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November 2006

posted November 11, 2006

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Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter

Winter Farmers' Market
see photo gallery

Volume 7 Number 11, November 2006


Park Events in November

posted November 11, 2006


On November 14, there will be the first-ever “everyone-at-the-table” rink staff meeting, including everyone who helps run Dufferin Rink – from the new City rinks manager, to the technical services manager (rink machinery), to the permits manager, to the supervisors, to the on-site rink staff. Policy as well as practice will be discussed.

This meeting is a follow-up to last February’s rink troubles, which raised the question: should the city’s outdoor compressor-run ice rinks be run by boards of management, like the arenas? It turns out that the board of management structure would probably add new problems, and not help much. But: finally getting everyone talking together, about how to make a fresh start, should help a lot. Rink friends have been asking city staff to talk to each other more for years, but there were too many blocks. It took last season’s crisis to bring the issue to everyone’s attention.

Councillor Giambrone gave his word at that February meeting that rink funding and park funding would not be cut, and he kept his word. Now he’s taken the next step and set up this long-hoped-for staff meeting, which he’ll chair himself. Hopefully this will be the start of a long and happy connection between front-line and management rink staff, resulting in a lovely rink.

posted November 11, 2006


From neighbourhood crafter Abbey Huggan: “Calling all Dufferin Grove craftspeople and artists! No previous craft fair experience necessary! Come out and brave the weather and sell your wares under the new market awnings around the rinkhouse... table rates will be very reasonable.”

You can contact Abbey at if you want to participate.

Neighbourhood Events in November

posted November 11, 2006


Also Sunday December 10, 2006; Sunday January 14, 2007

From Laura, who put on last year’s “Little folk festival” in the park: “I'm getting a lot of inquiries about the Sunday show at the Transaz as to whether kids are welcome and YES they are! I'm thinking this could turn into a regular music event that parents could enjoy and bring their kids to. I'm considering a few things: maybe a kids’ area with crafts/art materials. Maybe someone to supervise kids and even get paid? Maybe this could be a year long lead up to the next little Folk festival at Dufferin Grove Park?

Laura will perform Sunday, November 12, Sunday December 10 and Sunday January 14 with Chris Bennett @ The Tranzac - 292 Brunswick Ave: from 2:30-4:30 • Pass The Hat

posted November 11, 2006


Some friends of Dufferin Grove Park have been invited to be on a panel for the Hart House (University of Toronto) public discussion series: Conversations on Urban Design. Wednesday, November 22, 7:00 pm in the East Common Room at Hart House.

Three people who have influenced Dufferin Grove Park and three people now working on the outdoor spaces of Lawrence Heights Community Housing (120 acres!) will talk on a panel and with the audience about “Revitalizing your community.” From Dufferin Grove Park, it’s Georgie Donais (cob building and bio-toilet), Jutta Mason (newsletter), and Gene Threndyle (park native species gardens). We get to tell stories for twenty minutes, then the three Lawrence Heights panelists will tell stories, then everyone can contribute or ask questions. These Hart House sessions are open to the public and admission is free. Organizer Gail Skikevitch would like it if park friends from other parts of the city came too and there was a real swapping of experiences about what works well in Toronto’s outdoor public space. Park cooks will bring bread and butter, to ground the discussion.

This event fits in with the recent efforts of CELOS researchers to find park friends who are trying to enliven their local parks elsewhere in the city. CELOS is the “CEntre for LOcal research into public Space,” born at Dufferin Grove Park and moving outward from there. CELOS researchers want friends of parks to “steal” each other’s ideas, and this panel fits right in. If you can’t get down there, they also have a live webcast of the session:

But being there in person will be more fun.

Park News

posted November 11, 2006


- Dufferin Rink opens on Dec.2. The first Friday Night Supper in the rink house is the night before, on Dec.1 [ed. changed to December 8], to give the traditional “sneak peek” and heighten the anticipation (and to give updates on this year’s rink arrangements).

The details for Dufferin Rink and all other downtown rinks are posted on the web site: hours, shinny times, phone numbers, maps, photos, rink highlights. They’re also posted on the rink house doors.

Schedule this year: mostly the same as other years, with a few changes:

  • a new “beginners only” drop-in shinny time Wednesdays 10 p.m. to 11 pm. (free) Read more>>>
  • single permits available on Saturdays (9 pm) and Sundays (9.30 pm), $70 , half-price for youth (youth are no longer free -- new City policy!?!)
  • Sunday evening family-shinny time (registration needed, but free) is 5 - 6.30pm. This is a volunteer run, communit program: To register send mail to
  • Skating lessons a little different: call 392-0913 or e-mail Check the schedule here.

See you at the rink!

posted November 11, 2006


For some time now, a group of neighbours whose houses are close to the park have been calling for more formal community input on all decisions made about the park. Last November, the City called a public meeting at St.Mary's High School to find out whether other voices in the community were calling for a more formal advisory structure as well. Every household in the area got an invitation, and the cafeteria was almost full. But at the end of the meeting it was clear that there was minimal enthusiasm for a formal community council with an executive, by-laws, and regular meetings. So no further steps were taken. Park friends continued to connect mainly informally, all over the park in all seasons, with one another and with the park staff who watched the wading pool in the summer, served Friday Night Supper by the oven, or laced up kids’ skates in winter.

That was before the playground bio-toilet and then the arrival of Foodshare and their youth teaching-garden in the park. To stop these initiatives, the same park neighbours put the question of "community control" back on the table. It has even become an election issue. Ward 18 candidate Simon Wookey says in his election pamphlet that he will work to create "Park Trusts" to "take the authority from the politicians and put it into the hands of the community."

Park trusts are an unfamiliar concept. Would that mean -- perhaps -- that the community would have the authority not only to vote on a new kind of toilet, but also on replacing grass with a new garden bed, paving the central path to make the park wheelchair-accessible, giving permission to hold a cultural event -- every detail?

If such a system is installed, here's a puzzle: who will be eligible to be a part of any “community parks authority”? If membership is by election, will everyone in the ward get to vote, or only the people who live within a block of the park? Will frequent park users be allowed to vote, although they live six blocks away, or even in an adjacent ward? (Dufferin Grove Park is only two blocks from a ward boundary.) If not, will that mean that parks are possessions of their immediate neighbourhood, not an amenity belonging to the wider community? If yes, how frequently will people have to use the park to be allowed to vote on the park authority? How will they prove frequency of use?

In a follow-up pamphlet, Mr.Wookey calls for a “Citizens’ Assembly” to put parks “beyond the whim of politicians and developers” and instead provide “a legal framework for park stewardship in perpetuity.” The Assembly “could be struck from among the various constituency groups that will examine the options and create a plan.”

This proposal sounds rather similar to the option of a more formal structure that was rejected at last year’s community meeting. It seems to leave the park friends at last year’s meeting, who wanted to avoid formal groups, out in the cold. The park staff who are employed by our taxes are also not mentioned. Such an approach would certainly transform Dufferin Grove Park completely. Park friends might want to discuss this new approach with all the councillor candidates in depth. Perhaps it needs more thought.

posted November 11, 2006


When some park neighbours recently blocked the establishment of the Foodshare youth teaching garden across from the south end of the mall, there was some talk of a “nimby” group developing in the neighbourhood.

But that may not be a helpful way to understand what’s happening. It’s more likely that opposition to the gardens and the bio-toilet, the market and the “Night of Dread,” does not express a blind “not in my back yard” sentiment, but rather, a real difference in philosophy about what urban parks are for. One kind of park is modeled on the English country estate, with beautifully maintained lawns and graceful trees: peaceful and quiet. The park neighbours who put out pamphlets against the Foodshare youth garden and the park bio-toilet seem to have that view. They worry that the garden would reduce park greenspace by replacing the grass with plants, and that the cob structure around the bio-toilet continues “a disturbing trend regarding Dufferin Grove Park, an incremental loss of open green space.”

In a noisy, busy city, people may often long for a peaceful park oasis of grass and trees and gentle breezes. The problem is, that’s not all that people long for. At a “Parks Renaissance” meeting in Thorncliffe Park (D.V.P. and Eglinton) a few months ago, participants were regretting the cultural difference between Canadians and East Indians that made it so hard for immigrants to have enjoyable family gatherings in parks nearby. It was their impression that born-Canadians prefer orderly, quiet parks with strict permit regulation, and few places to sit, to discourage spontaneous events in public space. Canadians, someone said, have no experience of the liveliness and surprise of public squares such as exist in most of the world. Lots of people nodded.

Generalizations rarely cover all cases. Much of Dufferin Grove Park is lawn and trees, but it also has lots of places to sit, and it has surprise and liveliness. Part of the liveliness comes from the great variety of little and big park friends who are doing things in the park – digging a river or making a campfire or rigging up a skateboard platform or talking to a farmer. Last year Georgie Donais decided to guide five hundred pairs of hands in building a cob courtyard that has now become a much-loved park destination. Last month, three kids in their early teens resolved to build their own BMX track on one side of the adventure playground, without permission, with shovels they brought from home. Then suddenly the three had become eight youth with their bikes, digging instead of playing computer games, trying out their own plan. Will they dig up the whole park, leaving mounds of earth like prairie groundhogs? Will the park be ruined? No, because the park staff will now work out limits on the project with this little group. Even so, that piece of lawn will need some fixing, after the kids’ bicycle adventure gives way to other phases of growing up. Then the grass will be back.

Does tranquility get lost in all that hubbub? Sometimes for a while but not for good. Can tranquility and liveliness coexist in one park? Maybe it can, despite the recent pessimism of some of the park neighbours. If people keep talking to each other, diverse park philosophies can coexist to nourish the spirits of the diverse park users. We’ll see if good will and compromise are as resilient as the park grass.

posted November 11, 2006


The park maintenance staff steer in the direction of smooth lawns and good order. The park children steer in the direction of play and construction. The adults in the park also play, with frisbees or hockey sticks or guitars or giant puppets. The park recreation staff introduce people, help them make friendly connections, try to minimize the obstacles that might frustrate the newcomers, work to keep up a standard of civility among so many different people. All these activities together make up Dufferin Grove Park. Often the park staff are asked by people from other parts of the city – can’t you tell us how we can make the park near where we live nicer?

Good question. Certainly, if people are happier with their own neighbourhood parks, it will reduce the crowds at Dufferin Rink and Dufferin Grove playground, which would be a good thing.

Dufferin Grove Park has only part-time, “casual” recreation staff. Many of them do other things as well, or are students – of dance, of anthropology, of environmental science. Some of them have found a little time to begin making friends at other parks, responding to requests for help. With the help of the park “cookie-money,” they’ve begun to work with friends of MacGregor Park, Susan Tibaldi Park, Trinity-Bellwoods, Lawrence Heights Community Housing, Withrow Park, and the community garden at the City Adult Learning Centre. The webmaster, Henrik Bechmann, is helping many of these park friends to set up their own web sites, using his wiki adaptations from the Dufferin Park web site. Soon these new web sites will be unhooked from the “neighbourhood” section, and settle into their own domain, “,” branching off from there.

All these parks are very different from one another, and making friends with them is an adventure. To have a look at the beginning web sub-sites, go to and click on “neighbourhood.”

posted November 11, 2006


This is a database of about a year of work requests starting in April 2006 -- to make it easier for park staff, Parks, Forestry and Recreation personnel, and neighbours, to track park issues at the park. The City of Toronto intended to have such a database from December 2005, accessible through its 3-1-1 phone line. This was postponed for some years, so for a short time we tried out offering this local version. On this part of the web site, dozens of park issues have their internal/external e-mail threads posted. That may be more detail than anyone wants, but it gives an idea of the range of issues that come up.

posted November 11, 2006

Foodshare Garden Vandalism

Thanksgiving weekend this year saw FoodShare staff and volunteers start the proposed youth garden, at the southwest corner of Dufferin Grove Park. FoodShare has moved just up the street, into the former Brockton High School as of this week. They are collaborating with Parks, Forestry and Recreation, with the assisstance of the community, to put a teaching garden into the park. Foodshare leaders will help local youth maintain the garden and at the same time teach them how non-traditional vegetables can be grown.

Since then, work has been stopped on the garden, until the spring when a community meeting can be held, in response to neighbours opposed to the project.

To follow the email thread, please refer to the FoodShare Youth Teaching Garden link on the Problems and Follow Up Department of this website.

Over the last three weeks, the garden has been repeatedly vandalised. As of today, Saturday, November 11th, 2006, the outline of the garden (the only thing that was laid down) has been completely overturned. In certain sections, parts of the garden are missing. In others, straw and cardboard and compost are mixed up all together. It also appears that someone has raked the ground under the garden so that no grass will be able to grow there.

This destruction in the park has been reported to the Police. We ask that anyone seeing the vandals to call On-Site Park Staff Emergency number at 416-896-8942 or the Police. If you have any information you can send us an email at, leave a message at the rink house at 416 392-0913, or call the Non-Emergency Police Phone number at 416-808-2222.

Below are pictures from before and after the vandalism.

FoodShare Garden after Thanksgiving weekend, mid october

South end of Garden over turned Nov 1st

West end of garden overturned Nov 9th

North section of garden overturned and ground raked Nov 11th

posted November 11, 2006


Canadians, including newcomers, can handle the weather. There seemed to be rain almost everyday this past October. But here’s what still went on:

October 1: the Farmers’ Market Tasting Fair: a cloudy day but only one shower. There were as many recreational eaters as last year, and the money raised went toward buying some excellent market tents. Liz Martin donated $70 to the park from sales of her Street Food book. Everyone cooked enough delicious food , but not a scrap was left over. The gifted conductor of this “orchestra” was market manager Anne Freeman.

October 28: Night of Dread. The seventh annual community parade and celebration seemed doomed by rain and high winds. The rain stopped an hour before the parade and almost 300 people came out, many in wonderful costumes. A police car lost a muffler coming into the park, but otherwise the parade went off perfectly. Afterwards the fire twirlers and the musicans performed in the park, the fears were burned without torching any people, the soup and bread were served from the park oven, and then everyone went home. The rain began again fifteen minutes later.

Organized by Clay and Paper Theatre, with David Anderson as the parade master. David was optimistic all day long, never discouraged, but afterwards he admitted he was as shocked as everyone else, that the event worked out so well again.

October 29: Purewawa festival: This was a first-time festival organized by musician Chie Yamano and many friends, for a Japanese charity called Japan-Heart. From Chie: "Japan-Heart is an organization, led by one doctor, Hideto Yoshioka, who is dedicated to providing life-saving medical care to under-privileged children living in remote villages in Myanmar. We have chosen Japan-Heart for this year’s charity, as it is a small organization that is actively saving lives one child at a time. Money donated goes directly to the source, as little is needed for administration." Despite bitter winds that knocked out power elsewhere, the friends put on their festival, with a story tent, food, and beautiful music. If the wind had knocked out the park power too, it would not have been a problem, since the music sound system was run off a solar panel mounted on top of a shiny green bus parked on the basketball court.

Nasty weather often makes events friendlier. People gathered around the campfire, or danced to the music on the basketball court. The old man who often plays his mouth organ in the park, for the park staff and the squirrels, spent most of the day at the festival. He walks with two canes, but on that day he used the canes to steady himself as he swayed to the music. Music crosses the Japanese / Portuguese divide, and the age/youth divide, just as easily as it crosses other barriers.

At the end of the festival Chie found that despite the bitter weather, she had collected over $500 in donations for the Japanese doctor who works with kids in Myanmar.

posted November 11, 2006


This year the City Permits Office has begun to enforce a permit fee for youth who want to get their friends together to organize a shinny game. It’s half the price of adults ($35) but many rink friends feel this policy subverts the City’s mandate to promote youth sports and youth-initiated activities.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Last year Councillor Adam Giambrone helped rescue a mini-tourney between Jimmie Simpson Rink and Dufferin Rink, when that tourney ran into some bureaucratic blocks. The blocks were removed when our councillor called up the Jimmie Simpson councillor (Paula Fletcher). They co-sponsored the tourney, and suddenly the kids and were able to get on their hockey bus and everyone had a really good time. Magic!

Inquiries to the City permits section a few weeks ago turned up the very helpful information that if a councillor personally sponsors an event, the fees can be waived (at the discretion of Brenda Librecz, the Parks and Recreation general manager). That means that we can set up a “COUNCILLOR’S INVITATIONAL SHINNY LEAGUE” at our cluster of local outdoor rinks and beyond. Recreation supervisor Tino Decastro has agreed to staff this youth-run league with a referee if wanted, Councillor Giambrone has agreed to sponsor it, Dufferin Rink staff will supply the barrel fire and hot dogs, for the kids to keep their strength up. Such an informal youth league should be great fun, and it would have never have been prompted if the new permit rule had not been in place.

posted Noavember 11, 2006


Market manager Anne Freeman has been working with Foodshare on a project they received funding for from Project for Public Spaces [ed. see grant program], based in New York. She writes: “The Toronto part of the project, still in the fledgling stages, is aimed at building effective ways to get produce to communities that don't have good fresh food access, strengthening links between existing and new markets around the city, and supporting local agriculture through access to healthy city markets.” Anne’s stories about the project are at, click on “market.”

This year the winter market will have some market tents outside, European-style, against the west wall of the rink house, for the hardier farmers. That means a campfire to warm up by, hot chocolate from Choco-sol, and maybe some heaters for the farmers’ feet. Warm smiles from the market customers will do the rest.


Anne Freeman goes
to New Orleans

posted November 8, 2006

Adventures in the Life of a Market Manager: New Orleans

This year I have been working with Foodshare on a project they received funding for from Project for Public Spaces, based in New York. This project supports networks of farmers' markets in diverse regions and circumstances. The Toronto project, still in the fledgling stages, is aimed at building effective ways to get produce to communities that don't have good fresh food access, strengthening links between existing and new markets around the city, and supporting local agriculture through access to healthy city markets.

A requirement of the project is attendance at convening meetings, when participants from the nine groups that received grants learn together, and share ideas and information. I have gained a lot from meeting these people, who have a great combined wealth of experience. Ideas both large and small will contribute to our market and, I hope, to others as well. For now, though, I'd like to share some of my impressions of the place the meetings were held, as a first visit to New Orleans is an intense experience these days.


This newsletter is sponsored by the Norwegian Club and Scooter Girl Toys

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 part-time park staff: Anna Bekerman, Ted Carlisle, Corey Chivers, Jenny Cook, Claire Freeman-Fawcett, Anna Galati, Sandy Gribbin, Zio Hersch, Eroca Nicols, Mayssan Shuja, Mary Sylwester, Amy Withers.

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