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July 2014

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


July 2014 newsletter



Tuesday July 15, 8 pm: Rhiannon Archer and Helder Brum present Fireside Tales -- storytelling. A free show at the main campfire circle. For more information:

Saturday July 19: Toronto Association of Spanish Speaking Seniors. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m: Annual picnic and social gathering – everyone welcome to drop by and say hello.

July 23rd to August 17th, 2014: CLAY & PAPER THEATRE presents Animal Nature: Wednesday through Sunday @ 8:00pm, Previews July 16th to 20th. Director David Anderson sends this quote from writer Farley Mowat: “…our failure [is] to understand, to recognize, to celebrate our non-humanity, our animality… if we could overcome this failure and come to terms with our animalilty, there may be some hope.”

The new show is inspired by Mowat’s quote. Here is the company description: “Clay & Paper Theatre’s 2014 summer show is an epic papier-mâché tale of the search for the way home. Animal Nature is filled with a decidedly Canadian mélange of creature characters and giant puppets on a fateful journey through Dufferin Grove Park. Owl, Caribou, Possum, Grizzly, Orca and Humanimal have been displaced from their homes and must address the deceptively simple question “How did we get here?” Provocative puppetry at its best, Animal Nature is brimming with original design, music, dance, and signature Clay & Paper Theatre satire and wit gone awry. With its cast of puppet tricksters and merrymakers, Animal Nature rallies audiences to embrace their inner animals, to revel in the beauty of the earth and to find the way home together.” For more information: facebook/clay and paper

Sunday July 27, Holly’s Hope Cat Sanctuary walk and talk, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., ending at Dufferin Grove Park. From their web page: “Holly's Hope is a local, small, caring nonprofit cat and kitten rescue operating in London, Ontario. We help abandoned, abused and orphaned kittens and cats find forever homes. In the six years we've been operating, we've rescued & placed more than 600 cats. All of our cats and kittens get socialization, vaccinations, veterinary care, deworming and flea treatment before they are adopted.”


Campfires: In summer, there are two small-group 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 (many, but not all, days are already fully booked). The staff also give fire safety training and are available to help start/end your fire. 416-392-0913 or email

Park staff will give you water, pails, and a shovel. The park also loans out grills, a cast-iron stand (if you want to cook more than marshmallows or hot dogs on a stick), pots and pans for campfires. Please donate $20 to cover staff open/close costs. The rules: bring your own wood, and be quiet and respectful of park neighbours. Campfires Dufferin Grove are not permits, they’re a program to increase park safety. That means campfire users act as park ambassadors for curious strangers, and keep an eye out for trouble as well as having their campfire fun.

Public pizza days: You can make your own pizza in the park bake oven on Sundays from 12-2pm and on Wednesdays from 12-2pm'''. For $2.50, park staff supply a ball of dough, tomato sauce, and grated cheese. You can pick additional ingredients in the park gardens or bring them from home. The staff will bake it up for you in the bake oven. Camp groups and birthday parties can also book special pizza times an hour before or an hour after the drop-in times.  To book: email Michelle at

Drop-in yoga (free):

Thursdays 6 to 7 p.m. in the park during the summer (June to August) and Sundays 10:30 – 11.30 a.m. (July and August).

Friday Night Suppers

Due to a shortage of available cooks, Friday Night Supper will stop offering a meat dish. However, there will always be a vegetarian or vegan dish, salad, a kids’ menu (mini-pizzas and hot dogs) and dessert. Fridays from 6 to 7.30 p.m. around the bake oven. Suggested donation is $7 for the main dish, $3 for dessert.


At the end of June the city’s wading pools opened – and closed and re-opened, closed and reopened, every two or three hours or even oftener. (On Canada Day this year, Dufferin Grove’s wading pool stayed open only 10 minutes between two mid-day draining sessions, because the staff felt there was too much sand in the water).

This state of affairs is very new. The wading pool was the summertime heart of Dufferin Grove Park until 2011, when wading pool management was moved to a separate unit with separate staffing. Public Health set new citywide operating rules which became more extreme every year. This year it looks like the wading pool unit may be suffering from a form of compulsive anxiety disorder, much like those troubled people who can’t carry on with their lives because they need to stop and wash their hands all the time.

Two fearful dangers grip the imagination of the wading pool unit staff:
Fear # 1. The possibility that when the pool is draining, children might be mortally injured by the suction of the water going down the drain. Staff quote a tragic case in the U.S. where an uncovered water-pump inlet in a shallow pool destroyed a little girl’s intestines with its powerful suction when she sat on the pump inlet. But Toronto's fill-and-drain wading pools are like bathtubs – they have no suction pumps. For many decades children have enjoyed the tickle when they sit near the anti-siphon drain covers as the water is draining. But since 2011, the new wading pool unit staff are gripped by the fear that draining water is a critical danger even without a pump. At the same time, their other anxieties make them insist that draining must be done often – so that the pools are off limits to the kids half the time.

One of the sad things about obsessive beliefs is that they are not affected by objective data. Even this recent news didn’t help calm the fears of the staff:

Over a period of 13 years, Canada-wide hospital emergency room records show only two (2) injuries attributed to wading pools – in almost 1.5 million child injury reports. Neither of the two injuries were listed as being caused by suction.

Fear #2. If chlorine levels are not kept consistently high, children will get sick or even die from bacteria in the water. In February, Toronto’s medical officer of health particularly warned city council of the dangers of outbreaks of waterbourne illnesses or injuries (including suction) related to wading pools.

Sand and leaves break down chlorine, as does sun screen, skin cells, little kids’ pee, and sunlight. So the staff, convinced of the danger, monitor the chlorine every half hour and add the chemical more often than ever before. They dress up in head to toe hazard gear, underlining the danger of their task. But once again, the data don’t support this fear.

A mother of two young children submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out the actual incidence of infection or injury in Toronto wading pools. She asked about the last twenty years, and got this answer: Communicable Disease Control staff say that “no outbreaks have been associated with recreational water facilities” during that time period. And the city’s Healthy Environments data collection staff said that “they do not track the information being requested because it is not part of their routine data intake.”

So over the past twenty years, and perhaps much longer, there has been no actual documentation of damage to children. And yet, when a group of parents wrote to the medical officer of health in May asking to set up a conversation on the wading pool issue, he ignored the letter.

The conviction of the danger is too gripping to allow rational consideration.

The new wading pool rules are not part of any legislation. Standardized chlorine levels are not even part of any accepted agreement about safety – no study exists showing the right minimum levels of the chemical. What’s more, while the province of Ontario has “guidelines” (since there are no laws) for minimum levels, they told us that they have no limit to the maximum amount that can be added. That decision, they said, rests with the pool operator.

Hypothetical dangers can blind people to dangers that may be more real. There is concern among scientists worldwide that when too much chlorine is added to pool water, it can bond with organic matter (like skin cells, sunscreen, sand) to make some toxic compounds that may be related to childhood asthma and even bladder cancer. The compounds are called “Disinfection By-Products,” or DBPs, and they are formed in chlorinated wading pools. These compounds are monitored in an increasing number of European countries with swimming pools, but not in North America, including in Toronto. (Ontario Health Department staff told us that the compounds are monitored in drinking water only.)

As of May 1, 2014, the revised Province of Ontario Public Health Standard says that Public Health officials “...shall foster community and citizen engagement in the evaluation of programs and services.” But city staff are too gripped by their fears to follow this standard of public discussion in the case of wading pools. What to do? One parent has started a Facebook Page called Rescue our Toronto Wading Pools. To find out more, or get involved, go to the Facebook page.

The new “Reflexology Footpath” for Dufferin Grove Park

Many people who use Dufferin Grove Park either knew Jenna Morrison personally or heard about her tragic death in a bike accident in 2011, crushed by a truck at the corner of Dundas West and Sterling Avenue as she was riding her bike to pick up her son from school.

Jenna’s husband Florian Schuck, her family and friends, undertook to memorialize Jenna in Dufferin Grove Park, a place where Jenna and Florian often took their little boy. Florian wrote:

''“When Jenna came back after a trip with her mother to South Korea in 2001, she was enthusiastic about her discovery of the reflexology footpath. The reflexology footpath consists of a bed made of concrete in which cobblestones of various shapes and sizes are embedded to various degrees. Some are upright while others are flat, protruding the surface of the concrete at slightly different heights. As one walks the path barefoot or in socks, the sole, and therefore acupressure points of the foot, are massaged. The design of paths varies, but more often consists of a loop that allows the visitors to engage more than once over. Accompanying the path are benches for rest and removing shoes, as well as trees and shrubs for an ‘oasis.’ “''

Jenna’s family and friends raised about $20,000 to put such a reflexology path into Dufferin Grove Park, and Councillor Ana Bailao contributed another $20,000 from her development-charges fund. The previous general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Jim Hart, was moved by the story and allocated the balance from the city’s capital budget. The total cost is about $130,000.

The path is now under construction in the middle of the park. Some new elements (groupings of giant boulders, called “armour stone”) have been added to the design. How the final project will look is known to the Parks capital projects staff but not to onsite recreation staff or the public – it’s not the practice of the Parks staff to post such information. So at the moment the project is a daily-unfolding surprise.

The new storage sheds and second zamboni garage for the park

The Parks capital projects staff recently removed the crumbling storage sheds next to the rink pad and hired a contractor to put up two new solidly-built wooden sheds – much more attractive, with their pretty cedar shingles. The pad for the second garage is ready, and at some point, no doubt, the new garage will appear. Sadly, the money spent on the garage means that there was not enough money (so far this year) to top up the sand at the adventure playground sandpit nor to address the drainage issues there. However, Parks management staff, working behind closed doors, may come up with another surprise – who knows?

How the park trees are doing

Here’s a bit of park tree history: Dufferin Grove Park is named for its trees. Photos taken a hundred years ago show lots of white pines and giant elms, as well as sugar maples and some flowering trees. In the 1930’s, the park became known all over the city for its horticulture – for its trees and shrubs as well as its beautiful flowerbeds. In the 1950s, many Norway maples were planted. Around the same time, most of the trees in the northeast quadrant of the park were cut down to make room for a sports field. (Before that, the central grassed area of the Dufferin Race Track across the street was often used as a sports field when the horses weren’t running. But in 1957 the race track was sold to make a mall. That sports field gave way to shopping.)

So the sports field was established in the park instead. The Norway maples in the rest of the park grew fast. The elms began to die off, though, because of Dutch elm disease, and the white pines gave way to silver maples, linden trees and ash. The city flowerbeds were gradually eliminated to save on gardening costs. New flower beds were made through various community garden projects, and now the garden club looks after these beds – and the new flowerbeds are joined by vegetable gardens as well. In the late 1990s, half a dozen oaks and three white pines were planted south of the field house and north of the rink. Meantime, various park friends, after consultation with the City’s horticulture staff, began planting small beds of native species that included trees as well as shrubs.

There was no more tree planting by the City until 2007. That year, a City contractor was hired to plant 42 new trees all over the park, mostly various kinds of oaks, maples, and Kentucky coffee trees. But that was also the year of the drought and – therefore – it was the summer of hoses and mulch piles everywhere, as the park’s recreation staff worked with volunteers to keep the new trees alive despite six weeks without a drop of rain. Almost all those trees made it, and are thriving now.

In 2008, a City contractor planted two “little forests” of native species trees and shrubs down in the hollow near Dufferin Street. These plantings were part of City Council‘s big program of doubling Toronto’s tree canopy. Many people wondered why the plantings were so dense, all jammed together. City forestry developer Uyen Dias said it was because of an assumption that many of the little saplings would not survive the first year.

But the land near Dufferin Street lies in the former Garrison Creek hollow. It’s fertile and moist. All except the white pines in the little forest flourished. Meantime, the Norway maples around the wading pool and the sandpit seem to have made use of all the extra water coming their way, and with their enormous branches they are giving wonderful shade despite passing the old age of 50. Good news all around!

A bake-oven café as a “third place”?

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg wrote a book 25 years ago, called “The Great Good Place.” It got a lot of attention. He had researched 150 years of social places – not home, not work, but “third places” where people could relax among their neighbours – pubs, coffee shops, general stores, barber shops. His descriptions of Minnesota’s outdoor beer gardens, which were family-oriented meeting places with weak lager, good food, colourful gardens, open-air performances and a mix of ages from babies to grandparents, match some historical descriptions that inspired park reformers in the early twentieth century. In 1920, one of North America’s best-known playground crusaders, Henry Curtis, lauded the German beer garden (euphemistically called the “concert garden,” because it always had an orchestra). “In many ways the German concert garden is the most delightful community playground in the world. There is excellent music, there is shade, and good refreshments are sold at reasonable rates. There is a delightful social atmosphere throughout it all, and at the edges are abundant playgrounds for the children.”

This description still applies to many outdoor eating places in Europe, many of which include interesting playgrounds. Maybe it’s time to think about how to make the bake oven area work as more of a “third place” social space for Dufferin Grove. Park friend (and landscaper) Gene Threndyle suggested years ago that a flagstone patio would be good by the oven, with some kind of arbour with climbing plants to provide shade. Friday Night Supper has become a very pleasant occasion for gathering by the oven. Maybe there could be a little café spot there for the rest of the week as well.


Market manager Anne Freeman sends weekly market news to market list subscribers every Wednesday. To sign up, visit the market page at The market is now up to 28 vendors including the newest category: Ontario wine (much of it made with biodynamically grown grapes). The recently-revised government rules allow tasting, so you don’t need to wonder what you’re buying – you can sample any wine that interests you.


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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