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November 2013

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


November 2013 newsletter



Sunday November 10, 2013, 5.30 pm: Lantern Parade

The German International School (Kindergarten to Grade 10) recently moved into the first floor of Kent School near Dufferin Grove Park. They contacted the park staff to say that there is a German tradition called St. Martin’s Procession (St. Martin’s Umzug), every November. Schoolchildren make their own lanterns at school and then have an evening procession, singing lantern songs. They wanted to do this at Dufferin Grove Park this year.

So now there’s another ethnic parade taking place at Dufferin Grove (the other one is Norwegian Constitution Day in May). All are welcome to come a watch this festival of lanterns. The rink house will be open and so will the washrooms.

Germany and Canada have something in common – chilly days in late fall and mid-winter, with very short daylight. November can be particularly bleak. So a lantern parade to light up the darkness seems like a very good idea.

Saturday November 23, 2013, 9 a.m. – Dufferin Rink to open for the season

Dufferin Rink was rebuilt in 1993, so this will be its twentieth season since the new compressors were put in. Something to celebrate!

The short days that can make late fall pretty dreary are exactly the right recipe for making good, early ice at rinks like ours, that have cooling pipes under the cement. Most compressor-cooled outdoor rinks in New York City (same climate as Toronto) have been open since October. Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink is set to open on November 16. Fifteen City of Toronto outdoor compressor-cooled rinks are scheduled to open a week after that, on November 23. The other 36 are supposed to open yet another week later, November 30. Two of the city’s 53 compressor-cooled rinks are to remain closed this season: College Park (for probable removal) and Hodgson Rink (awaiting reconstruction next year).

The city’s rink web page says that staff will “make every effort to open these rinks as scheduled.” We hope so. Advice to the city: in order to make ice, the cement rink surfaces have to cleaned one week beforehand, then the compressors have to be started up. Water has to be put on the cooled rink cement at least four days before the scheduled opening. The water must be put on overnight, to avoid sunshine at the very beginning. If these basic rules are neglected, as they often have been, staff cannot be seen to have “made every effort.” If the basic ice-making rules are followed, the rink fun can start on time. For the most up-to-date rink information citywide:

A big change in park benches:

Dufferin Grove Park has had an unusual amount of work done on it this year. The three old wooden stairways cut into the park’s small hills have been completely replaced by new, attractive, wood-and-cement stairways. That took many weeks of work. Now ten cement platforms have appeared in various locations throughout the west half of the park. The platforms are bases for ten new benches, to be bolted onto the cement.

Lucky park! There are large-ish parks in Scarborough that have only two or three benches/picnic tables for the entire park. Ottawa has some long, beautifully groomed parks with no places to sit down at all. So it’s wonderful to add more places to sit.

However, there are a few problems with these sudden bench appearances. There was no consultation about placement or style, between the park maintenance (bench) staff and the park program (people) staff. Too bad, because benches can change the feel of the park.

The locally-developed “bench philosophy” at Dufferin Grove is similar to that of many of the newer downtown urban parks worldwide – to have moveable benches so that they can be clustered for conversation or picnics, as desired by park users. Over the past twenty years this has worked out very well at Dufferin Grove. Loss of benches to theft is quite rare.

In contrast to the friendly bench groupings, the new park-bench platforms are all far apart. Each bolted-down bench will have a middle railing to disallow sleeping (something that one almost never sees at the park anyway). That means that only two people can sit, decorously separated, on each bench, with no other benches nearby. What’s the message here? Sit up straight, no hugging, and no groups?

The same principle seems to be applied in most other Toronto parks. Benches at playgrounds are usually set in straight lines far enough apart that they discourage conversation among child-minders. When park benches are closer together, some are actually placed back to back. (Happily, there are exceptions – see for example Little Norway Park near Porter Air.)

Dufferin Grove still has about twenty of the older, moveable benches , some of which were scrounged from forgotten park storage rooms years ago, and given a new coat of paint. As long as these benches remain, they can be moved around kitty-corner to the new bolted benches as desired, to keep the conversation-groupings alive. But the new Parks and Rec philosophy seems to be moving the park in a different direction, apparently as part of a citywide policy of uniformity. Perhaps at some point it will become clearer whose ideas are being reflected here. We’ll try to track down where the buck stops, in time for the next newsletter.

Dufferin Rink schedule, Nov.23, 2013 to February 28, 2014

More Info:

Pleasure Skating:\\  Monday – Saturday, 9:00am - 9:00pm
The pleasure pad is open for unsupervised shinny after the last ice maintenance of the evening.
Sunday 9:00am - 9pm, skate in the round on both ice pads until 5.00pm!

Shinny hockey:
  Monday, Thursday, Friday before 9 p.m.:
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT/Program 9:00pm-11pm

All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
Women’s Drop-in Shinny 9:00pm-11:00pm

All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT 9:00pm-10:00pm
Adult Beginner Drop-in 10:00pm-11:00pm

All Ages 9:00am-11:45am
Level 1 12:00pm-1:45pm
9 & under 1:45pm-2:45pm
Level 2 3:00pm-5:15pm
All Ages 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:00pm-8:55pm
Youth Saturday-Night Shinny Program 9:00pm-11:00pm

On the hockey pad:
5-6:30pm - Family Shinny Program (booking with staff)
6:30-8pm - Neighbourhood Youth Shinny Program (booking with staff)
8-9:30pm - Permit
9:30pm-11:00pm Adult Beginner drop-in program (by registration)

Beginners’ shinny:
Drop-in: Wednesdays 10 to 11 pm. All beginners welcome but there’s a cap of thirty skaters.
Registered: Sundays 9.30 to 11 pm. Brief lessons followed by a game.

From park staff Alain Heese-Boutin: “I will be helping out with the beginner shinny program this year starting Sunday November 24th.   There will be equipment rentals available, please let me know prior to the lesson if you will be needing it.  Please note that this is a beginner shinny program and that some people may still be working on their skating skills. If you feel that you are more advanced please register for our intermediate program.  Depending on my assessments, I may ask particular participants of more advanced skill to slow down to the group’s skill level.” To sign up or get more information:

Skate Loans:
There is a good supply of skates available to borrow at Dufferin Rink, and at Wallace and Campbell rinks as well. This year, staff will try doing timed loans (two hours) on weekends, when the demand is higher than the supply of skates. There is a requested donation of $2 for skate loans. Important: there will be a fine connected with late returns on the days of timed skate loans.

The loaner-skate collection started with a grant of 50 pairs of skates from the NHL Players Association. That was eight years ago, in 2005. Skates in the most popular sizes have to be replaced when they wear out from heavy use, but last year City management didn’t allow staff to use the skate loan funds to buy replacement skates. Hopefully they’ll come to an agreement this year. All skate donations are welcome (and staff will trade loaves of Dufferin Grove’s delicious wood-oven bread for used skates).

The rinkhouse/clubhouse
On any given day in the winter, there might be a fire in the rinkhouse woodstove and the smell of cookies in the zamboni cafe oven. Some older Portuguese men might be playing cards, a babysitter might be reading a story to the little brother of a shinny hockey player who won’t leave the ice to go home. On weekends it’s sometimes hard to find a place to sit and change into the yellow-painted $2 loaner skates. But there are always more benches outside. Despite all the changes that have been imposed at Dufferin Grove, and continue to develop, the rink house often still feels like an “everyone welcome” clubhouse. Nice.

The new “Reflexology Footpath” for Dufferin Grove Park

Many people who use Dufferin Grove Park either knew Jenna Morrison personally or heard about her tragic death in a bike accident in 2011, crushed by a truck at the corner of Dundas West and Sterling Avenue as she was riding to pick up her son from school.

Jenna’s husband Florian Schuck, her family and friends, undertook to memorialize Jenna in Dufferin Grove Park, a place where Jenna and Florian often took their little boy. Florian wrote:

“When Jenna came back after a trip with her mother to South Korea in 2001, she was enthusiastic about her discovery of the reflexology footpath. The reflexology footpath consists of a bed made of concrete in which cobblestones of various shapes and sizes are embedded to various degrees. Some are upright while others are flat, protruding the surface of the concrete at slightly different heights. As one walks the path barefoot or in socks, the sole, and therefore acupressure points of the foot, are massaged. The design of paths varies, but more often consists of a loop that allows the visitors to engage more than once over. Accompanying the path are benches for rest and removing shoes, as well as trees and shrubs for an ‘oasis.’ “

The necessary funds (about $130,000, according to the councillor’s office) are now in place. Jenna’s family and friends raised about $20,000, and Councillor Ana Bailao obtained another $20,000 from her development-charges fund. The general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Jim Hart, was moved by the story and allocated the balance from the city’s capital budget. So in the last week of October, planners and park staff met in the middle of the park with Jenna’s husband Florian and her mother Darlene, to select a good spot for the footpath. They settled on the section of the park near where the free yoga sessions have been happening over the past few years. The area has peaceful shade from its huge old trees. Nobody plays frisbee or soccer or volleyball there. The planners say they think the path can be ready in 2014.

Winter campfires

In 2012, there were 370 campfires at Dufferin Grove Park. By the end of this year, there may turn out to have been even more in 2013. People like to have campfires to celebrate – birthday parties, graduations, the visit of an old friend from far away. At other times, they gather around a campfire to memorialize the passing of a grandparent, or sometimes, a son or daughter or a friend. Most of the time, campfires are simply a way to get friends and family together to enjoy one another’s company. Meantime, the sight of the campfire gives pleasure to passersby, and the “eyes on the park” by campfire participants helps the park be safer. For more information: or email park staff at

Playgrounds – the pendulum starts swinging back

On November 5, there was a free one-day symposium in at the Montreal Hilton Bonaventure Hotel, on the subject of “Risky Play.” Professors and recreation managers and landscape designers and epidemiologists were assembled to speak to the subject.

Their general theme was that play needs to be risky if it is to hold the interest of children and help them learn competencies they will need to live well. During the presentations, the audience – many of them from agencies which promote compliance with current playground safety rules – sometimes seemed to be in state of disbelieving shock. Small children should be allowed to climb on the playhouse roof in their daycare centre? Trees should be planted in the play yard so the kids can climb higher? 8-year-olds should be provided with carving tools and balsa wood? What?

A Norwegian child-development researcher reported on Norway’s “Nature daycares,” located literally in the forests, at the edges of cities and towns. She said that the waiting lists to get into such daycares is huge. She showed video clips of young children climbing real cliffs, balancing on tree limbs, playing games of combat with long sticks. The children’s play injury rate in Norway, she said, is one of the lowest in the world. In contrast to the Norway examples, a landscape architect who teaches at UBC reported on research she and her students had done. They timed the use of new CSA-compliant play equipment by daycare children in Vancouver. They found that the equipment was not used by the children 87% of the time. The children found it boring.

CSA stands for “Canadian Standards Association,” which has a large membership of manufacturers. Beginning in 1999, Toronto’s parks managers arranged for the removal and replacement of play structures citywide, to comply with the CSA’s new playground standards. Although these manufacturers’ standards are not in any law, Toronto spent over $6 million on their “CSA compliance program,” and since then the installation of new CSA-approved structures continues all over the city. Some of the new structures are manufactured in Ontario (in or near Paris, Ontario), giving employment to workers in an otherwise economically depressed area. But much of the equipment is bought from large international companies which in turn are bought and sold by global financial giants, with profits as their focus. Not a pretty picture, but interesting.

As many parents know, most of the shiny new park playground structures don’t hold the attention of kids beyond the toddler stage for very long. Disconcertingly, injury reports on these structures actually seem to be on the rise. The message at the Risky Play symposium was – it’s time to take another look. Maybe a few broken arms or legs on monkey bars is better than preventing a whole generation of children from the enjoyment of testing their arm strength. Maybe replacing horizontal wooden railings with pointy pickets, to prevent kids from climbing and balancing, actually leads to more injuries, as children will climb no matter what – and pickets are much more difficult and more likely to make children fall. Maybe encouraging children to gain competence early and gradually leads to safer behaviour, and the pleasure involved in risky play leads to happy confidence in place of an anxious stance toward the world. For more on this story:


From Rachel Weston, one of the Dufferin Grove garden club support staff: “The Dufferin Grove garden club got a grant last summer to revitalize the Garrison Creek Memorial Garden in the gully on the west side of the park (where the Garrison Creek tributary, Dennison Creek, once ran). They had a hands-on workshop, involving a discussion about Toronto’s ravine topography and the buried rivers on which much of the city has been built, as well as a planting session of moisture-loving native species in the garden. “

The gardeners planted Royal Fern, Sensitive Fern, Marginal Shield Fern, Maidenhair Fern, Turtlehead, Great Blue Lobelia, Blue Flag Iris, and American Bittersweet. Thanks to this year’s plentiful rainfall, the plants all got well-started.

The garden club is now over for the year. It will start up again when it’s time to start bedding plants in February. Everyone welcome! More information:

Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market: November 7 is its eleventh anniversary.

Eleven years ago, some of the farmers who came to the Riverdale Farmers’ Market asked if they could try having a west-side market as well, at Dufferin Grove. At that time, Riverdale market manager Elizabeth Harris was encouraging bakers from Dufferin Grove to sell bread at Riverdale market. But it was a long way to go every Tuesday. So the Dufferin Grove bakers were glad when the farmers came over to this part of the city on Thursdays. The bread stayed here, and the famers set up tables of excellent organic produce as well as baked savoury pies, honey and maple syrup, and meat. The arrangement, from the very beginning, was that the market farmers (only) could augment their own produce with imported produce in the winter, so that they would build and keep their customer base year-round and not have to start from scratch every spring.

A year after the market started, Anne Freeman became the market manager, and the market has thrived. This year the anniversary is being celebrated with cake as well as with Jason Kun’s oyster-shucking show. To get on Anne’s weekly market news mailout:

Park history publications by CELOS (the Centre for Local Research into Public Space)

The revised version of “Cooking with Fire in Public Parks” is available for $5 at the zamboni cafe. A Dufferin Grove prezi slide show about the playground and the sandpit, called “Adventure Playground” is posted on the home page of Upcoming: Toronto’s Safe Playgrounds project.


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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