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posted on July 4, 2006

Unexpected Skateboard Park

The skateboard park at Scadding Court (Bathurst and Dundas) had to be removed for the summer because the ice rink there is being torn up and replaced. So all the wooden structures were set up at Christie Pits on the rink there. But Christie Rink has no drainage, so with the first big rain it turned into Christie Lake. The skateboard ramps began to swell from sitting in three inches of water, and it became clear that if the equipment wasn’t moved soon, it would be seriously damaged. So now the skateboard park is set up at Dufferin Rink, just for this summer..

The bad news is that there may be some extra noise for the neighbours. To report problems, leave a message on the park phone: 416 392-0913, or e-mail

The good news is that this set-up seems like huge fun for the many kids and youth who come there to skate (and a few with bikes, roller blades, or running shoes with wheels in them). It’s mostly open skate-boarding, but there are a few kids’ skateboard camps that come with the set-up, for children aged 8-12. They are two 5-day sessions (July 17 and July 24) with half the day at the skate park and the other half spent swimming at Christie Pits pool and play games at Bob Abate CRC, for $128. There’s also one ten-day session starting July 31, for $230. From their brochure: “Responsible skating is stressed in every lesson. Beginners will learn skate boarding mechanics and basic skills such as balance, carving, riding transitions, and dropping-in. Advanced skaters learn grinds, ollies, and airs and have a chance to learn on the larger ramps. Skaters are assessed on the first day.”

For more information or to register, call the Bob Abate Community Recreation Centre at 416 392-0744.

The Cooking Fire Theatre Festival gave the park a donation from their park dinner receipts, and those funds bought three skateboards that kids (not youth) can borrow. Rob Poyner, who designed and built the skateboard park and who repaired it after Christie Pits, donated three helmets to go along with the skateboards. (He is a hero of the park!)

The skateboards will only be loaned out to kids whose parents meet with the recreation staff and sign a permission form. And if anyone would like to give a nice gift to the park, consider donating another good-quality skateboard, for lending. Rob can give advice, and he knows where to get very good boards for $140 apiece. Anything cheaper, he says, is not worth the trouble – it’s too hard to learn on a cheap board.

posted on July 4, 2006


There’s a new structure in the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division. It’s a “structure by function” system, with each park maintenance request, large or small, going through the recreation supervisor as the point of entry, then streamed to various other supervisors, then followed up.

In the spirit of this new style of monitoring and follow-up, all requests and responses concerning park maintenance are being posted on the park web site's maintenance section:

This way of posting is also a way of anticipating the City's 3-1-1 program. The program allows citizens to report problems by calling one central number (311) and then tracking the complaint’s follow-up via the internet. Meant to begin in December 2005, the program has now been postponed until 2007. But it's easy to implement this as a test on a very small scale (just one park). So Dufferin Grove Park can be a cheap pilot for the proposed electronic-post-and-follow-up element of 3-1-1 -- another way in which the park functions as a research laboratory. The condition and open hours of the park washrooms is one topic that has a lots of postings already, so has playground maintenance.

Park friends: if you see a problem, send it to It will be forwarded to the recreation supervisor and then you can track it on the maintenance page of the park web site. Let’s see how such tracking works.

posted on July 4, 2006


Set up by Gabe Sawhney of Wireless Toronto, and funded by Kijiji (see below). Gabe is part of a volunteer group who think that free wireless internet access connects people better in communities, and is the right way to go. The group in Toronto is just over a year old. Their web site is: We asked Gabe to give an example of what wireless internet is good for, and he sent this story: “One of the most active community wireless groups is in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. They coordinated the installation of a community wireless network in New Orleans within days of Hurricane Katrina. That network was powered using batteries, solar, and other off-grid sources, and provided the only communications infrastructure in some areas for weeks. The group also set up low-power FM transmitters to help inform people about what was going on.”

In the past year Wireless Toronto set up a number of free wireless internet access points in Toronto, around St.Lawrence Market and various coffee shops and one pub. But they wanted to expand to the open air. So they contacted Kijiji - a free, local, community classifieds site - to ask if they would sponsor a year’s free wireless internet at a park.

Janet Bannister from Kijiji writes: “Kijiji ( has local sites in 21 cities across Canada including one here in Toronto. Kijiji means “village” in Swahili. Like the name, Kijiji enables people to buy and sell things with others in their own city – things like furniture, electronics, computers, clothing, and baby items. Kijiji also has categories for cars, pets, services, housing, jobs and personals. The site is totally free – there’s absolutely no cost to post an ad – and it is extremely easy to use. The site is growing very quickly so take a look and you just may find a great bargain or a spot to turn your unwanted things into cash.”

So Kijiji, because of its interest in local communities, agreed to sponsor a year’s free wireless internet access in a park. Gabe contacted Dufferin Grove Park. City of Toronto officials said that although it’s a good idea, they were not ready to give Wireless Toronto permission to install wireless internet at the park. But a park neighbour offered his house as the point of entry. So wireless internet has come to Dufferin Grove Park in the same way so much else has come to the park – from the neighbourhood.

It took a month or so to iron out the bugs, but the hot spot seems to be working well all the time now. And for those people who don’t have their own laptop computer, the park will shortly be getting a refurbished desktop computer available for park users and travellers for checking e-mail, to be kept in the rink house. Watch for signs on the park bulletin boards.

posted on July 4, 2006


September 1 site meeting

When the big cob-courtyard-building project was going on last summer, people kept asking: so where’s the toilet going to be? For parents and caregivers of young kids, the lack of a toilet near the playground has been a drawback for years. And Georgie Donais has been interested in the ecology of sewage forever – i.e. composting toilets.

The brother of a cob volunteer, living in the southern U.S., heard about the cob project and offered to donate an industrial-strength composting toilet (the kind used in campgrounds and highway rest stops). There was no place for it in the courtyard structure, but there’s a good spot nearby, just west of the playground. In the fall, Georgie started talking to the Parks manager about the idea. She proposed building another smaller cob structure to surround the composting toilet. The manager was interested, so last February Georgie designed a beautiful, sculptural little cob building and applied for two small grants to cover its cost. Both grants – $10,000 from the Toronto Arts Council, and $2000 from the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation – were approved.

The Parks manager has changed in the meantime, and on June 1 Georgie and several park staff met with Sandy Straw, the new Parks manager for Toronto and East York, and Peter Leiss, the new West Parks maintenance supervisor. Georgie showed them detailed drawings, specs, etc. (including the number of bums the toilet can accept before it needs a rest). But on June 7, the manager had to leave for a family emergency, and she didn’t get back until June 26. The supervisor was also busy or away for that whole time, and suddenly the whole project was in trouble because the permissions were not ready.

Georgie wrote: “I am getting more and more concerned that building season is passing us by; volunteers are now in the park, and we are missing the chance to make use of their skills.”

On June 29, we went into crisis mode and talked to everybody including City Councillor Adam Giambrone, about the possibility that Georgie might have to give back her funding if the project couldn’t get going. Lucky for us, we were able to get the attention of all those busy management people, and the project is going ahead after all. The foundation will hopefully be done by the middle of July, and then: let the cobbing begin! To find out more, go to Georgie’s web pages:, or read the park bulletin boards. Georgie can be reached at

posted July 4, 2006


A friend of the sandpit writes: “I am a mother of a 5 and 9 year old. They LOVE the pit! I cannot get them out of it. In the park web site it says the sandpit is for older children but younger ones can play as well with supervision of a caregiver close by. I always am close by to supervise both my children but I find that people in the past have said that my 9 year old may be too old to play there.

There's so much to do for little ones at the park but for the older ones the sandpit is extreme fun where their imagination soars and they feel good. Is there an age limit? “

The park staff will be reminding people this summer that the sandpit is an adventure playground built for older children. Although little ones are not barred, when it’s crowded with older kids intent on their projects, little kids should move over to the more protected sandbox inside the playground fence.

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