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September 2007

posted September 4, 2007

Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 8 Number 9, September 2007


Annual MORRIS DANCERS’ gathering.

Sunday Sept.2, 4 p.m.

Sunday Sept.2, 4 p.m. Annual MORRIS DANCERS’ gathering. Dufferin Grove recreation staff have once again been able to persuade the Morris dancers to finish their annual Labour Day weekend dancing at Dufferin Grove Park. Morris dancers date back from farm labourers’ resistance to early industrial conditions in Great Britain in the eighteenth century. The dancers often wear bells strapped to their legs; some are in blackface (this refers to a miners’ disguise, not an attempt to change race); some dance with swords. It’s very energetic, and exhilarating to watch. Groups from other parts of Ontario, NY State, sometimes even Britain, have been coming to this park for years on the Sunday of Labour Day weekend, after they give free dance performances in public outdoor spaces all over the city. The groups wrap up their day by dancing for one another to show off their latest dances, and eat masses of fresh park bread and herb butter and samosas, and make pizza. The jets from the CNE air show often thunder overhead. The gathering is not a public event per se, but they welcome anyone who comes to watch, and they often share their food. It’s the park oven bread that lures them here – another good reason for an oven.

Nineteenth annual Dufferin Grove Neighbourhood Lawn Sale and Street Fair

Saturday Sept.8: 10 a.m., noon, after-lunch, and six pm.

Saturday Sept.8: Nineteenth annual Dufferin Grove Neighbourhood Lawn Sale and Street Fair, 10 a.m., noon, after-lunch, and six pm.

From organizer Liz Martin:

It’s time for the street fair again, always the first Saturday after Labour Day.

10 a.m. Clean out your basement and join us for a Lawn Sale on the east side of the park in the morning, and try not to buy too many things from your neighbours! Kids’ toys and clothes always go well.

Noon: Then we'll have Hot Dog Lunch near157 Havelock, courtesy of our Councillor.

After lunch: Kids Games in the afternoon organized by local parent Robin Crombie

6 pm: Potluck Dinner with Cakewalk over by the park ovens. Pizza-making for the kids too, with Dufferin Grove staff ($2 per pizza).

See the photo gallery from the 2006 street fair

Annual bench-and-picnic table painting day

Sunday Sept. 9, 1 pm to 4 pm

Sunday Sept. 9, 1 pm to 4 pm: Annual bench-and-picnic table painting day.

Organized by Michelle Webb, with paint supplied by the Parks department. For many years now there have been no provisions for repairing or maintaining picnic tables, and what’s a park without tables? A coat of paint before winter, for some of the most paint-deficient picnic tables, will help preserve them. Michelle says, wear old clothes and come to the park oven at Sunday pizza time. The tables most needing paint will be set up there. Last time Michelle organized this painting bee, friends or even whole families came and painted a table together. A very friendly occasion, with free pizza for painters.

Parks Committee meeting.

Friday Sept.14, 9.30 a.m., City Hall, Committee Room 1.

Friday Sept.14, 9.30 a.m. Parks Committee meeting. City Hall, Committee Room 1. This is the first day back for the Councillors on the Parks Committee. The decision to keep the 50 outdoor rinks without ice until 2008 may be raised at this meeting. (See Rink News below)

The annual Dufferin Groove Hockey League Music Jam

Saturday Sept. 22, 2 to 7 pm., in the Garrison Creek Hollow beside Dufferin Street

Saturday Sept. 22, 2 to 7 pm. The annual Dufferin Groove Hockey League Music Jam in the Garrison Creek Hollow beside Dufferin Street. The Dufferin Groove league has had the Monday Night hockey permit at Dufferin Rink for so long, nobody can exactly remember when it started. Many of the players are also musicians, and this is their yearly chance to give the park a present – a free concert down in the hollow.

In collaboration with Dufferin Grove recreation staff, who provide the food from the oven. This year the concert will no doubt be an occasion for hockey players to discuss the City’s rink cut.

Dufferin Mall Youth Services Goodbye Celebration.

Sunday Sept.23, Time TBA

Sunday Sept.23: Dufferin Mall Youth Services Goodbye Celebration. Time TBA.

After more than fifteen years, the agencies that have been running the mall’s youth services are throwing in the towel. Dufferin Grove recreation staff will have to hunt for another place to send the youth at the park who are having trouble. From organizer Shani Kipang:

Between 30-60 current and past youth services users will be at the park to celebrate what DMYS has been to the community and its youth over the years and to raise some community support to keep us open. We’ll have music, free food, and some 'speeches' by youth about what DMYS has meant to them.

Native Child and Family Services Annual “Honouring our Children” Pow Wow

Saturday September 29

Saturday September 29: Native Child and Family Services will be presenting their annual “Honouring our Children” Pow Wow. This event is a very popular, very colourful occasion with many craft vendors, two big tipis, drummers, dancers in beautiful costumes, free food and a big “give-away” of donated goods at the end. The day begins at sunrise with a fire ceremony in the fire circle, lit by an elder. Then there is a pause while the soccer field is set up with tipis, vendors and information tables, a stage, and food areas. The grand entry of the dancers is at noon, and the give-away is at about 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome to join in the pow wow dancing, all afternoon.

Since having over a thousand people in the park all afternoon can lead to some problems, recreation staff will be at the playground this year again to supervise. Tipi poles and shovels will not be available at the sandpit on that day, to reduce the number of loose parts that can become weapons if there are too many kids packed into the playground together.


Pizza days

Wednesdays from noon to 2 pm, and on Sundays between 1 and 3 pm

Pizza days: In September there will be NO Tuesday pizza days, but pizza days will continue on Wednesdays from noon to 2 pm, and on Sundays between 1 and 3 pm. Birthday parties of more than 12 people can book time through the staff before or after the regular Sunday pizza hours (contact: 416 392-0913, or As usual: $2 for dough, sauce and cheese, pick other ingredients at the gardens beside the ovens or bring them from home. The tomato crop in the children’s garden didn’t do well this year, but the herbs are plentiful.


This is the most bountiful season for farm produce. If you miss the Dufferin market , there are three other new markets in the west on three other days, plus two new ones across the Don to the east. And next month: the annual farmers’ market tasting fair.



Mayor Miller’s directive to cut $100 million from the city’s operating budget this year, in preparation for even harsher cuts next year, resulted in staff cuts affecting the lowest-paid and most vulnerable staff at Parks and Recreation. There’s quite a range of pay in this department: 25 of its 200-plus management staff make over $100,000 a year, with additional 24% benefits on top of that. At the other extreme are the many recreation-program casual staff, who earn $20,000 if they’re lucky enough to get close to full-time hours. It’s those staff who have been told that their hours have been radically cut (especially if they work in the 50 outdoor rinks). This includes students working for their tuition, and much of the “new blood” in the department, young people willing to put up with the wages for now in order to get established.

The mayor’s cuts have not touched management nor full-time union positions. Their wages are secure even if the rinks and community centres are locked and the parks are full of litter. But because the casual staff run most of the programs, shrinking their hours also affects park and community centre users the most. Treating these staff as “disposable” is a very bad idea. The best of them are increasingly forced to abandon their interest in public spaces and take up other work. In that way, cuts made like this are worse for public space than vandalism. The mayor’s plan need re-working.


Dufferin Rink

In August City Manager Shirley Hoy announced major cuts to city services that would affect most people in Toronto. The most immediate effect on Dufferin Grove is that the rink is supposed to stay shut for the busiest part of its season (the month of December). Mayor David Miller says that this is necessary because his new taxes on house sales and car registration were defeated by City Council.

From the CEntre for LOcal Research into Public Space (CELOS):

There are alternatives to Mayor Miller's budget cuts. Here is a menu of "better budget cuts" for the Parks and Recreation budget. Cutting Mondays at recreation centres and also outdoor rinks, and cutting litter picking, are cuts designed to cause "maximum distress" (quote from former finance committee chair David Soknacki) to get people's attention. There are many better ways to save money -- the list below is from analyzing the Parks and Recreation budgets since 2001, and also canvassing parks staff at various levels and locations for their ideas. Many of them also think there are better choices of cuts than the mayor's list. This is the time for park users and park workers to speak up....


1. Cut one day a month for each of the 226 (or so) management staff. Save $1.5 million in a year. Right now the City is only cutting the hours of their lowest-paid staff. Those cuts add up much more slowly (except in the eyes of the lowest-paid staff whose small wages go down even lower). Interestingly, it seems that lots of management staff are willing to take these days off, and even those few days yield an impressive saving at their rate of pay.

2. Cut one director and his/her staff, maybe the folks whose main job it is to “evaluate, recommend and initiate innovative advancements in regard to service integration trends.” There are now 7 directors plus one new “acting director” whose job it is to connect silos built by the other 7. Some of the directors make nearly the same salary as the mayor – that adds up. Save $1.62 million.

Some of the staff can be moved out into the field, they can help run the rink programs. The casual staff program wages are about $20,000 a year if they get near-full-time hours.

3. Reduce the number of Parks trash police (and their supervisor) by half. They don’t keep track of how many people they catch (Freedom of Information says there is no report on their output), so it’s hard to know how many officers to cut, or even how many there are. But cutting four could be a good start, which leaves at least four more to do dog enforcement in their spare time. Save $400,000 (counting benefits and new trucks).

4. Move one-third of the Parks and Rec Youth Outreach Workers (called “yow’s), over to public health. One-third of 21 means seven YOWs, those ones whose job is to “provide general information and referral services to the designated youth groups, on recreation, housing, employment, education, health, other services and establish positive relationships with youth, agencies, police, schools and the broader community.” Public health has lots of new funding from the Province. This staff transfer would give them new, suitable youth staff without the necessity of interview or orientation. Save $490,000 for Parks and Rec to put toward opening the City's 12 double-pad outdoor artificial ice rinks in mid-November – using the formula that one good pleasure-skating and shinny-hockey rink equals 10 good YOWs-worth of youth work.

5. Cut out the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Divisional Safety and Security Plan officers. They’re an expensive way to do evening washroom lockup in parks and an inefficient way to relate to troublemakers. Save $350,000 (or maybe more, the project is partly confidential). Restore the recreation staff to their former role of fostering security: long-term work with youth and communities. (Instead of what they have become now: book-keepers for shrinking program revenues.) Leave the crisis work to real police officers. Parks and recreation centres were safer (and cheaper) when recreationists were still allowed to use their skills. (See by-law story "New By-law Officers".)

That’s $4.36 million saved for starters. It’s only a drop in the bucket of the 2007 PFR operating budget of $303 million. The CELOS research group has more good suggestions, and so do some of the City workers. This list is just for the short term, to prevent the Mayor’s cuts from punishing citizens and front-line program workers.



During this long dry summer, park friends Katherine Betts, Lorna Weir, Josh Shook, and Nancy Winsor all helped out with tree watering. Michael Monastyrskyj worked so hard that the recreation staff finally put him in charge of the whole operation and paid him a weekly honorarium (the park “cookie money” at work). The newly planted trees that were drought-stressed are re mostly doing very well again. And after the Forestry staff pointed out that some of the older trees are also having drought trouble, the watering began to include them. Forestry has by now delivered six loads of mulch, with more coming. Staff and helpers have spread it at the base of as many trees as possible.

The mulch is also a partial remedy to the problem Dufferin Grove shares with well-used urban parks the world over: soil compaction. Around the playground, the wading pool, the cob courtyard, the bake oven, the main sitting areas, often-used paths, and the farmers’ market area, foot traffic has turned the ground as hard as cement. That’s not good for the trees. So market manager Anne Freeman has made a proposal to the Parks supervisor. The farmers’ fees will help pay for aeration of the soil in the summer market area, and for the addition of new soil, seeding with shade-resistant ground cover, and some new shrubs to help direct foot traffic. Forestry has explained how to do deep soil aeration (with an augur and a 16-inch bit), although they don’t have the resources to do it. Perhaps volunteers with stout safety boots can help with this.

If the farmers’ collaboration with the Parks crew works well, it can be applied to some of the other hard-packed park areas next year. None of this kind of work has been a regular part of the city’s park maintenance for years now, but all of it needs doing.


In June Councillor Adam Giambrone got a surprise message from the Parks building projects staff (a branch called “capital projects”): they had designed a brand new wading pool for Dufferin Grove Park, and there was $250,000 in the budget to build it, this fall. Everyone was surprised, including the park wading pool staff – no one had been around to talk to them about the project. The councillor called a meeting in early July, down by the wading pool. City staff and the architect were there with the plans, which looked nice and also included a long-awaited plumbing repair. (Wading pool staff have been asking about the rusty and stiff plumbing set-up in the “pit” for ten years.) Some small project changes were suggested and the architect incorporated most of them.

Dufferin Park Wading Pool

Then near the end of July a City forester came to meet with park tree-watering volunteers. He dropped a bombshell: the Forestry report for the wading pool project had warned that ripping out the wading pool concrete could damage the big Norway maples that shade the pool and the playground. Shade and kids go together -- that's why most city wading pools have few users especially during heat waves -- no shade.

But it sounded like the state-of-good-repair project was all or nothing – take it now or wait for 10 or 15 years, or forever, to repair any problems that come up in future. So Councillor Giambrone asked for public opinion, and lots of people called his office or e-mailed him. That led to some fresh ideas.

Another look at the wading pool made it evident that the concrete surface of the pool actually looks very solid. With many people insisting that shade was of the utmost importance but that the needed plumbing repairs should not be postponed, the councillor’s staff went back to the capital project staff for a rethinking. It began to sound as though the "all or nothing" proposition might not be so ironclad as it first appeared. Discussions of how to repair the pool without removing the concrete surface that would compromise the tree roots, are now underway. Updates:


A citywide “facilities” audit done by Affiliated Engineers, Inc., a large international company of engineers, in 2005 was the basis for the plan to redo the wading pool. Since amalgamation, the city has hired a number of consultants to do such audits. It’s not easy to come in and check out every facility in a large city. In Toronto, as one of the audit companies reported in 2001: “Service contract arrangement, drawings, service records and history were requested. Few facilities could actually produce such information.” And indeed, the audit engineers based the Dufferin Grove wading pool assessment mainly on the original construction date (1955). This meant that the wading pool automatically got an assessment of “0 years life expectancy.” Under some engineering standards, city buildings and facilities such as rinks and wading pools are assumed to have a useful life of 40-50 years. (This kind of assumption contributed to the widespread destruction of many older public buildings in Toronto in the1950s and 1960s, stopping just short of demolishing Old City Hall.)

But the idea that new is better has not always worked out. For example, in the early1990s, Alex Duff Pool at Christie Pits was rebuilt because of such an “expiry date.” The new swimming pool developed cracks and leaks after less than a year. After a number of expensive attempts to fix it, the water still pours out into oil drums in the basement under the pool. Another example is Dufferin Rink – five years after it was rebuilt, the floor began to sink under the rink’s cooling compressors, dragging down the adjoining rooms as well, and emergency structural repairs had to be made. There are many such stories. In the case of the park wading pool, the concrete pool surface was very solidly built by the (often Italian) construction crews who also built roads and sidewalks at that time. The wading pool surface has no cracks (the long straight lines are intentional expansion joints). On the other hand, the rink surface and the concrete areas surrounding the rink house are already full of cracks even though built in 1993.

So it seems good to keep what is solid, and to fix what’s not. Although the wading pool audit said that plumbing has not been touched since 1955, on closer inspection one can see a long cut where the pipes run. The plumbing must already have been repaired sometime in the interim. That means that a relatively easy marking is already there, in exactly the right place, and it should be able to be re-opened. If that gets done, wading-pool/playground users can get their drinking fountain back as well, get the plumbing rebuilt, and perhaps retain a few other features of the original plan. The big old trees can give their shade as long as they may live (5 years? 20 years?), while the newly planted succession trees gain height. And hopefully the city will not have to spend as much money as was forecast. Economy of expenditure would be good now.


Parks and Recreation management have decided to cut the month of December out of the outdoor rink season. This will save either $800,000, or $570,000, or $160,000, depending on which report you read. The shaky numbers reflect an equally shaky management attitude to basic recreation services. Rink issues were supposed to be on the City Parks Committee agenda in July, then postponed to September 14. It now appears that the outdoor rinks may not make it onto the September agenda either. It may be necessary for skaters and shinny hockey players to get the attention of council and Parks management with an evening visit to City Hall before another month has passed. For updates, go to


One reason the Parks budget is stretched is that somewhere around $1 million has gone into hiring new Parks by-law officers in the past few years. At Dufferin Grove Park, the officers have sorted through trash bags looking for envelopes to trace illegal household garbage. They have cautioned farmers about parking in the park during the farmers’ market (until the market was explained to their supervisor). Most recently, Parks supervisor Peter Leiss sent them to the park on two days of the Labour Day weekend, to make sure that recreation staff had provided campfire groups with pails of water. One unit checking up on another! Surely this would be a good place to cut costs.


1. Winter rink access. Finally, no more sliding and falling, entering the rink from the street. Parks supervisor Peter Leiss took up rink staff Dan Watson’s good idea of cutting a small gate in the rink fence close to the street. In July, technical service staff cut the gate and began to build a slanted ramp from the gate down to the sidewalk. Another slip hazard! After some protest, countered with requests by Mr.Leiss not to interfere, and finally an intervention from Councillor Giambrone’s office, the crew built a nice level access with one step, instead. Problem solved, whenever the rink opens.

2. Two new curb cuts: Almost a year ago, cyclist Robert Stewart started lobbying the councillor’s office about getting a small curb cut, leading down from the sidewalk by the rink house, to stop bikes from using the sidewalk and endangering pedestrians. It seemed good to do the missing zamboni curb cut at the same time, giving bike and vehicle access to the new paved path at the east side of the rink. Parks supervisor Peter Leiss felt it was a Transportation department responsibility, but it took until the end of August to get a site meeting with staff from there. (Four of them had to come.) They said that it was actually the Parks supervisor’s responsibility. So back to Mr.Leiss. Once he sends in the request for these simple changes, they’ll get on the radar.

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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