  • 5:30pm - 7:00pm Level 1 (12 and under and parent or caregiver, or novice adult)
  • 7.00pm ice maintenance
  • 7.15pm – 8.55pm Level 3 (18 and over, fast-paced)

Monday – Friday after 9 pm:

  • Monday 9 pm: Seasonal permit (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side);
  • Tuesday 9 - 11 pm: Women’s open shinny (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side);
  • Wednesday 9-10 pm: Seasonal permit.
  • Wednesday 10-11pm: “beginners only” drop-in shinny (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side);
  • Thursday 9 pm: Seasonal permit (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side);
  • Friday 9 pm: Seasonal permit (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side)

Saturday Pleasure-skating side

  • 9.30 - 1.30 learn-to-skate program on part of the ice


  • 9:00am - 10:00a.m. 9 years old and under, plus caregiver
  • 12:00pm - 1:30pm Level 1 (12 and under and parent or caregiver, or novice adult)
  • 1.30 pm – ice maintenance
  • 1:45pm - 3:45pm all ages
  • 3:45pm - 5:15pm Level 2 (about 13 to 17, medium pace)
  • 5.15pm – ice maintenance
  • 5:30pm - 7:00pm all ages
  • 7:00pm - 8:55pm Level 3 (usually 18 and over, fast paced)
  • 8.55pm – ice maintenance.
  • 9.10 pm: single-occasion permit (open shinny on pleasure-skating side)


  • 10:00am - 5:00pm No shinny hockey. Pleasure skating both sides.
  • 5-6.30 pm: parent/child shinny program, by registration, pleasure skating other side
  • 6.30-8 p.m. local adult shinny program, by registration, pleasure-skating other side
  • 8-9.30 pm. Seasonal permit, pleasure-skating other side to 9, then “pond hockey”
  • 9.30-11: youth shinny program (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side)

Novice adult shinny hockey practice

Are you a wannabe shinny hockey player, but just starting to get the hang of it? Dufferin Rink offers an hour of protected drop-in shinny hockey time, Wednesday nights from 10 to 11 p.m. None of the Dufferin Rink hot shots are allowed on the ice during that time. No need to register, and it’s free, with a staff resource person on the ice who runs some drills and passing practice and then supervises a game. For more information, call the park at 416 392-0913, and ask for Dan Watson.


Ten minutes away from Dufferin Rink there are two more outdoor rinks, Wallace Rink (at Dufferin and Dupont just south of the Galleria Shopping Mall) and Campbell Rink (on Campbell Avenue just north of Wallace Avenue). For the first time this year they’re under the same supervision as Dufferin Rink. The shinny schedules have been arranged so that at most times, players can find a slot with their age group on the schedule at one of the three rinks.

Wallace Rink, newly rebuilt last year, will have its rink opening party on Sunday December 9 from 1 to 4 pm. There will be music, a campfire, some good food, and $2 skate rentals. City Councillor Adam Giambrone plans to come and skate, and talk to people. Deirdre Norman, who runs the annual Women of Winter shinny hockey tournament, will announce the Women of Winter donation of a zamboni tent shelter for Wallace Rink.

Wallace Rink has a women’s open shinny time, on Thursdays from 8.30 to 10 pm, and a beginner’s shinny program for the hour and a half before then. Call 416 392-0011 for more information.

On Saturday Dec.15, Campbell Rink will hold its rink opening party, also with music, a warm campfire, good food and skate rental. City Councillor Giambrone will be there as well.

skates donated by the NHLPA

Last rink season the rink lost several of the NHLPA-donation skates through theft. There’s not enough money around to cover skate theft. So skate-lending coordinator Dan Watson has worked out some new rules. He says:

If you want to rent any equipment you must leave a government issued Identification card as collateral. The following pieces are acceptable:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Health Card
  • Driver’s Licence
  • Social Insurance Card
  • Passport
  • Status Card
  • Bring your ID card (BYID)

If you do not have one of these forms of identification you have two options:

  1. You must leave a $50 deposit to be reimbursed upon return of the equipmentOr
  2. You must sign a contract to become a skate rental member at Dufferin Rink.

In order to obtain a skate rental membership, you must complete a registration form. If you are under 18, your parents must complete it for you. Once the information you have provided is verified, you will be issued a membership card to use at Dufferin Rink. You must bring this membership card with you whenever you wish to rent skates.



Since the most recent cliffhanger about the city’s compressor-cooled outdoor ice rinks, CELOS (CEntre for LOcal Reseach into Public Space) has increased its efforts to learn how City money is spent and what needs fixing. A project for this winter is to produce a “Citizen’s Guide to Cost Containment.”

Sue Corke, the Deputy City Manager, asked us: “as the rinks are no longer subject to cost containment, what is the benefit of such a guide?”

Our answer:

”Thanks for asking. Cost containment: 1980s: artificial ice rinks ran for an average of 106 days. Winter 1998/99: A.I.R.'s cut down to 84 days. Winter 2001/02: A.I.R.'s cut down again to 70 days. (Citywide outrage.) Winter 2002/03 and 2003/04: rinks back up to 84-88 days.

Last three years: some rinks back up to 93/98/99 days, but lengthening was at the wrong end. This winter: a major threat, to be cut again, worst ever, to 62 days. Rescinded back up to 87 days for most neighborhood rinks.

Next winter: cost containment of how much, in the face of the remaining $240 million shortfall in the 2008 operating budget?

Since amalgamation: city's population stayed almost the same. Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff increased by over 700, Parks, Forestry and Recreation expenditure increased by $60 million (after inflation adjustment).

In the past 15 years, we've made our neighbourhood rink a beautiful community gathering place, with over 10,000 visits per month. For almost as many years, we've had to brace ourselves for the next shocker decisions coming down from the meeting rooms in City Hall. We can't wait for the next big blow, we have to find out as much as we can now, so ordinary people can help shape policy and not just endure it.

Want to come on over and have a coffee and a cinnamon bun and talk to a few of us about this? We're really quite nice people, and we do more than rinks.”

Sue Corke hasn’t taken up this invitation yet. Maybe she will, later. Meantime, we’ll post the material we gather, so that citizens can have a more informed discussion about the municipal financial troubles that almost closed the rink for an extra month. And we’ll be collecting signatures for a thank-you letter for MasterCard.


Artist's conception of the
Dufferin Park Bio-toilet

Bio-toilets (modern composting toilets), of the sort that Georgie Donais got donated for Dufferin Grove Park, have passionate friends – and passionate enemies too, such as the park neighbour who wrote in her blog recently that she had worked hard to bring in “enough building inspectors to delay the shithole for 2 years.”

Despite that kind of opposition, new bio-toilet projects seem get written up in the papers every few weeks now. Since Georgie Donais began the project at Dufferin Grove, a bio-toilet was put in at the Markham Fairgrounds, where there can be 100,000 people visiting a weekend event. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has put in a bio-toilet staff washroom for 45 people at their offices in Vaughn. Their resource project manager Dave Rogalsky said "Using technology such as the compost toilet is a matter of changing people's perceptions. The idea of it can give people the creeps. But we’re committed to sustainability and our site was 400 metres from city services, so compost toilets were an easy sell.” They figured out that the bio-toilets reduced their water usage by six times the norm.

The City of Edmonton parks system has put in bio-toilets that will be up and running by next summer. The Bronx Zoo in New York City has “eco-restrooms” designed to accommodate more than a half-million visitors per year, with 14 foam-flush bio-toilets and four waterless urinals. The Mountain Equipment Co-op in Winnipeg has bio-toilets, and so does the CK Choi Institute of Asian Research at UBC in Vancouver. They figure that their five units save nearly 100,000 gallons of water per year.

Meantime it seems pretty clear by now that Parks management is not much interested in supporting the Dufferin Grove bio-toilet project. Georgie Donais was only occasionally allowed to be at the table when the plans were drawn up by the architect hired by the city (an architect for a toilet is unusual, but that’s what the inspectors required, after the project’s opponents alerted them). Since Georgie was not allowed to be a full participant in the planning, the building permit that came through has some serious problems. But the foundation plans are fine, and that part might have been started in September. It seemed like the City’s own workers might take on the foundation contract, since it mainly involved pouring cement, something at which the city’s Technical Services are very experienced. However, Georgie was not allowed to talk to them directly – everything had to go through Parks supervisor Peter Leiss. After three months of keeping her waiting, Mr.Leiss finally let Georgie know that Technical Services wouldn’t do it. And so on it goes, with blocks and inaction in every direction. .

Georgie has written to Mr.Leiss that she can’t continue to work on this basis: “It is clear to me that we continue to have two very different ideas about what kind of cooperation and collaboration it is going to take to get this project successfully completed….It is time for the city to stand behind its stated commitments both to water conservation and to community collaboration.”

It may be that the issue will need discussion at the Parks and Environment Committee, to see whether environmentally-minded councillors can direct Parks management to stop dragging their feet.

The city’s commitments to water conservation are firm, but sometimes hard to see in action. Certainly the drought this past summer and fall was a warning, but conserving water during that time by not watering the newly planted trees seems like it was a bad idea. Better to try an ingenious little waterless technology that can be built and installed with hands-on help from park users, and that can add fertility to the park instead of sending more sewage to the lake.


If you’re one of those people who likes this little cutting-edge environmental project (enclosed in a small cob house to be built by park users, the same way as the cob courtyard was built) you can support it by buying some tickets available at the rinkhouse this winter – for a most unusual draw. (Have a look at the poster in the rink house, made by Heidrun Gabel-Koepff.)

In addition, the Phoenix Community Works Foundation has accepted the bio-toilet as a project under its environmental section, which means that donors of over $30 to the toilet fund can now get a charitable receipt. If you’re stumped for unusual presents this Christmas, make a donation on behalf of a friend. You’ll get a card of Heidrun’s poster to go with it, plus a first-use-draw ticket – and you’ll get some of your donation deducted from your taxes.


The cityrinks page of the web site has got so big and so busy (and city-wide) that our webmaster Henrik Bechmann just spent a week migrating it to its own site, That site has information about all the City’s outdoor rinks, and Harbourfront as well, with maps, links, rink diaries, weather analysis, budgets, and rink user comments.

The CELOS (CEntre for LOcal Research into Public Space) section of is also migrating to its own web site, since it looks at public spaces all over the city, and even beyond. There are lots of links among those sites: have a look!


At about 10 a.m. on the wintry morning of Saturday Dec.1, kids were enthusiastically playing the first shinny hockey game of the season at the rink. Down by the cob courtyard, there was an ambulance. A crew of paramedics were lifting an elderly man onto a stretcher. He looked very scruffy and almost frozen, with a very frightened expression in his eyes. During the night he must have sought shelter in the little alcove next to the fireplace section of the cob structure. But there was no fire in the fireplace, and no warmth, only wind protection.

Hopefully he’s all right. Someone must have seen him huddled there and called the ambulance.

Some of the longer-term rink staff were reminded of the young Chinese homeless man who lived in the park for two winters, six years ago, going to a shelter only on the bitterest nights. Despite many efforts by park staff and park friends, he wouldn’t talk to anyone, and rarely even accepted the park food. But he used the rink washrooms to keep clean, fed cookie crumbs to the sparrows, and a few times he even smiled. Then one day he came to the park in bedroom slippers because his shoes had been taken away. He sat down on a bench near the soccer field, where no one walks by in the winter. By the time he was noticed, his feet were so badly frozen that both had to be amputated.

Some tragedies can’t be avoided. But over the years, the on-site park staff have made friends with some psychiatric outreach workers from a group called COLA, who are very fine people. This year, weather predictions call for a very cold winter. If park users see a homeless person in the park, tell the park staff. They’ll call Moira or Walter at COLA to come down, and that might result in some long-term help.



The three months when skaters and market-goers share the rink house are an interesting challenge. Market-goers, please be nice to the skaters – they have to change their skates outside on Thursday afternoons, no matter how cold the weather, and they have to be extra careful not to step on anyone, with their sharp skate blades. Skaters, please be friendly to market-goers – they’re stocking their pantries with wonderful food, much of it locally-grown even in the depth of winter. You can have some of this bounty too – check it out! And if you’re shopping on skates and then want to go back out on the ice, you can lock up your groceries in a rink locker until you’re ready to go home. That’s a pretty enjoyable way to get your grocery shopping done.

The farmers’ market runs year-round, but this year there will be no market on the Thursday between Christmas and New Year’s (Dec.27).

Newsletter and Website Credits

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason
Illustrations: Jane LowBeer
Web site: Henrik Bechmann

Park phone: 416 392-0913
web address:

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