For the basics, see
- Website & Privacy Policies
- How To Get Involved
- The Role of the Park

Search options:

up to a month to index new postings
web search

Search Newsletter:
local & up to date but simpler
See Search Page

Department Site Map

September 2009

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 10, Nr.7, September 2009

Thorncliffe Park

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

EVENT: Annual MORRIS DANCERS’ gathering. Sunday September 6, 3pm - 5 pm

Toronto Morris dancers will once again finish their annual Labour Day weekend dancing (which they do in public squares all over the city) by picnicking at Dufferin Grove Park. Morris dancing dates back to 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 their free dance performances in other public outdoor spaces. At Dufferin Grove these groups dance for one another to show off their latest dances, and they eat masses of fresh park bread and herb butter and samosas, and make pizza at the bake oven.

The jets from the CNE air show often thunder overhead. The “squire” hosting this event is Abby Heidebrecht, who took over from long-time squire John “Parky” Parkinson two years ago.


This event is put on by some of the summer recreation staff from both MacGregor and Dufferin Grove wading pools. Between 1 and 5 pm there will be face-painting, banner-making, games, candied popcorn and other tasty food, a séance with a fortune teller, and a make-your-own hula-hoop workshop with Ava. The (free) movie night will start at dusk, and then in the intermission (around 7.30) there will be a fire-spinning performance. Everyone welcome!

MacGregor Park is on Lansdowne Avenue just north of West Toronto Collegiate (i.e. north of College, on the west side). That park has one of the city’s biggest wading pools, which will be open too.


Pizza days are mostly over until next summer, but Friday Night Supper is going strong. The farmers’ market is overflowing with produce, and the cooks are keen to keep making delicious food.

A day when it threatened rain, near the end of August, turned out to be fun too, with tables set up by the zamboni garage, under cover of the market tents.

The Friday menus are always posted on the, here website a few hours beforehand .


The long strike that lasted half the summer was tough on the neighbourhood, and also on the park and on those working there. As most people know, none of the park program staff who are familiar to park users get any sick days, so banking their sick days was never an issue for them. (Most recreation workers are categorized as part-time, which means very limited benefits).

Still, all the park’s program staff are members of the Canadian Union of Municipal Employees (CUPE), Local 79, and they picketed along with their full-time colleagues in Locals 79 and 416. Dufferin Grove program staff Amy Withers represented the approximately 10,000 Local 79 part-time recreation staff as a member of the bargaining committee.

There were, of course, many other issues on the table beyond the sick days. Part-time workers did get one significant improvement as part of the strike – the city is now obliged to pay most of the job-training fees they required of their part-time workers. This will hopefully limit the proliferation of time-consuming and expensive mandatory training sessions, often repeated with the same content year after year.

Despite some gains, it seems that many residents, and many city employees, remain unconvinced of the necessity of ever having had such a strike. And the issues in any strike affecting public workers and public space are really quite confusing. Labour laws treat a park just like any other job site, like a factory or a mine. Public employees at the management level are considered equivalent to the managers and owners of a GM plant who would directly suffer from loss of sales. It’s easy to see that these comparisons don’t make much sense, but what is a better alternative?

This is one of the troubling questions that remains unanswered, after the strike. In what sense is a park “public” space, if local wishes (and even environmental laws) can be so easily overruled in the case of dumping in parks, if paid permits like farmers’ markets can be cancelled, if (one example) the Sorauren Park field house can be locked against the neighbours who raised the extra funds to create it?

Another question – not more cheerful – is, what will happen to the City’s fiscal troubles, which the strike certainly didn’t remedy? If the ballooning municipal debt, now around $8 billion, begins to drain more and more operating funds to meet interest payments, what will happen to our neighbourhood’s use of the rink, the wading pool, the picnic tables? How much will the Parks and Recreation Division turn to increasing fees, charging its citizens once through taxes ($246 million for Parks, Forestry and Recreation operating costs in 2009) and then turning around and charging admission again for the use of these tax-funded lands and buildings?

And the debt is only one of the aspects of what needs a remedy. To address problems which are that big, the conversation needs to include everyone. In the case of parks, that means park users, and workers, and managers. Can such a conversation happen?


It’s been 17 years (1992) since the Parks maintenance staff removed the last flower gardens from the park, citing budget pressures. The following year, playground parent Anne Shaddick worked with kids and other parents to dig and plant the first little community garden near the playground. The Parks Department supervisor at that time, Carol Cormier, contributed some flats of flowering annuals from the High Park greenhouse. By the time Mayor June Rowlands came to officially “open” the new sandpit adventure play area in July 1993, the City TV cameraman was able to pan across a bright display of flowers for the newscast of the opening event.

Since then there has been a lot of neighbourhood planting in the park. High School teacher Rob Rennick planned and planted the first perennial bed near the rink. Children’s writer Margie Rutledge supervised “gangster” youth to plant vegetables and herbs as well as flowers, near the first bake oven. The Canada Trust “Friends of the Environment” Foundation donated funds to plant native-species gardens near the sandpit and in the Garrison Creek hollow by Dufferin Street. Landscaper and artist Gene Threndyle befriended the park around that time, and helped out with those gardens for many years (still does). He planted many of the trees and created the marsh area with its fountain near Dufferin Street (which he’s currently rebuilding).

The gardens near the sandpit didn’t last – too many little feet played on top of the delicate wood-flowers, and the Norway Maples tunneled up with their roots and stole all the groundwater. But the natives-species gardens and “tree nurseries” elsewhere in the park flourished, so that small plants are now tall trees and bushes.

The neighbourhood gardener who worked the hardest in the park, by a country mile, was retired steelworker Arie Kamp. Arie was born in Holland, apparently with a big green thumb. He remembers growing flowers in his own plot when he was twelve. When Arie discovered the gardening activities at Dufferin Grove Park in 1994, he got to work.

It turned out that one of Arie’s hobbies was collecting seeds from any garden that was near enough to the sidewalk that he could pick seeds from the best specimens. Over the course of ten years, Arie constantly dug and seeded and transplanted and added new garden beds to Dufferin Grove, often starting work as the first light of dawn came into the park (4.30 a.m. in early summer). Park staff had a hard time keeping up with his plans, both at Dufferin Grove and at some of the other parks where he also got involved. He planted California poppies and Shasta daisies and Sweet William and cosmos and many other beautiful flowers (and morning glories all over the chain link fence of the rink pad). Dufferin Grove became a favourite evening stroll for people in the neighbourhood, enjoying the colour and wonderful variety in the various flowerbeds. In 1997, when then-Lieutenant-Governor Hilary Weston arranged to visit the park, she presented Arie with an “Unsung Hero” award for his work.

When Arie turned 80, he began to reduce his hours of park gardening to increase his chess time and help people with their home gardens. Now his main activity at Dufferin Grove is to cover the smaller park bake-oven with morning glories and surround it with sunflowers, so that people can hardly see there’s an oven under the mass of flowers. Some of Arie’s flowerbeds have been returned to sod (no one else could ever keep up the number of gardens that Arie planted). A few more of the flower gardens will be “down-sized” this fall. But Arie’s influence continues to manifest all over the park, because of all the seeds he introduced there. Sunflowers, morning glories, and cosmos continue to self-seed, so that by late August there’s colour everywhere, along fences, growing up out of the cracks in the rink house concrete, around the ovens, in the native-species gardens.

Around the time Arie began to reduce his gardening hours, park program staff Caitlin Shea and Jenny Cook and Anna Bekerman started working with other neighbourhood volunteers to grow vegetables and flowers near the rink house. Annick Mitchell and her son Jake tried out many different types of vegetable seeds in the garden they tended. Anna, Jenny and the garden volunteers laid out and dug a new children’s garden to increase the supply of pizza-day vegetables for kids to pick. Anna welcomed school classes and worked alongside them as she taught them about growing plants, making compost, and harvesting (and eating!) what they helped to grow.

This August Anna married and moved to New York. Caitlin moved to Cleveland a few years ago, and Jenny is a part-time farmer and an environmentalist as well as a park baker and cook, with limited time to fit gardening volunteers into her schedule. This is a time of considerable program staff turn-over. There’s too much garden space for the current volunteers to look after, so a new chapter in the park garden story may be starting. (All contributions to this new phase are welcome!)

One possibility is to copy the Christie Pits community gardens, on a smaller scale, and invite some garden-less people and groups (e.g. school groups like the St.Mary’s environment club) to have their own plots in the existing fenced food gardens. Other volunteer gardeners may prefer to keep on contributing their work to the community garden areas.

In the case of the native-species gardens and tree nurseries – and those fence-line flowers and plants which have turned into farm-style hedgerows – the ecology that has developed may only need a little tweaking. Areas that are more weed than flowers may need to shrink or be grassed over. The towering sunflowers crowding the park walkway from Dufferin Street near the marsh garden need to be cut back. And so on.

This fall is a good time for park users to talk to the park program staff about park gardening ideas – look for the staff in the park or email them at


The newly renovated wading pool opened a week after the strike ended, and there’s been lots of fun with the waterspouts and the new water-fountain foot-washing station (also good for squirting your friends). The lighter, smoother surface is a bit more slippery but not as scrapey as the concrete pool surface underneath used to be, and the pool looks great when the water is in.

Peter Didiano, the project manager, sent us news of the cost of the renovation: $13,250 for the landscape architect who redesigned the pool, $2,300 for a survey and slab x-ray, $196,851 for construction, and $15,000 for staff to manage the project, for a total of $227,401. The “staff management” item may puzzle park users, since City staff are already on salary. The reason why there’s an extra charge for capital projects is that the City project staff rely on a percentage of new projects to cover their budget. Big citywide projects, like for example the wading pool renovation program ($500,000 a year for the next four years) are needed to meet the staff payroll.

However, this means is that the city covers its operating costs for capital projects staff by borrowing money (the majority of capital projects are funded by new debt). It used to be prohibited under the municipal act to use borrowed money to cover operating costs, because of a potential conflict of interest leading staff to contract more city debt. The new City of Toronto Act is not easy to understand on this point, however. In any case, the City’s practice is to slot any project over $50,000 as a capital project (therefore okay to fund through debt). One unfortunate side-effect of the current system is that most state-of-good-repair projects have to be big. Small things like picnic table repair and playground maintenance mostly get lost – something that is obvious at Dufferin Grove.

Beyond that, the consultants and project managers are still working out the details of ideal plumbing for all the renovated wading pools, and they haven’t got it nailed yet. The deep, scary water turn-on and drain pits remain at Dufferin Grove and some of the other recently renovated pools, and the valves are still very cumbersome to open and close. There’s a step-by-step renovation diary on the website, with descriptions of the problems that need help. This web link has now been sent to the capital projects staff, to help avoid future mistakes at other parks, and fix these ones.


The Ontario Trillium Foundation recently awarded a $24,000 grant to CELOS (the CEntre for LOcal research into public Space) to research the laws, regulations, policies and guidelines that help or hinder community initiatives in parks and public spaces. Belinda Cole is the main legal researcher. Henrik Bechmann, the longtime webmaster of, is working on a database application, to give easy access to people or groups who want to understand the regulations, policies and guidelines that scare people away from trying things or enjoying our parks to the fullest. This research involves talking to lots of interesting people and community groups. To find out more or to contribute your experience, go to


Two-year-old Rowan Denis came to the park staff at the end of August, crying and asking where the “Daisy” spring toy had gone. Her dad explained that it was her favourite piece of playground equipment. Sadly, it had broken off its base the week before. Rowan’s dad also pointed out the missing arm on the four-way (now three-way) teeter-totter, which has been broken for over a year.

Chris Gallop (assistant to City Councillor Adam Giambrone), when he saw the e-mailed photos of the broken equipment and of a forlorn Rowan, wrote back that he had called Andy Koropeski, the new Parks manager, to help make sure the repairs happen. A week later, Mick the new welder had the four-way teeter-totter as good as new, and he and Dexter (the technical services foreman) fixed the daisy spring toy. They took the climber’s detached railing (with the steering wheels) back to the carpentry shop, so hopefully that wil return too. Rowan – and many other kids – were delighted.


Park friend Max Wallace recently contacted City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s office, reminding them of the need for such a swing and offering to pay for it. He wrote:

Last year, an informal audit of the park was conducted with the family of a young disabled child to determine how the playground could be made more accessible for him. The boy and his family immediately identified the need for an accessible swing that could accommodate children with disabilities. They concluded that such a swing would bring him hours of joy and that he would no longer have to sit on the sidelines watching other children having fun on the swings. There are other disabled children in the neighbourhood, including the users of the nearby respite care centre, who would also undoubtedly benefit from such an addition.

The Councillor’s office has now involved Doug Muir from Parks Infrastructure Management, who sent his staff to take pictures and make a plan. The boy’s mother sent word to say she is thrilled, and park friends Jason Brown and Andrea Adams have offered to donate as well. Watch the playground bulletin board for updates.


Campfire permits are available throughout the fall. You pay a much lower fee than the city’s normal bonfire permits (only a $20 donation for the use of the campfire equipment).

In return, when you have a campfire, you also undertake to be a park warden during that time, keeping a eye on the park and thereby making it safe and friendly.

A dark, empty park looks much more welcoming if you add in the glow of a campfire, surrounded by people roasting marshmallows, or quietly strumming on a guitar. The fire circles are intentionally located near the main path so that people walking through the park will come across this pleasing sight.

To book a campfire, contact the park’s program staff: 416 392-0913, or

Clay and Paper Theatre: Community stilt-walking workshops to prepare for the NIGHT OF DREAD Parade

Sat. Sept.12, 2-4 PM, Wed. Sept. 16, 6-8 PM, Sat. Sept 19, 2-4 PM, Sat. Sept 26, 2-4 PM, Wed. Sept 30, 6-8 PM.

From Clay and Paper Theatre director David Anderson: No experience required!

Meet at the Field House, that's the small brick building next to the soccer field. Make sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes (ie: sneakers).

Everyone is welcome, but all children must be accompanied by an adult. Workshops will be cancelled in case of rain. Workshops are $10, or Pay-What-You-Can.

Saturday September 26: Native Child and Family Services

Will be presenting their annual “Honouring our Children” POW WOW. Sunrise and 12 –4 pm. 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. Drumming and circle dancing, all afternoon, everyone welcome.


From the organizers, Liz Bohnen, Katherine Rankin, Liz Martin:
Lawn sale in the morning alongside the park on Havelock St., Kids’ games in the park at 4:30 (to be confirmed) Our wonderful potluck dinner (and $2 pizza-making for kids) near the bake ovens at 6:00, CAKEWALK, and then dancing on the rink to follow.

NEIGHBOURHOOD NEWS: The HUMAN TRAIN FOR CLEAN AIR will roll through communities along the tracks on Saturday, September 26, 2009.

From the organizers at the Clean Train Coalition: Plan now to hop on board the Human Train to send a message to Premier McGuinty that he must act now to scrap plans to run hundreds of polluting diesel trains a day through our neighbourhoods, and direct Metrolinx to use only clean, quiet electric trains for any expansion of rail traffic along the Georgetown corridor.

The Route of the Human Train: The Human Train will get rolling in Weston at 8:30 am with “Whistle Stops” in a number of communities along the way. The Human Train will arrive in Sorauren Park at 1:00 pm for the Main Rally of the day! At 2:30, the Human Train will leave Sorauren Park for a parade through Queen West. To find out more:


This summer was rather odd for weather, and the strike didn’t help either. For the first confusing weeks of the strike, Parks managers felt they should prohibit the farmers’ markets from being in parks or civic squares. It took a little persuading to remind the managers that crops don’t wait for the end of a strike, and that throwing out a whole harvest of strawberries (just coming to market when the strike began) was not acceptable, strike or no strike. The union quickly made it clear that they had no intention of blocking markets, and so the markets resumed despite another four weeks of strike.

The remarkably cool and wet July was tough on the farmers in other ways. Lettuce did very well, but tomatoes were a disaster. When Dufferin Grove market vendor Jessie Sosnicki went out to her “100 varieties” heirloom-tomato field one morning, she found that the whole field of plants had turned black overnight. A tomato virus had destroyed the crop (the same virus, the newspapers reported, as the one that caused the Irish potato famine in the 19th century). Jessie said she wept, and then went back to doing her farm work – what was the use of shaking her fist at the weather?

In August the weather warmed up and got a bit wild for a few days, with tornados in some places. On Thursday August 20, a storm hit Toronto at 7.05 pm, just as the Dufferin Grove farmers were packing up at the end of the market. As the sky turned black and then green, market tents blew over or buckled in the wind, jars of preserves were smashed on the ground, and the rain drenched everyone who was trying to help. An adventure! People took shelter, shoulder to shoulder, in the zamboni garage, with babies and little kids at the very back in case the lightning struck too close.

Afterwards there was the reward of a rainbow, and the very wet farmers were finally able to get home. The damage was less than it might have been, and the next week the farmers were back (in lovely weather), their tables once again loaded with good food. One vendor had a new market tent, but there was not much talk about the storm of the week before. Farmers always have to think ahead, planning for tomorrow – lucky for us eaters.


The Thorncliffe Park women’s committee has been working for several years to try and improve that community’s centrally located R.V.Burgess Park. In the process they have become a kind of “sister park” to Dufferin Grove, with swapping of staff and ideas. (Look for some of the foods we ate there, on the new zamboni snack bar menu this winter.) The women’s committee just sent this invitation: “We would like to invite you to a bazaar preparing for Eid (holiday at the end of Ramadan) for Tues Sept 15 from 3-7 pm in the park. Rain date will be Sept 17.” Going to one of their park bazaars is like going to the Middle East, without the hassle of an airport. Directions on


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web sites: Henrik Bechmann, Aseel Al Najim,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


September newsletter sponsors: Scooter Girl Toys, Edward Cayley.

hosted by | powered by pmwiki-2.2.83. Content last modified on October 13, 2010, at 01:47 AM EST