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November 2014

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


November 2014 newsletter

Dufferin Grove's original zamboni garage

  • This newsletter is put out by CELOS, the Centre for Local Research into Public Space. Since 2000, when this little organization began at Dufferin Grove Park, we’ve been doing what we call “theoretical and practical research” into what makes public spaces – like parks – more hospitable and more lively. We’ve been researching what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve documented a lot of what we’ve seen and done in the newsletter and on our five websites. The printing of the paper version of the Dufferin Grove newsletter is currently supported by the GH Wood Foundation.

Events in November

Saturday November 22, 2014, 9 a.m. – Dufferin Rink to open for the season

Dufferin Rink was rebuilt in 1993, so this will be its twenty-first 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 the end of October. Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink is set to open on November 15. Fourteen City of Toronto outdoor compressor-cooled rinks are not scheduled to open until a week after that, on November 22. The other 36 are supposed to open yet another week later, November 29.

Every November the city’s rink web page says that staff will “make every effort to open these rinks as scheduled.” We hope they’ll do that this year. 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 in the past 15 years, 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:

November Baking Thursdays (Nov. 20, 27):

Learn how to use the wood-fired oven and the tandoor for bread, pizza, and cooking dinner. On November 13, staff from the Regent Park Community Food Centre will spend the day at Dufferin Grove learning how bread and pizza are made in the park’s bake oven, and also learning how to use our portable tandoor oven. That way when their own Regent Park bake oven is finished, they’ll be ready. The following two Thursdays (Nov.20 and 27) can be booked by any park user who wants to learn how to bake in the ovens. Contact park staff at to find out more.

EDITORIAL: Dufferin Grove Park’s special status – nice, but what about other parks?

Twenty years ago, park neighbours and front-line city staff began putting our heads together at Dufferin Grove Park. Over the years, we tried to add cheap, simple things that could be useful in any park – more places to sit, diversity of plantings, a friendlier skating rink, some good food, a more interesting, get-dirty playground, performances by local talent, and so on.

But instead of opening the same doors for parks in neighbourhoods elsewhere in the city, Dufferin Grove Park and a few nearby sister parks seem to have been assigned the status of an “exception.”

Dufferin Grove Park gets recreation staffing that most other parks citywide still don’t get. This park has bread-baking staff and farmers’ market staff, pizza day staff for schools and camps and family drop-ins, garden staff to help the gardening club and keep the gardens in good order, skate and shinny-hockey loan staff, park café and playground staff, campfire staff, grocery shopping staff, and a full-time recreation program supervisor to accompany other staff when they go shopping, to set the schedules and enter data into the city’s FPARS financial system.

Yet when friends of other parks with bake ovens want to do a community pizza day, they have to pay extra for the staff, and buy insurance as well. So most of those ovens are unused much of the time.

When other neighbourhoods want to have community campfires in their parks’ campfire areas, they get no staff support and they also have to pay insurance (our campfire participants don’t – they are seen as important volunteers). So campfires are rare in other parks, and the safety benefit of “eyes on the park” from campfire groups, in the evenings or during the off-season, is not available.

If friends of other outdoor rinks want to lend skates to increase their rink’s usage, they are told that no staff are available to support this (even if the rink friends can secure a good loaner-skates supply). An attempt in an east-end park to set up an honour-system loan-shed of balls and badminton rackets was blocked by the city’s requirement of full-time staffing to administer the balls (but city staff were not available). Other parks get no staff assigned to operate cafés, either, they only get vending machines (which are often out of service).

Another example of the double standard is Dufferin Rink’s new garage, with a new water line and new electrical service – not cheap. The rink already had a large zamboni garage, but that garage has had multiple additional uses for almost 20 years, and it appears that Parks management doesn’t like multi-use facilities of that kind. So Dufferin Rink gets a second garage.

Meantime, High Park Rink has only a worn-out canvas tent for its zamboni. Wallace Rink has a metal shed without a water source, so the zamboni has to fill up at a tap right by the main rink access path – and it drips water during filling, which then freezes and keeps the path dangerously slippery for rink users. Greenwood Rink has a chain-link cage sheltered by tarps and inadequately heated by space heaters. (But zambonis don’t work when their water lines freeze!)

Friends of other parks should start asking – why should Dufferin Grove and a handful of its nearby sister parks get so much city support but other parks don’t? Why the double standard?

Dufferin Rink schedule, Nov.22, 2014 to February 28, 2015

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 lesson followed by a game.
Nearby rinks: Campbell Rink, Mondays 8.30 to 10, intermediate, skills and drills (drop-in) Wallace Rink: drop-in Adult beginner, Thursdays, 8:30pm-10:00pm (registered)


Rink clubhouse: open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm
Skate/stick/gloves loans ($1 to $2 suggested donation): Monday to Sunday 9 am to 8 pm
Shinny hockey: same hours as the rink clubhouse except Sundays. There is a (strictly enforced) age schedule. From rink staff: “If you ever see the wrong age group on the shinny ice, do us a favour and notify the rink staff right away.”

Pleasure-skating: always freely available. After 9:00pm, skating is unsupervised. Then it's a bit like skating on a pond: it’s mostly shinny hockey, and people are responsible for their own use of the rink.

The large rink lights turn off after 11:00pm, and then the rink is locked.

Parking: One good place to park is at Dufferin Mall across the street. After 5 pm. there’s lots of parking across from St.Mary’s School at the north end of the park too.

Rink contacts: 416 392-0913 or The rink phone message will tell you the current ice skating conditions.

In the event of snow, if rink users help staff in clearing the ice, the rink opens faster. There are lots of shovels, or bring yours from home.


This is a website run by CELOS, giving information about all 50+ municipal outdoor ice rinks, plus Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink. The site has maps, hours, schedules, phone numbers, ratings, and stormy-weather updates. It also has blogs about the individual rinks, with contributions from skaters.


Toronto has many more compressor-cooled outdoor ice rinks than any other city in the world – over 50, most of them owned by the municipality. But our civic knowledge of the physics of ice maintenance hasn’t kept pace with our collective rink wealth. Many people seem to find it amazing, even shocking, that these outdoor rinks can run at temperatures as high as 15 celsius.

What’s the surprise? The outdoor rinks have between one and three powerful compressors, depending on the rink size – you can hear their noise through the compressor-room doors at the side of the rink houses. These compressors push a brine (salt-water) solution through pipes that pass through a big tank of freezing-cold ammonia, and then out into the extensive grid of PVC pipes underneath the concrete floor of the rink. This cold liquid brings the entire big concrete slab to well below freezing, so that any water that’s put on the rink pads turns to ice. The brine liquid, warming up a bit as it gives its cold to the rink slab, circulates back into a large pipe in the “header trench” right next to the building (underneath where everybody stands when the zamboni is doing ice maintenance). From there the brine gets pushed back into the compressor room, where it passes through the freezing-cold ammonia tank to cool right down again, and then gets pushed back out into the pipes under the concrete, and so on, round and round.

The only serious match for this powerful cooling system is the sun. But in the months before and after the December 21 winter solstice, the sun is very weak because it doesn’t get to spend very much time above the horizon. That suits the cooling system just fine.

The sun begins to gain real power toward the end of February, as it rises higher in the sky. If there’s a sunny day on, let’s say, February 25, even though the air temperature might be minus 8, the ice gets mushy near the reflective boards, and even a bit soft in the middle. The cooling system is losing ground (well, ice) as the sun prepares to bring on spring and summer. But on the low-angle-sun days of November, December, or January, even if it’s mild out, the shinny hockey and pleasure-skating at Toronto’s compressor-cooled ice rinks is brilliant.

Winter campfires

In 2013, there were 476 campfires at Dufferin Grove Park. There may turn out to have been even more in 2014. 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 program staff at

Detroit: third visit

Three and a half hours west of Dufferin Grove Park, at the southwest terminus of Highway 401, there is Detroit – a kind of living museum, a post-industrial city where over 10,000 households have had their water cut off, and people gather with buckets at fire hydrants to bring home water for cooking, washing, and flushing their toilets. In city blocks of 10 houses, 8 might be abandoned, with four of those being just burned-out shells. Buying land is a bargain, especially for large buyers: recently a bundle of 6,350 mostly run-down and vacant tax-foreclosed Detroit properties was auctioned off to a developer for barely over $3 million. [Update: the developer changed his mind on Nov.5, and withdrew his offer.] Detroit is Exhibit A for the coming North American version of a “deep-austerity plan.” Shea Howell of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Centre in Detroit writes “Key to those legal frameworks is the elimination of public, democratic decision making.”

Back in 2010, eight people who either worked at Dufferin Grove Park or were doing research with CELOS, or both, drove down to Indiana in two cars to visit with Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize winner for her work on the commons. The route passes through Detroit, and on the way back, we stopped there for a night. The cheap hotel where we stayed had bullet-proof glass protecting the staff at its registration desk; so did the MacDonald’s counter where we ordered fries – a first such experience for any of us! But the people in the streets and in the bars and at community gardens, and in the soup kitchen were we ate lunch, were friendly and keen to talk – in fact we were bowled over by their hospitality, and we made some friends.

Two of us drove down to Detroit again in 2013, this time taking along our bikes, and stayed at the same hotel. This time the bullet-proof glass was still there but it had been moved off to the side of the registration counter, with the centre area open. The two of us biked all over town and were again met with friendliness everywhere, day and evening, nothing scary.

Then this past October, three of us went to Detroit for an ordinary-people conference called “Reimagining Work” – rich in content and in democratic deliberations. We had been asked to give a small session on bake ovens in parks. At that session we met park enthusiast Ulysses Newkirk, who later toured us through a park which had been taken over by neighbours when the city stopped maintaining it. The park was obviously well-loved, with many benches and picnic tables, barbeque pedestal grills and horseshoe pitches. Ulysses’ idea was that the park group would build a brick oven on an adjacent abandoned lot, which they had just bought for $1000, and make the oven a draw for visitors from all over the city. Just down the road, a strip of abandoned houses had been removed and replaced by a substantial market garden, with fall vegetables such as onions and spinach and carrots in long straight rows, and lots of fall flowers.

We hope to visit again next spring, maybe taking along Dufferin Grove’s portable tandoor oven so people could try it out. To find out more about what Detroiters are teaching us, here

In the neighbourhood: BALfolkFESTnoz: Friday November 7 from 6.30 pm, 918 Bathurst St

The Balfolk dance group, which danced at Dufferin Grove Park most Monday evenings this summer, is putting on an evening of dance, music, food and drink. From the organizers: “There will be some FANTASTIC musicians - Accordion duo all the way from France, Alain Pennec / Sebastien Bertrand, Montage from USA, and Réveillons! from Quebec.

We'll be dancing old Breton dances (get your pinky muscles working!), groovy new versions of the partner dances scottische, mazurka and waltz, and the famous dance from Auvergne: the bouree. BALfolkFESTnoz:

6:30pm * Folk dance workshop for the family, bring the kids!
7:30 * Intro to Balfolk dances
8 - midnight * dancing with live music, food and drink
Tickets available online and at the Hogtown Cure, 1484 Dundas St West
$10 adv / $12 door / $5 kids under 15”
More info:

In the neighbourhood: The Shop at MakeWorks

MakeWorks is a large co-working space for startups, makers and designers at 1139 College Street (near Sheridan) – just two blocks south of the park. In addition to its rows of computer desks, 3D printers, laser cutters, and other hi-tech stuff, MakeWorks also houses a co-working carpentry shop, set up for ceramics and textile art as well. It’s called The Shop, and it’s run by two women, Marissa Maislin and Michelle Organ. They told us that they’ve been friends since kindergarten, with a shared passion for art and crafting. Marissa went on to study Technical Scenography and Michelle to study Art History and then Product Design. Back in Toronto years later, over dinner one night, the idea for The Shop was born. As a ceramic artist, Michelle was having trouble finding a kiln locally that would allow her to fire her work. Living downtown, Marissa did not have the space or resources required to work on the furniture construction projects she had in her head. They wanted also to connect with other like-minded people and “allow us to not only bounce ideas off one another, but have the possibility of forming partnerships as well.” The idea took off fast, and The Shop is now equipped with a table saw, band saw, drill presses, router and table, compound miter saw, planer and sanders, plus potter’s wheels, forming tables, a kiln and communal work benches. They do lots of workshops too. And one more thing: “based on Marissa and Michelle's past experiences, they understand the intimidation women often feel within the maker community. As a female run venture, The Shop's goal is to create a space welcoming to all.” It certainly felt that way when we visited there recently. More information:

Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market, every Thursday 3 to 7 pm, beside and inside the rink clubhouse:

November 7 is the market’s twelfth anniversary. Twelve 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 Tuesday Riverdale market. But it was a long way to go every week. 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 farmers 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. To get on Anne’s weekly market news mailout list:

To get on market manager Anne Freeman’s weekly market news mailout:


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Web sites: Aseel Al Najim,,,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


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