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March April 2007

posted March 19, 2007

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Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter

Volume 8 Number 3, March-April 2007



Neighborly Clothing Swap
May 12th and 13



Sunday April 1, 2007 12:00 - 3:00. 9th Annual Matzoh Bake, Rain or shine!

From Annie Hurwitz:

“Come make some beautiful handmade matzot to adorn your seder table. Unlike anything bought in a cardboard box, crunchy in texture, bronzed and ashen in colour, you'd think they'd been baked in haste crossing a desert. Bring the kids. Kosher for Passover flour and all ingredients and utensils provided. By donation to cover cost of materials and staff for oven. For more information:”

Tuesday April 3, 10 am. (first class): Disco Ducks for Caregivers and Tots 2-3 yrs

From Christina Serra:

“Come join the Disco Ducks for music, instruments and fun. The ducks will explore rhythm and body awareness while gettin’ down to the beat. Enjoy the chance to boogie together under the disco ball, then step back and watch the little ducks strut!” In the rink house, class runs for ten weeks.

See the Flyer for more information.

Tuesday April 3, 11 am (first class): Baby Song and Bounce for Caregiver and Babies 0 to eighteen months

From Christina Serra:

“Each class includes the exploration of instruments, movement and song. Baby Song and Bounce encourages the development of verbal and motor skills, body awareness and also provides the opportunity to learn new songs and games, for you and your little one to enjoy.” In the rink house, class runs for ten weeks.

See the Flyer for more information.

These music classes are part of the programming provided by Dufferin Grove Park. Both classes are given by park staff member, Christina Serra. Christina is a licenced Kindermusik teacher and professional actor. She’s been teaching children’s classes all over Toronto for the past 5 years. She also teaches drama classes at the Lorainne Kimsa Theatre for Young People and is a member of Stranger Theatre (and a performer in this coming summer’s “Cooking Fire Theatre Festival”). Each class is 45 minutes long and will run for 10 weeks, at the rink house. Suggested donation: $80. If you have trouble with that amount, talk to Dufferin Grove staff. More information: 416 392-0913 or e-mail

Friday April 20, and every second week: stilt walking with Clay and Paper Theatre.

From David Anderson:

“The stilt-walking classes are, at least partially, a preparation for Day o' De Light. Here's how we see the fun developing, a progressive introduction to wild stiltery: Safety is first, so we begin with: principles of stilt construction and stilt care/ stilt-wrapping ,jumbie style, then stilt-walking/ stilt-talking/ stilt-dancing/ stilt-singing/ stilt-rapping/ keepin' it loud and above the crowd/ stilt-acting/ stilt-opera and beyond. If you’re interested in joining our workshops, please call 416-537-9105 or email us at


The City has a bike ring program – people can request more bike tie-ups on City property such as streets and parks. Dufferin Grove Park had 6 rings put in four years ago, and most cyclists who tie up there will agree that more are needed. The park staff are marking out some new spots, near the playground, the ovens, and the walkway north of the rink. The staff welcome advice from cyclists about locations. And if you want to find out about getting more bike rings near where you live or work, the person to contact is David Tomlinson, Pedestrian & Cycling Infrastructure, 416-392-8400.

NEIGHBOURHOOD NEWS: B.I.G. – Bloor Improvement Group:

On Feb.21, Dyan Marie of DigIn, Lynn Daly of the Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre, and Sheila Pin of the Dufferin Grove Residents’ Association invited every local group they could think of to a meeting at Bloor Collegiate. They said they want to “get people excited about improving local Bloor Street.” To start off, they want to work on making a Bloor Street festival in 2008: “The BIG Festival.” They hope that this festival will be “a catalyst for general improvement and cause for celebration of the B.I.G. Bloor area.”

Lots of people came, and Dyan Marie took a big group portrait that’s posted on the neighborhood section of the web-site. Impressive! City Councillor Adam Giambrone chaired the meeting, with representatives from City Councillors Pantalone and Vaughan also there (since both their wards include adjacent sections of Bloor Street). Our member of provincial parliament, Tony Ruprecht, sent four representatives, the federal member further east along Bloor Street, Olivia Chow, sent an assistant. There were people from apartment complexes, from churches, from homeless shelters, from other residents’ associations, from community-police liaison associations, from the army, from parks, from the business improvement association, from the bike lane group “Take the Tooker,” from the tree planting group “Green Here” – and many more.

The meeting’s hosts have lots of ideas. They want B.I.G. to “provide an opportunity for diverse groups to get to know each other and become friends by working on common goals that will build a stronger community.” They want to “support local business by improving storefronts and street appearance, introduce cultural events and opportunities that enrich the area visually and culturally via art projects, encourage shopping on Bloor with a Buy-on-Bloor campaign, incubate new business to fill empty stores, improve the businesses that we have, create Bloor Street destinations that encourage walking via window-shopping, good stores and cultural projects, and reduce crime: by putting more people on the street to notice and respond to problems, by creating a street appearance that announces that this is a cared-for area and developing a strategy to address the social issues facing at risk individuals.”

That’s a big list, which is why the date set for the celebration is not until 2008. At the B.I.G. meeting, Sheila Pin passed the hat and enough money was collected to incorporate the group. A board was established, and the group is called “BIG on Bloor.” For more information, have a look at their website:


By the window in the rink house there’s a little plastic greenhouse with this year’s tomato seedlings for the park food gardens by the ovens. The garden group started them in the middle of February (they bought the seeds from Colette Murphy at the Thursday Farmers’ Market), and the little sprouts look good. Park staff Jenny Cook is the volunteer coordinator for the park gardens again this year. You can call her at the park: 416 392-0913, or email her at

A little garden history: The first community garden began in Dufferin Grove Park in 1993, one year after the City took out the last Parks-planted flower bed, citing lack of funds. The park looked so sad without any flowers that Anne Shaddick and some other mothers and little kids dug a garden near the playground. The Parks supervisor, Carol Cormier, gave them a surprise gift of left-over bedding plants. So the garden looked very colourful when the mayor at that time, Nadine Nowlan, came to officially "open" the adventure playground, which was then called "The Big Backyard."

Every few years another garden bed was added, depending on who was interested in helping. The Parks supervisor Carol Cormier sent her crew to Home Depot to buy the park a present of rose bushes, which still bloom near the ovens every June. Some gangsters called the "L.A.s" were paid to dig the first garden up by the rink, helped by local schoolteacher Rob Rennick and Jutta Mason. Then people at a park brainstorming meeting said that they wanted native-species gardens. So three of those were added with the help of two small grants from Canada Trust. A former Havelock Street resident, Hedy Muysson, who had bought a farm near Westport, came back to work with school classes from Brock School to plant the first two woodland beds.

Then one day Arie Kamp discovered the park and offered his help. He became the “flower man” at the park for the following 8 years. He used to get up at 4 a.m. in the summer and work until 2 pm, go home and nap in the heat of the afternoon, and then work again until it was too dark to see the plants. After he began gardening, more and more people started to stroll through the park in the evenings, looking at the flowers. The Parks foreman at the time, Bill Argeropoulos, scrounged old benches from park storage areas and set them up near the gardens. Those benches were rarely empty.

Artist and landscaper Gene Threndyle discovered the park a couple of years later and helped plant a native-species sand-garden near the newly-built bake-oven. Then he planted the tree nursery south of the field house, then the "Remembering Garrison Creek" garden at the southwest corner (the one with the black walnut trees). A white pine was added to the tree nursery by Lieutenant-Governor Hilary Weston in 1997 when she came to visit the park (and to give an award to Arie). Kids from Queen Victoria School helped her to plant the tree, and their band played steel drums by the ovens, to celebrate the day.

There were no funds within the Parks department to maintain the gardens, but eventually we got on their left-over annuals list, which they delivered every year. One year Mayor Barbara Hall came to help plant some of the pansies in the rink house window-boxes. And Pat MacKay, a long-time park friend, brought over some best-quality spring bulbs from Cruickshank's every fall for some years.

In 1998 Gene Threndyle applied to the Toronto Arts Council for a grant to build the little fountain and wetland area down in the Garrison Creek hollow by Dufferin Street. The Parks supervisor of that time, Mike Hindle, helped out with a backhoe and a driver. They brought over all those big old architectural stones that now surround the fountain (which had been forgotten in the High Park service yard until Gene asked about them). With the fountain, new birds and butterflies came to the park.

After the school pizza-day programs began, park staff Lily Weston worked with neighbourhood gardeners to put some food plants near the oven. She got a summer youth crew to put up a split rail fence, to keep out the dogs. With garden volunteers, she planted tomatoes and herbs to put on the pizzas. The next year the Parks foreman brought his crew and helped put in a second food garden area.

Meantime Ben Figuereido, who lived in the apartment building next door, planted grapes and pole beans along the rink fence and began helping out in various ways. Caitlin Shea arrived in the park and began doing compost with park staff Anna Bekerman (who’s back in the park again now, after two years studying in Spain). Then Jenny Cook began to work at the park, and she and Caitlin (who also became a part-time recreation staff) set up the "garden parties" where people wanting to volunteer would get support and have some fun too. They not only planted and did compost but they also took care of the trees, mulching and watering trees all over the park. Jutta had been the night-time watering person for years, setting up and moving sprinklers, but then the garden support group took over some of that.

Arie Kamp turned 80, and rode his bike less, and cut way back on his park projects, just growing his beloved morning glories up the fence and over the oven. With support from Brian Green (the Parks supervisor until last year), Recreation staff worked with volunteers to grass over some of Arie’s garden beds. Brian also brought spring bulbs. By then the trees that Gene Threndyle had planted in the various native-species gardens had grown very lush, and he only had to visit a few times a year to prune.

In 2005, Georgie Donais planted the first cob garden around the cob courtyard. In 2006 park friend Mary Wigle donated two black maples in memory of her husband Ziggy. Those trees became the basis for the second cob garden, along with perennials from the home gardens of many cob-builders. Last year also, a 5-year campaign for replacement tree plantings in the park finally bore fruit. Forestry staff Uyen Dias arranged for 28 new trees to be put in by a Forestry contractor. The new trees were watered and taken care of by Recreation staff working with volunteers.

In the fall of 2006, FoodShare moved into the neighbourhood, to 90 Croatia Street. Their staff were interested in collaborating with Dufferin Grove staff and volunteers to create a youth teaching garden at the park’s southwest corner, through the FoodShare youth program. However, near neighbours of that corner of the park were very unhappy about the addition of that garden bed, and they made it clear in word and deed that they would not allow it to go ahead. FoodShare will therefore add a garden to another park in the neighbourhood instead, at Campbell or at Erwin Krickhahn Park. At Dufferin Grove, they’ll help improve the compost system: a win-win for both parks.


The bio-toilet has been snug in its well-built winter housing, but soon it will be time to uncover it and finish the project. Georgie Donais has been invited to a ceremony at City Hall at the beginning of May, having been chosen as a finalist in the Green Toronto Awards, for the cob courtyard and bio-toilet projects. A nice recognition!

Last summer presented some tough regulatory hurdles, but now the enjoyable, community-arts part can begin. The City’s architect has approved of the solidity of the foundation and the excellence of the plans. The industrial-strength working parts are in place. The construction fence is down. Now comes the sculptural part, making the surround, with the built-in bench and the bas-relief tree trunks. School groups will be coming, and the children will learn the old method of building with clay, sand, straw, and water, using their feet and hands. (Park staff will help them keep up their energy with pizza from the bake-oven.) FoodShare’s youth project participants will help out. The list of adults (from university students to grandparents) who want to participate is long and growing. Friends of other parks say they want to come and learn by doing. And the project has warm support from City Councillor Giambrone as well as from some of his environment-conscious Council colleagues.

Last year’s struggles took their toll, though. The project was slowed down so often, and so much energy went into addressing the hurdles, that the money for the project now needs a top-up. The Phoenix Community Foundation is willing to sponsor the remainder of the project under its environmental pilot projects category. That means that for the first time, donors to the park will be able to get a charitable receipt (through Phoenix). Park friends: this is the moment to consider expressing your friendship for the park by giving the park a present. $30 or $300 or $3000, or any amount between, will go to pay for the rest of the clay, cedar (for the green roof) and other materials, and for Georgie’s choreography of the whole building project.

And then by the end of the summer, after so many years of requests, the playground will finally have a toilet close by – built by the park users themselves (including the children).


In the middle of March, a large white envelope arrived in Jutta Mason’s mailbox. It had only her name and her house number as the address. Inside there was another envelope, addressed to Jutta at 875 Dufferin Street (the rink address). There was also a note from the post office, saying that there is no letter carrier delivery to the rink but that they were forwarding the item to Jutta’s home “as a courtesy.”

Inside the second envelope was a most wonderful book written by a cob builder from Oregon, named Kiko Denzer, about building cob bread ovens and baking bread. He had read the “cooking with fire” stories on the web site, and wanted to wish park users “continuing fire, food, friend- and fellowship at the park.” His wishes must be strong, since the postal workers took the trouble of finding Jutta’s address and getting the book there. The next market day, park baker Anna Bekerman went down to the post office on Dovercourt (Station “E”) with a gift of four loaves of fresh-baked bread. (One good turn deserves another!) And the book is at the park, for people to read there.


The bio-toilet was not the only occasion when the spectre of ‘liability’ fell on a park project. In December, the community-built rink access stairs (a two-step riser bought at Home Depot) were barricaded by the City as a liability risk. Those stairs had been installed by rink users after a nine-year (unsuccessful) effort to get the City to fix the slippery inclined interlock walkway that leads to the rink from the sidewalk. Next, at the beginning of January, a long Harbourfront Rink-style bench at the newly-rebuilt Wallace Rink was turned into a long and useless step-down because of a health and safety order, leaving very few spots for skaters to sit. Later the same month, the thirteen-year-old campfire program was halted in all the local parks – and then revived, but as a very complicated “pilot project.” There had been no injuries in the thirteen years, but the Parks Supervisor was concerned about insufficient protocol to protect against lawsuits. Next, in February and again in March, the rink clubhouse was twice visited by public health inspectors. They were responding to a complaint – made once in each month – that food was being consumed in a place where people were changing into skates. The public health inspectors found nothing wrong with the zamboni café’s food preparation, but they advised that skate changing and eating should be segregated – otherwise, if there was another complaint, they’d be forced to return again.

All these issues can be solved, but liability fears are very wearing. Therefore the little research group (CELOS) that originated in the park has taken on a project of studying the legislation much more closely – to look this liability spectre in the eye. Law professors, urban geography students, union stewards, statisticians, media watchers, fee-lance risk analysts – please contribute your knowledge, as the CELOS researchers comb through the Occupiers’ Liability Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the case law based on them. It’s important to draw lawmakers’ attention to the unintended consequences of these laws in public space:


There’s lots to read about the park. The 2007 CELOS Municipal Outdoor Rinks Report (20 pages, by rink staff and Jutta Mason) has been put on the agenda of City Council’s Parks and the Environment Committee for their next meeting on April 10. A workbook of actual examples will go along with the report. The Campfire Handbook for Parks (34 pages) by Jutta Mason has been expanded twice, as the bureaucratic ball bounces back and forth between City staff and campfire friends. Market manager Anne Freeman and park baker Anna Bekerman co-wrote The Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market (18 pages with lots of colour illustrations by photographer Laura Berman), explaining how that market works. The first version of The Real World of Safety and Liability Legislation in Public Space (many contributors) is almost ready. All of these booklets are posted on the web as well. And the 3-1-1 web section, which tracks all follow-up of park problems, publishes most e-mails connected with park issues: Problems & Follow-up. All this material is available at the park.


At the "BIG on Bloor" meeting (p.2), Dufferin Grove Park staff took on a sub-project of their own: helping to arrange a schedule of springtime neighbourhood “walkabouts.” The staff got a list of all the different groups at the meeting (and also of those who sent their regrets). During March and April, the staff will work on the schedule. At posted times beginning in May, anyone who wants to find out more about this neighbourhood can show up and join a group of neighbours for a walk and a conversation. Want to have a sandwich at the Salvation Army’s homeless meals program at Dovercourt and Bloor, and take a walk with their commander Doug Hammond? Want to meet for a free noon-hour concert at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Croatia Street, and have a coffee with some music teachers in their coffee-shop? Want to take a walk along the railway-line bike-path west of Lansdowne and have a picnic by the new bike trail entrance? Want to toast marshmallows around a campfire at Susan Tibaldi Park (across from the Lansdowne subway exit, behind Duffy’s Tavern) reminiscing with the folks who started the “Bloor-Lansdowne Committee against Drugs” way back in the eighties? Want to have brunch at a "time-stood-still" seventies-style neighbourhood coffee shop (Yasi's Place) and go on a local graffiti tour with an artist?

These neighbourhood walks will be accompanied by people who know the stories and are willing to tell them. The Dufferin Grove staff will work on the food, when picnics or campfires are involved. It should be a fun way to get to know the neighborhood better. Read the May newsletter or go to for more details as they’re put together.


On May 12th and 13, Bruce Whitaker is putting together the second annual clothing swap with the help of park staff Eroca Nicols. Just like last year: 10 items (washed and on hangers) will get you 10 tickets in return. You can bring more but you will get a maximum of 10 tickets. You can bring less and will get tickets equal to the number of items. Saturday May 12 from 9-2pm is the drop off, Sunday from 9-2 pm is the exchange of tickets for clothing. Last year it was a big success – this year, maybe even better. For more information, call Eroca at the park: 416 392-0913 or email See http://)


As soon as it starts to get nicer, the weekly organic farmers’ market will begin its gradual migration, first outside the rink house along the walls, then back down the hill to the summer location. The big squeeze will be over for another season. In March, market manager Anne Freeman wrote an informative little booklet, together with park baker Anna Bekerman, called The Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market: one Model for an Urban, Park-Based Market, illustrated with lots of Laura Berman’s photographs. Copies of this booklet are on display at the rink house – have a look.


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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