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February 2007

posted February 4, 2007

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Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter

Volume 8 Number 2, February 2007


Dufferin Grove soup pot

posted February 04, 2007

Park Events

ICE GAMES every weekday 7pm and 8pm, for ten minutes each time: exciting.

This was an experiment last month, and nobody got clobbered, so now the rink staff will offer a bit more – Ice basketball – as well as allowing all the traditional ice games that are usually banned (including races and British bulldog.) If you’re a kid in size or at heart, you can come on the hour at those times (weekdays only) and wear yourself out for ten minutes of crazy fun. If you’d like to have a peaceful skate, come ten minutes after the hour and all the fast stuff will be over.

Saturday February 24, 8 pm to 11 pm: The annual bike couriers’ BIKE RACES ON ICE.

This tournament will once again have the initial elimination rounds on the hockey side only, followed by a two-rink final that can be very exciting (and occasionally a bit bloody, if there’s a collision – the bike tires have many little studs in them). Fan and bike rider Les Hershoff filmed the races last year and the year before, and he posted his film on YouTube. Our webmaster Henrik Bechmann recently figured out how to put YouTube films on the web site. So if you want to have an idea of what a bike race on ice looks like, City Rinks Web Site Dufferin Park Winter Diary 2006 2007

posted February 04, 2007

Events Beyond the Park

January 23 to February 4, “And what ALICE found there”
The Great Hall Downstairs Theatre, 8 pm (Sunday matinees at 2.30pm).

Many of the park on-site staff are at the park part-time, and do other things the rest of the time. They dance, or do research, or do union work, or grow food. And some of them do theatre. “And what Alice found there” is a new play about Alice in Wonderland, involving singing, dancing, video art, and puppetry. The park staff who are part of this Stranger Theatre Company performance are: Lea Ambros, Sarah Cormier, and Christina Serra.

The play is so lively and fun we tried to figure out how it could be brought to the rink house so that people could see these park staff transformed into actors. But the rink house just won’t work, since lighting such is big part of the performance. So the only way to see the play is to go down to the southeast corner of Dovercourt and Queen, to the Great Hall Downstairs Theatre.

After February 4, the performances may be even further away – the company has just been invited to present Alice at an international puppetry/theatre festival in Istanbul in May. Thankfully, the rink season will be long over and the summer won’t have begun, so the park won’t be short-staffed with Lea, Sarah and Christina all away.

posted February 04, 2007


Remember market vendor Maria's recliner bike, stolen at the market on Dec.21? A fifteen-year-old kid was charged with the theft after a park friend reported to police that she saw him with the bike on New Year's Eve. (But the bike was not recovered – he told police he didn’t have it any more.)

This was the same kid who was arrested and found to have a concealed weapon (knife) at the rink last season. Six park staff went to youth court in October to tell the judge their impression from working with this kid all winter – that he was in serious trouble and needed special attention. But on that occasion the crown lawyer never gave the park staff a chance to speak, and the judge sentenced the youth to do a mere 20 hours of community service administered by his own lawyer. It seems that as soon as he had done those hours, he stole the market vendor’s bike.

Follow-up: in the third week of January, park staff Dan Watson was driving along Bloor Street, when he saw the same kid riding the market vendor’s stolen bike, and followed him. But the kid got away again (first telling Dan to “stop harassing him or he’d call the police” – nervy kid!). The police told Dan to fax them a report, and that may result in another charge of violating bail conditions. (When you’re out on bail you’re not supposed ride around on a stolen bike.) That adds another charge to a growing list – after the original bike theft, the same kid was also charged with a robbery elsewhere, and another bike theft.

The courts are reluctant to put kids in custody, so the best thing is for people to watch their bikes. The other thing is to watch for a slender, slight, black-haired youth riding a very unusual red recliner bike with a black seat, in the Bloor-Lansdowne area. Following to see where he puts it would be a good thing. Getting your hands on it would be the best of all. Never mind the kid – just bring Maria’s bike back to her.

To read more: “Police and Safety/Neighbourhood Safety Bike Thief.”

posted February 04, 2007


One evening in the middle of January, two men in their twenties borrowed skates, gloves, and sticks at the rink. Half an hour later, the men left the building very fast, and a couple of rink staff followed behind. But they were too late. The men jumped into a black Honda Civic and raced away. It turned out that their i.d. was fake.

Tragic – two pairs of good loaner skates, gloves and sticks – gone. But two permit holders came to the rescue. John Dondertman had over-collected from his Friday permit, and so his group donated $125 to buy more skates. Then the women’s shinny tournament collected over $70 in Canadian Tire money, and threw in another $100 from the tournament fees. So the rink staff were able to replace the skates.

But no more iffy i.d. From now on, all adults must either leave government photo i.d., or a hefty deposit, to rent the skates. And kids too young to have i.d must bring their parents down to sign a letter of contract, so their kids can get a laminated i.d. card for the rink. The loaner skates were given to the rink by the NHL Players’ Association, and may anybody who steals them, never score a goal again. And the same goes for those people who fence counterfeit twenties at the zamboni snack bar.

posted February 04, 2007


Pleasure skating

Monday and Friday: 10 am to 9 pm (one side)
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 9 am to 9 pm (one side)
Sunday: 9 am to 4.45 pm (both sides), 5 pm to 9 pm (one side)

Please take note: on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 5 to 7.45 pm, the learn-to-skate program takes part of the pleasure-skating side (about one quarter), also on Friday from 4 pm to 6.45 and Saturday 9.30 am to 1.30 pm.

Shinny hockey schedule
Monday - Friday:
  • 9:00am - 3:15pm all ages (New: on Monday and Friday the rink doesn’t open until 10am, for extra ice maintenance)
  • 3:30pm - 5:30pm Level 2 (about 13 to 17, medium pace)
  • 5:30pm – 7pm Level 1 (12 and under and parent or caregiver, or novice adult)
  • 7.15pm - 8:55pm Level 3 (usually 18 and over, fast-paced)

Monday 9p.m: Seasonal permit (plus pond hockey on the pleasure-skating side)
Tuesday 9 - 11 pm: Women’s open shinny (plus pond hockey on the other side)
Wednesday 9-10: Seasonal permit.
10-11: “beginners only”drop-in shinny hockey (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 - 12:00pm all ages
  • 12:00pm - 1:30pm Level 1 (12 and under and parent or caregiver, or novice adult)
  • 1:45pm - 3:45pm all ages
  • 3:45pm - 5:15pm Level 2 (about 13 to 17, medium pace)
  • 5:30pm - 7:00pm all ages
  • 7:00pm - 8:55pm Level 3 (usually 18 and over, fast paced)
  • 9 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 permit
  • 6.30-8 p.m. Seasonal permit
  • 8-9.30 pm. Seasonal permit, pond hockey on the other side from 9 pm
  • 9.30-11: youth shinny league (plus pond hockey on the pleasure-skating side)


posted February 04, 2007


February 25, 11 to 5 pm

From youth hockey staff Dan Watson:

If you are between the ages of 10 and 15 and you want to play in an organized shinny tournament then read on... WHAT? A shinny tournament at Campbell Outdoor Rink for youth of all skill levels between the ages of 10 and 15.
WHERE? Campbell Rink (255 Campbell st., Off Dupont and West of Landsdowne).
WHEN? Sunday February 25, from 11 am to 5pm.
HOW? Get a team together, with a minimum of 6 players, and sign up with Dan Watson (recreation staff).

If you can’t find other players sign up anyways and a team will be provided.
This is a free program.
For more information call 416-392-0913 or e-mail

WHAT ELSE? This will be an organized tournament complete with referees, score keeping and medals for all participants.

posted February 04, 2007

Rink staff: what else they do besides working for the City

The city runs most of its programs, including Dufferin Rink, with casual staff. That means that all of the work is part-time. Not much income, but on the other hand, park staff can continue with their other interests as well as working here. Here’s a partial list of the great variety of talents the staff here also have, besides running the rink:

Dan Watson: theatre, clown and mime, shinny hockey; Christina Serra – theatre, music with children; Anna Murtaugh: farm worker, volunteers at the Allan Gardens Children’s Conservatory, headed for teacher’s college; Anna Bekerman – studying Spanish translation, volunteers at the Stop Community food centre, park’s main campfire cook, baker; Corey Chivers, science research and teacher of homeschooled kids, motorcycle rider; Lea Ambros – theatre tech and puppet maker, math tutor, baker; Sarah Cormier – theatre, accordion player; Jenny Cook – studying for her masters in Environmental design, baker; Mayssan Shuja, skating teacher, computer helper, youth counsellor; Amy Withers – unit officer for CUPE Local 79, studying German, baker; Ted Carlisle – DJ, hockey player; Eroca Nicols, -- dancer, janitor crew boss, but only in California; Sandy Gribbin – theatre, clown and mime, stilt-walker, baker; Zio Hersh – public school teacher, father, harp-tuner; Claire Freeman-Fawcett – musician (violin); Anna Galati – MacGregor Park activist, mother; Mario Lourenco – theatre, therapy student; Mary Sylwester – vegan cook, film; Yann Peeters – visual artist, shinny player, student; Nick Cameron – student, musician; Emmanuel Gonzales, butcher apprentice, Erinne Henry – skating teacher, social work student...

...And there are a few part-time staff who are paid directly from the Zamboni snack bar funds, and who help out on the busy days when City staff are not enough:

Heidrun Gabel-Koepf, cob builder, potter.
Yo Utano – Environmental Science student, cook.

posted February 03, 2007


Campbell Rink cooking fire

Back in 1993, the friends of the park got their first cooking fire permit. Isabel Perez cooked tortillas with the kids who came to the park. That worked so well that the following year the City added a fire permit beside the rink house. Some youth who were in a gang called the ‘Latinos Americanos’ helped cook soup and hot chocolate there. It worked so well attracting families back to the rink that the cooking fires have gone on ever since. People began to arrange cooking-fire times for birthdays and school outings and family reunions, and since most of those occasions were in the evenings, the park got safer, from having more people in it after dark (“eyes on the park”).

Dufferin Rink staff have recently begun to "take the show on the road" in a few places, collaborating with Rec staff at other parks to see if what they developed at Dufferin can be adapted to other neighbourhoods. In January there were two wonderful events at Wallace Rink and Campbell Rink, each including a DJ, good food, a skate rental van, and a campfire.

A campfire provides the "heart" for such a neighbourhood event. The fire's beauty draws people together and makes food taste better. A campfire is a “story magnet.” It loosens tongues so that often even shy people begin to talk to one another.

But the new Parks supervisor, Peter Leiss, was concerned and unhappy about the safety of having all those cooking fires in parks, and he began to question the practice. The Fire Safety section at City Hall was contacted, and after the second cooking fire at Wallace Rink, Fire Captain John Lyons came out there to look.

The second Wallace Rink cooking fire had taken place right after an ice rainstorm that coated the ground and the trees, and the fire site area was very slippery. The least slippery spot was near a pine tree, so the cooking fire staff made the fire there, with close attention so there was no damage to the tree. Then they spent time in the week afterwards, chipping out the ice from the more distant fire site for the following Sunday.

But when Captain Lyons saw the old ashes near the tree, he said that anyone making a fire near a tree was an “imbecile,” and that cooking fire permission for anyone, including staff, was immediately withdrawn – at Dufferin Grove too.

So in the days that followed, rink staff had the painful task of calling all the people who had planning a cooking fire by the rink. They couldn’t get hold of them all. The worst was having to disappoint a group of 25 kids who had come over from a Toronto Community Housing project with their packages of hot dogs and marshmallows. Ouch.


If Parks supervisor Peter Leiss had been around when some park neighbours first got involved in making Dufferin Grove Park more lively, none of the liveliness would have happened. Mr.Leiss would have pulled out his rule book and that would have been the end of it. But the chilly wind of bureaucracy wasn’t blowing as hard ten years ago as it is now.

January 26, a new order came down: no more cooking fires by the rink, nor by Wallace or Campbell rinks. Parks supervisor Peter Leiss gave the order to stop them on the grounds of “inadequate protocol." Thirteen years of campfires at the park with no injury, and suddenly they were stopped! From the very beginning there had been an agreement about the park fire permit with Toronto Fire, but Parks management said they no longer recognized that agreement. They backed up some of their safety concerns with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, legislation directed at employees but broadened by Parks management to apply to almost every situation.

When the order came to cancel the campfires, one woman wrote a protest e-mail to the Parks supervisor. So he let her have her campfire after all, even though everyone else was banned. Then a new protocol -- meant to apply to the whole city in exactly the same form -- was devised, then rewritten, and rewritten again. The first meeting to discuss the new fire protocol didn’t include any rink staff or rink friends. The next two meetings allowed two rink staff to attend, but still no community people.

All was confusion. One day it seemed that all campfires would revert to the jurisdiction of the central permitting office, costing $53.50 each time, with no local park staff supervision. Then it seemed that park staff would have to be present every minute to oversee the campfire groups – a staffing expense for which there is no budget (and no need). Then there was a hint that the city was considering banning all campfires from city parks, under any circumstances. It was impossible to find out more.

Then suddenly, before any new rink protocol was ready for public presentation, the Park supervisor called the rink to tell the staff that the campfires had been temporarily restored. This would be in effect for a weekend, or maybe even for a month. The rules would be the old fire safety rules that have been in place for thirteen years.

A happy development? “Better than a kick in the teeth” …. but not much. The staff meetings generated so far by this ban involved a forester, a fire chief, a Recreation supervisor, a Parks supervisor, a Parks manager, a Permit officer, four Dufferin Rink staff, and an assistant to the General Manager, most of them repeatedly, all of them already overworked. Rink friends wrote letters and called the councillor and the mayor’s office. Countless exasperated conversations took place at the rink among skaters, on e-mail, around dinner tables. These bureaucratic collisions take so much of everyone’s time! A remedy is in everyone’s interest.

The City of Toronto Municipal Code is a compilation of bylaws organized by subject.Chapter 608: PARKS. ARTICLE I. Definitions. PERMIT — Any written authorization of Council, a committee established by Council, or the Commissioner under delegated authority.

You can read the thread of conversation about this issue so far or email if you want to receive email updates. You can also have a look at our campfires page for information about the campfire program, and Campfire Protest Letters for some community response.

posted February 03, 2007


Dufferin Grove soup pot

There was a flurry of e-mails and phone calls after the cooking fires were halted. The Fire officials e-mailed a protocol that required all cooking fires to be 100 feet from any structure (including the concrete rink house). That would mean no cooking fires, ever, at Dufferin Rink nor most other parks. A meeting was held, not involving any Dufferin Grove staff or friends. Councillor Adam Giambrone’s office tried to help.

But dealing with issues of safety is tricky nowadays. Hypothetical risk scenarios often trump examination of actual experience.

Cooking fires in parks are a gray area for Fire Departments. There’s some margin for error, since you can’t set a whole row of houses on fire, as you might if a gas barbecue canister explodes on your back patio. There’s also a specific exemption (no fire permit required) for small cooking fires in the provincial Fire Code legislation, although Toronto Fire Services seems to dismiss that. But the main thing is: Fire staff want to make sure that nobody gets hurt by fires, and so do Dufferin park staff. An opportunity to work together for a good cause!

Time for a bit of science. I’ve asked Councillor Giambrone’s office if they would request Toronto Fire Services to set up some public show-and-tell fire demonstrations, while it’s still winter, at Dufferin Grove. With fire trucks standing by (or the long, powerful zamboni hoses from the garage poised), park staff will make their usual-size cooking fire 100 feet away and the fire staff will demonstrate how this will set a structure on fire 90 feet away (e.g. the concrete block rink house, or the children’s garden fence. If that doesn’t work, the same tests can be done with a cooking fire 50 feet away, then 20 feet, then 10 feet, then 2 feet.

Then the park staff will make their usual-size cooking fire four feet from a tree, and the fire staff will try to show how that fire can set the tree on fire in winter, or singe it. And last, the fire staff will be asked to force some sparks from the sheltered rink cooking fire site onto the nearest wood: the benches, the garden rail fence, and the wooden boards covering the concrete community oven. This final part of the experiment would show whether, in the cold of winter, these structures can catch fire from sparks.

On the basis of these tests, Fire Services could then re-write their cooking fire protocols for parks, with a full sign-on from park users and on-site park staff. For example, even though the sheltered rink cooking fire circle (only used in winter) has not set the fence or the oven on fire in the past 6 years, what are the practical ways staff could make sure it doesn’t happen in the next 60 years either?

Applied science at its best! To find out more about the timing of this public demonstration, or to get involved in this issue: “campfires.”

From park friend and researcher Belinda Cole:

“A clear principle in any democratic society is that people must know what the laws are, that they are expected to obey. In the case of this park, City officials have too frequently issued spoken edicts that have closed down or interfered with interesting and much-loved park events and projects, without making it clear what – if any – law or regulation forms the basis for their demand. (It’s also important to remember that city policy is not law in itself, and so it must be backed up by law to be enforceable.)

As citizens we are, of course, obliged to obey actual laws that are clearly presented and explained to us. At the same time, when a civil servant appears to be acting in an arbitrary way, beyond the scope of his or her authority, there may be legal avenues for challenging such behaviours and actions. This is a question worth researching.”

You can read the thread of conversation about this issue so far or email if you want to receive email updates. You can also have a look at our campfires page for information about the campfire program, and Campfire Protest Letters for some community response.

posted February 04, 2007


The danger fence (erected by Parks maintenance workers on Dec.21) is still up, around the little community–built stairway that was put in to connect the sidewalk to the rink house entry path. Since people can’t use the steps, some of them cling to the wall when they go up or down the City's slanted interlock path, now that the snow finally arrived. Others prefer to clamber up the snow-covered dirt beside the interlock, hanging on to the plastic fencing. Either way it's an adrenalin rush, for people trying not to slip and fall. All the petition signatures to get stairs there are still stuck onto the fence, slowly weathering. And because the parks manager still hasn’t sent over the promised copy of the code that made the City tear out those tidy little temporary stairs, the “design competition” for the rink access stairs is held up. “problems and follow-up.” (See Stairs For Winter)

posted February 04, 2007


Friday Night Suppers are served up from 6 to 7.30 p.m. on Fridays at the rink house, $6 for the main plate, between $2-$3 each for soup, salad, dessert, no reservations necessary. Also, seven days a week, the “Zamboni Café” snack bar serves substantial winter soups, farmers’ market perogies, park oven bread, organic hot dogs, mini-pizzas, and various sweets including park cookies. On weekends there’s more.

The price list at the Zamboni café reflects how much money is needed to pay for the materials that went into the food, plus a bit extra for other park uses, which counts as your park donation. But if your grocery money is tight, and you and your kids are hungry after skating, even the cheap snack bar food may be too much for your wallet.

If you’re hungry, but you can’t pay as much for the snack bar food, pay less. Park staff also like to do trades – if you can do something for the park (help shovel after a snowstorm, wash dishes, sort tools in the tool cupboard, break up wooden skids for the bread ovens) the park staff will tell you that your money won’t work at the snack bar, and you have to eat for free. That goes for kids too.

On the other hand, if you find the food very cheap and good and think it should cost more, pay more. Every penny goes to the park.

posted February 04, 2007



The year-round organic farmers’ market is a squash for skaters, but rink staff put a lot of extra benches out by the rink for skate changing (but no more campfire for warmth!) Market customers, please be considerate of skaters – it’s an odd mix of rink uses.


The printing of this newsletter is sponsored by Suchada Promchiri from Osogood, the wonderful sandwich bar on College near Ossington.

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Web Site: Henrik Bechmann

Technical Editor: Corey Chivers

Park photographer: Wallie Seto

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Web address:


Dog walker liaison: Judy Simutis

Winter park staff: Lea Ambros, Anna Bekerman, Ted Carlisle, Corey Chivers, Jenny Cook, Sarah Cormier, Claire Freeman-Fawcett, Anna Galati, Sandy Gribbin, Zio Hersch, Mario Lourenço, Eroca Nicols, Christina Serra, Mayssan Shuja, Mary Sylwester, Dan Watson, Amy Withers..

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