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March 2008

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 9, Nr.3, March 2008

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Wednesday night learn-to-play-shinny group

For an independent community email list service and discussion group, see dufferingrovefriends



March is a mixed mud/snow/mud season at the park. However the rink is open until March 16, so there will still be things happening there.

March 8: Saturday morning skating party

From skating teacher Eroca Nicols: The skating lesson teachers enjoyed their time with the kids so much they’ve invite everyone from the lessons to a skating party on Saturday morning from 10-12, everyone else is welcome too! We will have some friendly music selected by Ginger with Christina Serra's help. So you boogie-skate and fall safely. Other activities:

  • 2 foot glide race! (Nick, Sean) / Ginger and Sean will have a gentle mini hockey game. / Figure skating demo! / Ice fishing theatrics (For those kids who enjoy pretending to be fish on the ice / campfire for warming.


DIGIN TO DOCS Film Screening Series

The Dupont Improvement Group (DIGIN) is hosting this film series (Donna Cowan is the president of DIGIN and also the film screening organizer). Donna sent this information: Monthly screenings of award-winning films. Join us as we delve into worlds rarely seen; and celebrate how courageous people are daring to make a difference. Bloor Collegiate, 1141 Bloor St west. Pay What You Can - suggested donations: $4 per person, $8 per family

March 17th 7pm CHEATING DEATH Cheating Death takes us inside the mind of a man still struggling with the temptations of the street, while at the same time trying to serve God. This documentary is a journey into the world of drugs, gangs and guns - a world much talked about and feared but rarely understood.

Confirmed guests include Gyasi Ferdinand, subject of Cheating Death; Karim Ismaili, Associate Professor & Interim Chair, Dept of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Ryerson University; Staff Sergeant Frank Besenthal, Toronto Police Services (14 Division)

Skating News

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)

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. 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)


  • 9:00am - 10:00a.m. 9 years old and under, plus caregiver
  • 10 am – 12 noon all ages

Pleasure-skating side (9.30 - 1.30 learn-to-skate program on part of the ice)

  • 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)

March ice on the rink

Dufferin Rink is scheduled to stay open to the end of March break, that is, to March 16. Outdoor ice rinks often do poorly in March because the angle of the sun is too high and therefore on sunny days the ice is bad even in below-zero temperatures. (We’ve invited Councillor Ootes to come by for a look and a chat about this.) This winter again, on clear sunny days the rink staff will close the rink to skaters all afternoon until dark. Remember to call ahead: 416 392-0913. (That’s also the citywide rink hotline.)

Park News

Park rainwater study

City Councillor Adam Giambrone recently has said that he’s very concerned about water (he’s also the vice chair of public works). Lots of people are thinking about saving water, and about water quality, and it’s certainly an issue at the park. At over 14 acres in size, Dufferin Grove Park is a sizeable chunk of land. Councillor Giambrone says he’s interested in getting some funding, available from Toronto Water, to do some work about conserving water at the park. Until then, park “cookie money” and a donation from park friend David Rothberg, will enable Georgie Donais to study water flow in the park and how it might be better managed to retain moisture for the park's flora (especially the new trees) and to reduce run-off to the sewer. Georgie writes: “We continue to develop an understanding of how rainwater falling on that land behaves, and how we could make better use of this precious resource. We are also becoming more aware of qualities of rainwater (naturally distilled, free of dissolved salts, warm) that make it the most ideal water for hydrating plants in the park.” Watch for her report later in the spring.

Digging little shallow "basins" around new trees and filling them with mulch is one tried-and-true method for retaining rain water, much used in the U.S., so that approach may help all the new park trees to grow into giants even if this summer is dry again, as both the Farmers’ Almanac and Environment Canada are predicting. Georgie will research this, and other approaches as well, and hopefully the first water conservation efforts will begin at the park in May. A group of teachers from St.Mary’s Catholic High School will be spending the morning of May 3 to help out in the park, so they may be the first water conservation crew. For more information visit the website.

Composting toilets also improve water quality, of course. But that project remains in limbo.

Farmers’ market story

On Friday February 22, some neighborhood farmers’ market managers were invited to City Hall to meet with city Permits staff about market policy. There were 11 city staff at the meeting and 6 market managers and assistants. At the start of the meeting, Parks supervisor Peter Leiss handed out a draft market policy that had some alarming wording. It was clear that Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market, as it is now, would be ineligible for a permit.

The market organizers at the meeting protested, but Mr.Leiss said there was no time for more meetings, that the policy was going to the Parks, Forestry and Recreation directors for approval four days hence.

There is a neighborhood market network that has been meeting at the Foodshare offices for more than a year to address various ongoing market concerns. About a year ago, when rumours came that parks staff were working on a market policy, market network members asked to be included in the discussions. They were told that some consultations would happen in due course, and one meeting took place. But the Parks policy draft presented on February 22 was written after that one meeting – and with almost no integration of recommendations from the discussion. Worse, Peter Leiss said that Parks had never agreed that there would be more times for discussion.

Market manager Anne Freeman had to work fast to let other market organizers and supporters know about this sudden development.

Anne enlisted the help of Foodshare’s director Debbie Field, and between them they contacted all the market network members, had an emergency meeting, and wrote letters to councillors, the Mayor’s office, and to Parks manager Sandy Straw.

This brought results. Councillors Joe Mihevc and Paula Fletcher met with Parks, Forestry and Recreation general manager Brenda Librecz,and agreed that the draft policy presented by Mr.Leiss would not be approved by the directors at this point. In fact, Sandy Straw said afterwards, there had never been any intention to do so at the February 22 meeting. So there will be more consultation with market organizers and market users. Hopefully a policy will be developed – with careful consideration – that enables diverse forms of markets to flourish, fitted to their local neighborhoods and to the wishes of Torontonians.


Clouds often have silver linings, and the market policy crisis was no exception. In this case, market manager Anne Freeman got some wonderful responses when she asked market users for their opinions on market issues like farmers selling their neighbours’ crops, selling lemons and bananas and mangos in wintertime, and so on. Here are some excerpts:

Alan Shisko: It seems that what the city is proposing falls into a familiar bureaucratic routine: everything is either black or white. It's all-local or nothing. This ignores the "grey scale" nature of a Canadian year-round market. Dufferin Grove has a well thought out series of guidelines that are enforced and that reflect this reality. I might suggest that instead of city-wide "rules" governing markets, council might consider supporting local oversight from an active and enabled citizenry with 'guidelines' (such as the ones that DG market uses) to suggest how one might maximize local food content while supporting local farmers. They need as much help as they can get, and I'm willing to give it to them….If food has become such a local issue, why shouldn't market regulation be considered local as well? The irony is (one might say) delicious.

Charlotte Elder: ''I strongly support the fair trade events and partnerships with producers in other countries (in the case that Ontario does not produce the items organically or at all). I wish the entire city of Toronto would become a Fair Trade City.''

Skai Leja: Certainly my exposure to local produce has increased thanks to the market, but I am not opposed to having access to non-local produce in the winter months when the range of local food is very limited. …I fear if vendors were restricted to only local produce sales over the winter months the market would crumble away for a significant part of the year, and have a harder time restarting every spring, as local produce gradually reappears. I think the vendors strike a good balance between promoting their own food and supplementing just enough to make the shopping satisfyingly comprehensive.

Chrissy Spencer: ''I am fairly uninformed on local policy, but I do firmly believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Toronto has amazing markets in this thoroughly urban setting…. I do want to know where my food comes from, how it was grown or raised, and I love meeting the people that tend the food and bring it to me in the city. If vendors are transparent in how they market their products, then I don't see a problem with them selling not-as-local items or bringing their favourite products from other sellers to my local market…..It's a long haul for a farmer to transport items into the GTA. If a farming community decides to send one person in to sell products from several area farms, that is sustainability and cooperation as its best. If we instead legislate that each must sell his own, then we've increased the carbon footprint of each item being sold.''


I want to ask you, our regular, involved customers, how you feel about the role of the market in your community and your food choices. In particular, I'm wondering what your views are on how the market works in the park setting, and the way we have chosen to include some non-local foods in our market even though it is primarily a local-boosting one. If you're not familiar with our guidelines, they're available to read on the market page:Vendor Guidelines

Has your own awareness, access to and consumption of local foods grown because of the market?

Would we be better off with city-wide rules (as the parks department has proposed) that farmers could not sell anything from other farms or anything non-local?

Any comments on what you think a city-wide policy about markets in parks should say? Write to Anne at:


On the same day the proposed market policy raised alarm bells, another policy was approved by the Parks, Forestry and Recreation directors. It’s called the “Commercial Recreation Activities” policy. [Ed. see the city policy document] Commercial activities are defined as “any person, group, of organization charging fees to clients to conduct organized recreation activities or services on city owned and/or managed parkland.”

Such groups are to be prohibited from carrying out their activities in most parts of any parks including sports fields. (The new policy is posted on the park web site, click on sports.)This is a puzzle: sports groups all over Toronto charge fees for kids to take part. Does that mean they will be prevented from using park soccer fields? No more Toronto Eagles soccer? Or does the policy not really mean what it says? City Councillor Adam Giambrone says he’ll look into it.

Wading pool rebuild

Good news -- the City has dropped its plan to schedule the wading pool “face-lift” for this spring. The planned completion date of June 20 would most likely have caused the wading pool to be closed for part of the summer. (No reno ever finishes on time, look at the swimming pool at Wallace-Emerson!) Now Councillor Adam Giambrone has sent word that the construction date has been set back until September. So hopefully the wading pool will be as lively and enjoyable as it has been on all the other summers.

Copies of the wading pool face-lift blueprints are posted on the main bulletin board inside the rink house. Park users who know how to read blueprints: please share your knowledge with your neighbours, so that everyone knows what’s coming. The wading pool reconstruction is part of a citywide project to replace older wading pools, most of them still working fine, with newer ones. Unfortunately, the project is financed by new debt. At least it would be good to make sure that the new debt is spent wisely.

Councillor Giambrone also says there’s a suggestion to remove the existing playground equipment and replace it with the standard plastic playground equipment found in most other parks. Playground users, do you or your kids want to keep the existing equipment or trade it for something newer? This summer, let the playground staff know your thoughts on this. The staff will pass the ideas along to Tino DeCastro, recreation supervisor.


On this month’s newsletter cover is Jane LowBeer’s drawing for the web site home page. The site now gets about 4000 visits a month, and one of the sections that people go to is the “neighbourhood” section’s local service providers. There are lists for house maintenance, doctors, restaurants, car mechanics, gardeners, and on and on. Next month’s park newsletter will have a two-page “local business” section, and that includes people who are just starting out. Since we have an emphasis on local food with the farmers’ market, what about other local enterprises? Is there anyone manufacturing anything locally – furniture, clothes, ingenious devices? Let the editor know, at Or drop off a note/pamphlet/flyer at the rink house and we’ll get in touch to find out more.


Editorial (by Jutta Mason): RINK ALERT -- time for e-mails and/ or phone calls.

Now that the outdoor rink season is almost over, there are suddenly some dark clouds on the horizon, coming up fast. Parks management has a restructuring plan, which is to be put in place in March. They intend to put the lead hands of the summer grass-cutting crews in charge of the all the city's outdoor ice rinks, as zamboni operators, in winters from now on, permanently. This is to be accompanied by a significant increase in wages and an increase in the numbers of zamboni operators. We calculate the increase in outdoor ice rink maintenance costs (same number of rinks) at $250,000. That seems like a bad idea.

CELOS has brought up this problem in many places since we learned about the plan two months ago, without results. On February 5 we deputed to the Budget Committee about the additional expenditure (not mentioned in the budget), without any result. We wrote to the director of management services about it, but when she responded after a long delay, she said the restructuring is actually "revenue neutral." However she declined to give actual numbers. It's unclear to us whether she or her colleagues know the numbers.

1. Since there are many other problems with Parks, Forestry and Recreations budgeting, it seems very likely that this additional expense will result in a cutback in the rink season next winter, to cover the extra wage cost.

2. Since the new jobs will be permanent, it is also likely that the resulting rink season cuts will affect every year after this.

3. Putting a lead hand of the grass cutting crews in charge of each rink doesn't make organizational sense.

On February 28 I wrote to Brenda Librecz, the general manager of this division, asking her to put the restructuring hirings on hold until the financial and organizational consequences can be examined more carefully. We also hand-delivered copies of this letter to Councillor Mihevc (chair of the Recreation Committee), Councillor Fletcher (chair of the Parks Committee, Councillor Carrol (chair of the Budget Committee), and to the Mayor's office.

Rink supporters may want to write to these same people (see e-mail addresses on, and to our councillor, media friends, anyone interested, to back up this request (links below). The city should to put the "lead hands" restructuring plan on hold, to explore the consequences for outdoor rinks more carefully, with rink users as well as staff.

This season's revised CELOS Outdoor Rink Report, now covering 47 city outdoor rinks, is almost done. It has lots of good suggestions, from rink users and front-line staff all over the city, for making the rinks run better, without costing more. The individual rink report cards that are in this report are already posted on Neither the Parks, Forestry and Recreation management, nor the council committees, have engaged with CELOS on our rink reports, but it's time.

Neighbourhood News

Court news about an attack near Dufferin Street, Feb. 25

A young man was arrested by police after a midnight attack and sexual assault at the edge of the park on February 25. A woman was walking south on Dufferin Street and was grabbed and pulled into the park and assaulted there. The Toronto Sun reported that the woman managed to “steer her attacker toward a nearby shopping mall, where she knew his image would be captured.” This is puzzling, since of course the Dufferin Mall is closed by midnight, and the photo (posted at the rink house) appears to show someone inside a store.

Since then this man has been in the Don Jail. He briefly appeared in court on Wednesday March 5 and is scheduled to appear again on March 18. Park friends will follow the case to find out what happens, and report back. (See April followup)

Interesting discussion on the dufferingrovefriends e-list about crime postings.

Around the time of this attack, e-list moderator Erella Ganon asked people on the list whether they wanted police crime reports posted there. Quite a few comments came in, of very diverse opinions. A sample: I am a little concerned that there will be a deluge of police reports about fairly minor incidents which will, cumulatively over time, negatively colour our perceptions of the area. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

Or the opposite view: Innocence is bliss, it is also deceiving. Being in the little bubble of safety is but a grand illusion. Although I don't want to hear about all these negative things, I want to be well informed of what's happening in my community.

The discussion is archived on the web site, go to “police and park safety.” (See archive of discussion)

A big thanks to Judy Simutis

Judy Simutis has made a tradition of bringing something special to the park on every holiday or festival. St.Valentine's Day is one of her favourites, and this year she baked trays and trays of heart-shaped cookies, and frosted them with pink icing. They were a hit (as all her gifts are).

Judy loves kids and dogs, and over the years she often baked goodies for the park dogs in the park bake-oven, and drew dog-owner neighbours together like that. Judy's dog Elmo is a favourite at the rink house, so gentle that even the littlest skaters aren't afraid of him.


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Web site: Henrik Bechmann

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


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