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July 2008

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 9, Nr.7, July 2008

Drawing by Barbara Klunder

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

Events in July

DUFFERIN GROVE SPEAKERS’ SERIES #3: Wednesday July 2, 7.30 pm:

Granny Flats: How to build them in Toronto, with designer Rohan Walters and home owner Alison Hall. Location: near the cob courtyard. Rain location: in the rink house.

The provincial government explicitly allows granny flats – small buildings at the back of a property where an elderly or challenged relative could live near enough for family assistance, but self-enclosed for independence. But the city’s planning department generally refuses permission. That was the case when Alison Hall commissioned a design for a granny flat where her garage is, on Delaware, so that her mother could live there and get help when she needs it. Local designer-builder Rohan Walters designed a modest and attractive flat on the same footprint as the garage, but it was still a no go. This third “speakers’ series” conversation will address how to change the city’s no to yes, for people in the neighbourhood who are getting old or whose parents are old, and who want an alternative to institutions. There will be a display of blueprints and existing flats. The presentation will be about 20 minutes; the rest is conversation. See


Opening night: Friday July 18, 7.30 pm.(In the grove near the baseball diamond.) From artistic director David Anderson: “Horse Feathers is about the bygone days of the Dufferin Race Track and the dreams of local residents for a better life. The track was an integral part of this neighbourhood from 1907-1955, and we join the story at the end of an era, when the track is sold to developers to create what is now the Dufferin Mall. This wild romp in the park features large-scale puppetry, stilt walking, commedia dell’arte and live music. Horse Feathers is part of Clay & Paper Theatre’s continuing community project, Building Local Stories, an important initiative that ensures that the local stories of the diverse communities of Toronto are shared and remembered.”

Next year will be a hundred years since the Dufferin Race Track got its permanent charter (amid much controversy). There are many old people in the neighbourhood who still remember the race track. Maybe Horse Feathers will bring back memories and more stories will emerge.

Invitation from Peter Yu and Susan Driver: Queer Family Sundays at Dufferin Grove:

Sundays starting July 6, 2- 6pm. Peter writes: “A couple of queer families in the west end invite other queer families to get together on Sundays from 2-6pm at Dufferin Grove Park (Dufferin Street, south of Bloor). We'll be meeting somewhere near the playground/wading pool (wherever there is space) and we will have a small rainbow flag hanging from a stroller or a tree to help you find us.

Dufferin Grove Park is a wonderful progressive green space with a shady playground and wading pool, concession stand, and lots of families. This is a chance to get together in an informal, queer-positive and family-positive environment to network, socialize, and support each other in building our families. If you have any questions or need directions, please e-mail, and please feel free to pass this message along to anyone who you think might be interested.”

THE SCOUTS ARE COMING! Saturday July 5, 9 am to 7 pm

On Saturday July 5 from 9 a.m. to 7 pm, the local Scout Troop will be having fun events at the park. This takes the place of the annual Scouts family camping trip, and non-members are also welcome to come by and find out more about scouting. For more information, call Ken Rosa at 416 888-7073.



PIZZA DAYS: Sundays, 1 pm to 3 pm, Wednesdays 12-2pm (weather permitting). From recreation staff Amy Withers Eckert: “It works same way as last year -- Except that for the first time in more than 6 years we have raised the cost from $2 to $2.50 per pizza as the requested donation (you get a lump of dough, some tomato sauce, and cheese, and you can pick toppings from the park gardens when they’re growing there). If you plan to bring a big group (more than 9 people altogether) please call ahead to warn the staff 416-392-0913 or email”

Pizza times for School Groups/ Daycares/ Groups: Groups can book a time before the weekday public pizza time (i.e. for 11am on Wednesday) or by arrangement. It costs $60 for staffing, plus the regular $2.50 per pizza. If you can’t afford that, park staff will work out a trade with you. Birthday parties with pizza: You can book an hour on Sundays before or after the public pizza times (i.e. birthday party bookings are at 12pm or 3 pm on Sundays). It costs $60 for staffing, plus the regular $2.50 per pizza. If you can’t afford that, park staff will work out a trade with you.
To book: contact staff at 416-392-0913 or email

FRIDAY NIGHT SUPPER by the oven, 6 p.m

This is also a weekly fundraiser for park programs. All the surplus goes to adding more programming at the playground in the summer. A win-win! General information: Everyone welcome. No reservations are necessary. Park cooks use ingredients from the Thursday farmers’ market. Prices: By donation. Suggested donations (to cover cost of materials plus park program fundraising): soup $2, main dish $7 (choice of meat or vegetarian/vegan), salad $2, dessert $2 - $3 depending. Cooks this year (taking turns) are Mary Sylwester, Amy Withers, Anna Bekerman, Anna Galati and Yo Utano. Supper is served until 7.30 p.m.


The park bakers need more wood, they don’t want to use skids anymore. Carpenters with wood scraps, consider trading your scraps for bread! Call 416 392-0913, or e-mail


For the summer, there are two campfire locations – centre path and south path. The centre path fire circle is in the middle of the park, and the south path fire circle is beside the cob courtyard. The park’s recreation staff book the cooking fire times. They also give fire safety training and are available to help start/end your fire. You can reach them at 416-392-0913 or email

CELOS regularly maintains and provides grills, a cast-iron stand (if you want to cook more than marshmallows or hot dogs on a stick), pots and pans for campfire permits. Suggested donation of $10 for upkeep. Park staff will give you water, pails, and a shovel. You have to bring your own wood.


Community SOCCER and CRICKET times Recreation staff program the soccer field for community soccer and cricket from Saturday 2pm to Sunday night. Neighbourhood groups can book times (at no charge) with recreation staff by calling the rink house at 416 392-0913 or emailing Important note: all community games are open for drop-in as well. From recreation staff Mayssan Shuja: “There’s time left on Saturdays – on Sundays there’s women’s soccer in the morning, Brazilian soccer (lots of Brazilians in this neighbourhood!), cricket from 4 to 6, possibly a kids group as well.”

Open FRISBEE game, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 5.30-7.30 From Frisbee player Max Cameron: “My friends and I are usually playing frisbee on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons (5:30 - 7:30 ish)... it'd be cool to get more people out, please post this.”

Community BALL HOCKEY times Recreation staff have programmed community games on Monday, Thursday and Saturdays so far. There are still free ball hockey times available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 5-9pm available, as well as on Saturdays and Sundays. People can book game times with recreation staff by e-mailing or calling the rink house at 416 392-0913. All community games are open for drop-in players.

Ball hockey for women:

The Women of Winter take the heat. Mondays 7pm beginning late June. From organizer Deirdre Norman: This game is for all women of all levels of experience. Some equipment will be required. For details and/or to register contact Deirdre Norman at


Want to try your green thumb? Drop-in gardening hours for July are set for Saturdays at 2 pm, with recreation staff Anna Bekerman. There are three park food gardens, four perennial flower beds, and six native-species gardens, as well as the gardens around the cob courtyard. Also, Forestry planted over thirty new trees the year before last, and then added two “little forests” next to Dufferin Street. If it’s another dry summer, the trees will need watering – volunteer help is very welcome. To contact Anna:


The wading pool is open seven days a week all summer except during stormy weather, from 11 a.m. until 6 pm (with extended hours on days over 29 degrees Celsius). The 2008 wading pool renovation plans will be on display most days. (The renovations are to begin right after Labour Day weekend.) Also to be posted on the bulletin board are archival photos and old newspaper clippings of the ground-breaking for the original wading pool in 1954. It was called the “Abe Orpen Memorial Wading Pool,” in honour of the original owner of the Dufferin Park Race Track, whose family donated the money to build it. That track, located where the Dufferin Mall is now, drew people from all over Toronto. Betting on horses was a big part of the local economy.

On hot days in summer, Dufferin Grove’s wading Pool sometimes gets too crowded. Two other nearby local wading pools are getting help from Dufferin Grove staff this summer: MacGregor Park wading pool at Lansdowne near College, and Campbell Park wading pool near Lansdowne and Dupont. The first is the arts club pool and the second is the music club pool – check them out and avoid the crowds.

Park News


Summer 2008 is another year when there will be no kids’ toilet near the playground. Although the City gave cob builder Georgie Donais a building permit, the design worked out between City Parks supervisor Peter Leiss and the architect he retained was for a small steel-beam bunker that was unsuitable for community-built construction. And cob construction is not yet explicitly recognized in the Ontario building code. However it is recognized in other jurisdictions, and there may be progress here soon. Meantime the $8000 bio-toilet donated to the park is in storage.

The construction fence is gone for now and the top of the rammed-earth foundation has been turned into an oval cob bench. Hopefully it will be the sitting-place for many good conversations. And when permission comes to build the cob housing for the toilet, park users like those who helped build the cob courtyard (500 pairs of hands by the end) will be able to help create another shapely, ecologically ingenious building.


Near the end of June, kids and parents came to the playground one morning and found half the swings removed. This may be a renewal of the playground safety projects that saw so many park and school playgrounds destroyed in the last wave of risk reduction. City Councillor Adam Giambrone toured the park on June 27, and he was just as puzzled as the playground users were – no one had informed him of the decision to remove playground equipment. If the motive turns out to be the possible liability risk (of swings colliding sideways), that’s still a puzzle – because there’s no record of a child ever being hurt by colliding swings in a Toronto park. In fact the number of playground injury claims against the city over the years, for any reason, is very low. (CELOS is still negotiating with Parks and Recreation about the price of getting the exact number and types of injury in playground and skating rink claims, since all such information for the public now costs money.)

Many playground users have complained to the recreation staff about the removals of the equipment without any consultation. There’s also an anxiety that more equipment will be dismantled. But complaints to on-site staff won’t help – they had no more hint than anyone else that this would happen. The only remedy is to call or write to City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s office: 416 392-7012, or e-mail


The park field house washrooms have been cleaned up and even repainted, and it looks like the roof might be re-shingled to stop the leaking. As many park users know, the park’s public washrooms have been in such bad condition that most people avoided them altogether and used only the rink house washrooms. There seemed to be no way to address the lack of maintenance until the city plumbers actually refused to enter the building to do repairs. Then a graphic photo sent to the city councillor resulted in his personal call to the general manager. A few hours later the transformation began.


While the rain lasts, the park is a beautiful emerald green and the gardens are flourishing. Councillor Giambrone’s new curb cuts at the north end give excellent bike access. The playground had its surface roto-tilled under the monkey bars and climbers, to give a softer landing in case of falls, and new sand was put in the little sandbox. However, the playground gate is still off its hinges after two months. Most picnic tables and benches are in dire need of paint and/or new slats. However there appears to be no provision for any table or bench purchases or repair in most city parks (despite the $304 million Parks, Forestry and Recreation operating budget for 2008). Dufferin Grove’s adventure playground area, used by hundreds of children, has had no maintenance yet (the sand needs to be plowed back into the sandpit and new logs are needed to replace the 13-year old boundary-logs which are now bio-degrading). By Canada Day, the marsh fountain near Dufferin Street had not yet been turned on for the season. Many of the leaf piles left from last season were removed in mid-June, but some remain, choking the grass underneath. The park’s dirt paths are deeply rutted from the Parks service trucks driving along them, and the few paved paths are crumbling at the edges or suffering from erosion. The interlock path at the southwest corner is narrowing every year because the grass is growing over the pavers from both sides, and the path is never edged. At the north thoroughfare between St.Mary’s School and Dufferin Street, two weeks pass between litter pickup.

Brenda Librecz, the General Manager of Parks, Forestry, and Recreation resigned suddenly on June 27. Hopefully the new head will be able to remedy Toronto’s problems of park repair and stewardship.


The cob courtyard/wading pool snack bar sinks and faucets seem to have been particular targets for vandalism this year. After the second time the faucets were damaged, park friends Silvie Varone and Simon Evans came up with a new idea for protective sink covers. Silvie decided to build covers in the shape of doll houses. When they are removed during the day the kids can play with them. Tere Ouelette from Scooter Girl Toys donated funds to help pay for the materials, Simon put on new taps, and Silvie built three different dollhouses (one with a “green roof,” of course). Anyone with old dollhouse furniture or little figures of any kind, no longer needed at home: please bring them to the Rec staff for the new park dollhouses! Jennifer Turner, a farmers’ market user, gave the park a wonderful, two-oven stove that‘s been stored in her father-in-law’s basement since the 1960s. This mint-condition appliance should do lot to get the cookies and the mini-pizzas out faster this winter. Jennifer threw in a card table and two chairs and many nice old dishes for park suppers.


In the June newsletter, we wrote about a CELOS letter to Police Chief Bill Blair, which asked whether the police have the authority to permanently ban youth (or anyone) for drinking beer in the park. Fourteen Division superintendent Ruth White replied on his behalf, saying only that this is not a matter on which she would comment.

A few of the youth who use the park regularly have been in trouble with the law in various ways, and are therefore under probation orders, often involving a curfew. A police visit to the park near the end of June resulted in one arrest: a youth was handcuffed at 9.01 pm and jailed for violating his 9 pm curfew. Sadly, in this case the youth had just enrolled in school and found a part-time job. Because of several outstanding charges not yet brought to trial, it looked like this youth was going to be awaiting his trials in jail, perhaps for a year. (Courts have become very clogged.)

Besides the youth’s missed opportunity to return to school and to work, a year of imprisonment costs taxpayers about $80,000. The park’s recreation staff, who had recently seen a few hopeful signs that this youth was beginning to get out of his former patterns, were disappointed. But then the plot took an unexpected turn. Against the odds, the Crown prosecutor in the case decided that he would not press for the bail to be cancelled. So the youth was released from jail, got back into school and may even be able to get his job back. The park’s recreation staff are on the lookout, to help him remember – if he again forgets the time on warm summer evenings.

Over the years, Dufferin Grove staff and park friends have seen many troubled youth pull out of their slump and set their feet more solidly. So they are committed to any help that can keep youth out of jail. Park users can help too, by mentioning any worrying behavior in the park to the recreation staff. The staff will be quick to talk to the person or group and remind them of their interest in cooperating with other park users.

This approach seems to work well – when CELOS researchers recently obtained almost 4 years of police occurrence reports for the park, they found that in 364 police stops, only 6 arrests were listed. One was a mistake because of a computer error, and of the other 5, two were for possession of under 30 gms of marijuana, one was for a theft at Wal-mart, and the other two had no details. A remarkably safe park.

Neighbourhood News


One of the organizers of Dig In’s Bloor-Street-from-Christie-to-Lansdowne festival said partway through the festival day that she was overwhelmed at how many people came out. “You can invite your neighbours to a party…but that they would all come…!” Dyan Marie’s idea of musicians and artists of all sorts – no big acts – plus tables along the whole length of the street closure, rented out to anyone with something to show or to sell, then transformed into dinner tables, proved to be just what was wanted. Brilliant.


The Dufferin Grove farmers’ market is once again overflowing with its summer bounty. The farmers’ market section of gives links to all the farmers and vendors (some of the web site links are like a visit to the farm). There are also links to other market and organic/local food information, and to other park-based markets. Market manager Anne Freeman sends out a very popular weekly market e-news – to get on her list, just go to the web site and follow the prompts.

After the most recent departmental restructuring at City Hall, a new market policy was developed, with no market consultation and then (after protests) with very limited consultation. Eventually revised rules were proposed. Since the new proposals would still undermine farmers’ markets, the revised version of a market policy was put on hold pending further consultation. No invitations for conversation have been issued from City Hall since then. But recently Parks supervisor Peter Leiss sent an order to prevent farmers from parking on the Dufferin Grove grass with their produce during the four weekly market hours in summer, or even from parking on the concrete rink pad.

Another protest, and the new order was put on hold until October. That gave time for some research. It turns out that many of the city’s Special Events permits allow vehicle parking on grass. Hyundai displayed its latest cars for two days at Christie Pits; Trinity-Bellwoods Park had a three-day midway for the Portuguese Festival. Parking is allowed for service contract staff too. At Dufferin Grove, the washroom painters parked all three of their vehicles on the grass for six days when they were painting. The story is the same everywhere – and surprisingly, even after a three-day midway, there seems to be minimal tire damage to the turf. (Feet cause the most compaction.) Almost all tire damage to turf seems to come from the many Parks service vehicles that crisscross the parks to lock washrooms or pick up trash from individual trash bins.

If the only vehicles specifically prohibited from parking on the grass under any circumstances are farmers’ trucks – back to the policy drawing board!


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web site: Henrik Bechmann, Aseel Al Najim, Michael Monastyrskyj

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


This month’s newsletter is sponsored by: Scooter Girl Toys

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