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


Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter October 2019

getting ready for Night of Dread

This newsletter is put out by CELOS, the Centre for Local Research into Public Space. Since 2000, when this little organization began at Dufferin Grove Park, we’ve been doing what we call “theoretical and practical research” into what makes public spaces – like parks – more hospitable and more lively. We’ve been researching what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve documented a lot of what we’ve seen and done, in this newsletter and on our four websites.


October 11, 2019: visit from Toronto’s 8-80 cities organization

Why the name: the organization's slogan is We believe that if everything we do in our cities is great for an 8 year old and an 80 year old, then it will be great for all people. Gil Penaloza, its founder, and his staff have been visiting Dufferin Grove Park for years, often bringing out-of-town visitors with them. On October 11, they’re bringing a group from Buffalo, for a show-and-tell and to talk about good wintertime use of parks (for example, campfires). The meeting is near the cob courtyard, and that’s a problem. The interior space of the courtyard has lots of litter and vandalized tables. It seems to be on no staff list for cleanup. So anyone who wants to help clean it up: the time is 10 a.m. Perhaps the Buffalo park staff will do it.


Sunday Oct.20, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sukkah hut celebration

The Morris Winchevsky School is having its 10th annual Sukkah construction at the park. From Sue Goldstein: "What we do: we construct a sukkah and decorate it -- everyone present is invited to participate. There are games and other activities. We also have music around the fire and serve hot cocoa and hot cider. All are welcome to join us."

From Wikipedia: A sukkah or succah is a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is topped with branches and often well decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes. The Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) describes it as a symbolic wilderness shelter, commemorating the time God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness they inhabited after they were freed from slavery in Egypt.\\ It is common for Jews to eat, sleep and otherwise spend time in the sukkah.

This year, Toni Corrado has been living in the park for over two months (story on p.3-4). Perhaps she’ll have some company during the week of the Sukkot festival (unlikely, but why not?) Toni says that people under-rate the freedom of living under the open sky. The sukkot festival is a yearly reminder.


Dufferin Grove Night of Dread shrine building workshops, at the rinkhouse

Oct 12 (12 noon to 5), Oct 19 (12 noon to 5), Oct 20 (12 noon to 5).

From Clay and Paper Theatre: “Honour a person, a place, a time or an idea with Clay & Paper Theatre’s Shrine Building Workshop. Create a sacred space/object, to mark an ending and remember and celebrate those who have gone before us. This workshop is an opportunity to build shrines that will be featured in the NIGHT OF DREAD installation ‘The Valley of Remembrance’.

Craft materials and a cardboard box (which will form the basis of the shrine) will be provided. In order to personalize your shrine, consider bringing your own specific elements (photos, found objects, fabric, etc) that will help to better capture the person (place, time or idea) that you would like to honour.

A shrine can be built in one 3 to 5-hour session. But multiple workshops sessions are available if you would like to return and take more time with your creation. Instruction and coaching will be provided by a Clay & Paper Theatre artist/builder.

This is an all ages activity (6 to 100+), but children MUST be accompanied and teamed with an adult.

This is a drop-in workshop, but please also try and send us an email at so that we can have a sense of how many people might be coming and for which session or sessions. Thanks!


Saturday Oct.26 4pm: The 20th annual Night of Dread

From Clay and Paper Theatre: “The nineteenth annual NIGHT OF DREAD is a much-loved community celebration that incorporates international folk and theatrical traditions, drawing inspiration from festivals of death and remembrance around the world. At NIGHT OF DREAD, Torontonians are encouraged to call on, mock and banish their private and collective fears through parade and pageantry, music and masquerade, dance and a devilishly good party.”

Since this is a Night of Dread anniversary, a little history: The second parade was six weeks after 9/11, in 2001. A featured puppet was modelled on a Portuguese tradition called "Big heads" – a huge head, sometimes with many faces, worn by a puppeteer in the parade. The puppet’s name was "War head" and it had many frightened and angry faces of war on it. The Night of Dread, said David Anderson, is meant to give expression to the many real and imagined dreads that people face in their lives. In that way it builds on widespread folk customs like the Mexican Day of the Dead. The idea is that if you look such "dreads" square in the eye, they may shrink, and you may grow in the strength you need to deal with them.


Toni Corrado’s housing strike: living in the park

Toni Corrado has now been living in Dufferin Grove Park for over two months. She says she’s done with shelters: “I’d rather live in an igloo in the park than go back there.” It’s not that Toni has no money – she’s 71, so she has a pension. But she’s in a wheelchair and her pension is not enough to pay for an accessible apartment on the open market. So Toni is part of the next wave of Torontonians whose income and health issues put them out on the street, and who prefer that to city shelters or (even worse) no-barrier drop-ins.

The culture of shelters is a bit like prisons, but there are major blocks to finding an affordable place to live. Not only does the city have insufficient social housing – a highly critical report released in June 2019 by Beverly Romeo-Beehler, the city’s auditor, says over 106,000 people are on the waiting list -- but the list itself is a mess. The auditor writes that in 2014, city council allocated $6.9 million to “implement a choice-based system across the City's entire social housing portfolio…to support the management of the waiting list {and to] enable eligible social housing applicants to take a virtual tour of available social housing units online and choose a unit that meets their needs. ….Five years later, the system is still not available. At the time of our audit no vendor has been selected and a new system is not yet in place…. Approximately $1.1 million has been spent and the majority relates to salaries.”

More painful still, the auditor says that "1,400 housing units sit empty on average across the entire social housing system….Bachelor units have formed a large proportion of vacancies over the last several years, while there are thousands of seniors on the list who have never received an offer – there are 200 bachelor units in seniors-designated buildings sitting vacant."

Toni’s presence while on her “housing strike” in the park has made an interesting difference. People overcome their shyness and talk to her, and enjoy her friendliness. She’s a kind of park welcomer. People also talk to each other more, maybe while walking their dogs in the park. Toni gives the gift of her enjoyment – telling people that the freedom of living in the park is often fun, that even her asthma has improved hugely since she spends so much time outdoors. She watches the moon rise. She knows the life of the park at all hours.

But the cold weather is coming. Brent Kitagawa, a Street Outreach Counsellor from the city’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, has been working to get Toni into one of the empty rent-geared-to-income seniors’ apartments in a part of town that’s familiar to her. It seems that the city is renovating the empty apartments, and there’s great hope that in the next few weeks Toni can move into one of them.

No clubhouse: a story

shelter: an umbrella and a plastic tablecloth

Toni Corrado says the cold is not a problem for her. Heavy rain is no fun, though. In the middle of September, she spent a rainy night next to the rinkhouse, she and her wheelchair under an umbrella and a plastic tablecloth. Back when the rinkhouse was still a community clubhouse, she would have been invited to take shelter for the night in the warm, dry entry hall. We asked the city on her behalf, but city management wrote back: “The City has a duty to ensure that patrons are safe while in its facilities. The facility is not available to members of the public after hours or overnight as it cannot be staffed or monitored.”

So Toni moved her night-time stay to the cob courtyard by the playground, also unstaffed and unmonitored, and found a way to fasten a tarp to the cob wall. There’s a power outlet there, too, available to charge Toni’s wheelchair and her cell phone.

In the CELOS-funded shed by the wading pool, where Toni has been able to store some of her belongings, she found two city-issued sun umbrellas that the wading pool staff had left behind at the end of the summer. She moved the umbrellas over to the cob, opened them up and propped them to make a wind barrier and to anchor the lower side of the tarp.

An inexpensive, extra-warm blanket from Walmart meant that cold nights were not bad. But rain was harder to keep out. On Oct.2, a sudden afternoon downpour came before the tarp was back in place. That soaking was followed by a steady, all-night rain. By morning, Toni said that she felt like there was not one inch of her that wasn’t wet.

Two park friends borrowed a wheelbarrow from the rink house and helped Toni deconstruct the wet encampment, so that her blankets, sweaters, towels and tarps could be hung up to dry inside the only dry place in the park – the rink clubhouse. Anyone who’s ever been camping on a rainy weekend will remember how sweet it is to get everything hung out and dry again.

But that turned out to be a problem. The friends found out to their astonishment that the staff had been told by their supervisor not to allow Toni to hang her damp gear to dry in the rinkhouse. Nor was she allowed to use the rink house washer and dryer (donated long ago by park friends for just such uses) for those clothes that were soaked. They were told “that’s not what this facility is for.”

After some back and forth, the wet gear was allowed to dry inside the rink house for one night. Toni went over to the mall to buy a few dry clothes, and she changed in the mall’s large accessible washroom. The rain stopped long enough in the afternoon for Toni to install her two big tarps in a better way, at her cob café location. And she drove her wheelchair, with her bundle of dry-but-mud-stained laundry, up to Bloor Street, to the friendly people at the Laundroworld coin-wash where they normally help her to get her laundry done.

Despite the chill, she didn’t get sick.


Park friend Pat MacKay: in memoriam, May 16, 1924 – Sept.23, 2019

Pat MacKay at the park

From Jutta: In 1994 a city staff friend suggested that we apply for a “Safe City” award from the Toronto Community Foundation. To our astonishment, we got the award, and a little group of us went to a ceremony at Metro Hall to pick up a cheque for $3000. But the biggest piece of luck that day was not the cheque. It was a little note that was passed along to us from further down the row as we were listening to David Crombie, the award ceremony speaker. The note said “I like what you’re doing and I think I can help you.” It was signed “Pat MacKay.” I looked down the row and got a friendly smile and a nod from an older woman sitting at the other end. A moment later some of the regular park kids who had come to the ceremony with us got into a noisy argument as they were going up a down escalator nearby, and I had to run out. Afterwards there was only time to quickly shake hands with Pat and exchange phone numbers. A few days later I called Pat and invited her to the park. We showed her all around and she met the kids, a rough and tough bunch who always came to the park on their own because their parents were working two jobs, or more.

We told Pat that we had ideas, but we couldn’t keep searching for people who would do wonderful park projects mostly for free. It turned out that Pat had been on quite a few boards and foundations. She offered to become our mentor in fundraising. With guidance from her, we got a grant of $10,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and that was the start of our grant-writing. Pat came through for us again, introducing us to the Maytree Foundation (they helped fund both of the bake-ovens and the rinkhouse wood stove) and the GH Wood Foundation (they helped fund the zamboni kitchen and the “Dan’s Table” seating area by the oven). After a while we jokingly adopted a nickname for Pat MacKay: we called her our fairy godmother.

Pat wrote this for the Dufferin Grove history page: ''“A banner day for me came in the summer of 1998, when Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor Hilary Weston visited the park. Her limo was welcomed by puppet characters on stilts, along with a concertina band with their top hats, leading the procession to a makeshift stage where the Queen Vic primary school steel band played the vice- regal salute. She stayed for a couple of hours. I recall the humour of Her Honour telling the school classes who were making pizza at the oven that her family, which owns Weston’s Bread and Loblaws, had ‘something to do with bread.’ Then when I left the park that day, there was the class of little kids waving to me, calling “good-bye Fairy Godmother,” – I guess someone had told them that’s who I was.”

Pat died last month, at 95. Right up to the end, she never stopped being interested in what was happening at Dufferin Grove Park – an enthusiastic park friend for twenty-five years.


Tall Towers: “Build a Better Bloor Dufferin” group begins mediation talks

fundraiser lawn sign

From their website: “After more than 20 meetings with the City, Councillor, and developers in the past year, BBBD has requested a mediation process. Talks stalled earlier this month when it seemed that the proposed settlement with the developer would create only a fraction of the affordable housing, community space, and green space that we know is achievable on the site. BBBD sees mediation as an opportunity to both demonstrate the viability of our community’s vision for the site and build a bridge to a workable solution. In hopes of arriving at an agreement quickly, we will go into mediation on October 2nd.

We believe that the public land at Bloor and Dufferin has the potential to showcase an exciting new approach to redevelopment in Toronto that can help turn the tide on our housing crisis and the growing inequality in our city. Respected nonprofit housing developers have shown how we could build five times more affordable housing on the site than what’s currently on the table. We’ve endorsed a visionary plan that would see hundreds of units of affordable housing integrated into the 2,000 proposed condominiums, along with a beautiful, spacious community hub. This could be a new St. Lawrence neighbourhood—a truly inclusive community for residents across all income brackets, next to a subway station. What better use could we make of this public land?”

BBBD is using the lawn sign (pictured) as a fundraiser for legal costs. The suggested donation is $20 (or more!) People who are interested can email


The park reno: an excerpt from an open letter to Councillor Ana Bailao from park friend Andrea Holtslander:

“I am one of the 1000 people who signed the petition against replacing the rinks at Dufferin Grove. This week the city of Toronto declared a climate state of emergency. Tearing up a functioning rink and producing the concrete for a new rink doesn't make sense, when concrete production emits huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

….The climate emergency declaration calls for Toronto to adopt a "climate lens that evaluates and considers the climate impacts of all major city of Toronto decisions."

15,000 people marched in Toronto last week to express their concern about climate change. 1000 people signed the petition against replacing the rinks. The rink replacement is a major decision in our neighbourhood, and 1000 of us have said we don't want it. I hope it can be reconsidered, in view of the "climate lens" the city will be using.”

From park friend Kim Fry, to Councillor Bailao:

"I have also signed the petition but I want to echo what Andrea said. The time for government talk is over. It is now time for government action. This is a concrete way to address the climate emergency and shows that the city (and our politicians) are walking the talk. Please let us know what we can do to stop this carbon-heavy and unnecessary change."


Oven story

After we built the smaller outdoor bake-oven at Dufferin Grove in 2000, we had some materials left over. We asked if we could use them to build another smaller oven at Christie Pits, and Tino DeCastro (the rec supervisor of the time) said yes, and assigned some helpers. That’s how Christie Pits got an oven identical to the smaller Dufferin Grove oven. The cost was about $6000 and it got quite a bit of use.

Two years ago, city Capital Projects did a renovation at Christie Pits and put in an oven ordered from France, which ended up (with its housing and special table) costing about $161,000. At first the original oven, still in good shape, was just going to be trashed, but when we found out about that, we protested. So it was used to store baking tools, until Jode Roberts (Christie Pits friend and park event organizer) told the friends of Fairmount Park across town about it. They were able to persuade city Parks staff to move the smaller oven to Fairmount Park – already a very happening place with the best natural ice rink in the city in winter, and lots of other good neighbourhood stuff. How nice it will be to see it used again.


Tree maintenance at the park playground

Tree maintenance, photo by Toni Corrado

In the middle of September, a long and very heavy tree branch broke off the Norway Maple that shades the adventure playground and fell straight across the sandpit. Happily no one was playing there. Toronto is a city of trees, and a forester explained that when a tree is in full leaf and a wind comes up (doesn’t have to be a gale), it’s like the branches are covered in little sails. So even a little bit of rot can snap a branch.

Last year four very large trees came down during two wind storms. So far this year it’s only been branches. Two days later the city’s forestry inspector came out to the playground area and marked a number of branches and one big tree. A week later, contractors drove into the park with their cherry pickers and their chippers and cut it all. (Toni Corrado captured it all on her cell phone, from her temporary shelter and vantage point at the cob courtyard.) Done.


Accessibility: sidewalk snow clearing

Last winter there were weeks when people had trouble getting to the rink or the farmers’ market because the sidewalks were piled with snow and ice. There was an outcry across the downtown, because city workers plough the sidewalks in Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough – but not downtown. This year Mayor Tory has set up a “pilot project” for one-quarter of the downtown to have sidewalk ploughs. We don’t know which quarter yet (?!)

Editor: Jutta Mason, illustrations: Jane LowBeer,,,

hosted by | powered by pmwiki-2.2.83. Content last modified on October 10, 2019, at 02:50 PM EST