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October 2007

posted October 4, 2007

Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 8 Number 10, October 2007

Night of Dread


Clay & Paper’s stilt-walking workshops

Thurs. Oct. 18, 6-8 pm, Sat. Oct. 20, 2-4 pm, Tues. Oct. 23, 6-8pm, Thurs. Oct. 25, 6-8 pm.

From Clay and Paper director David Anderson:

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced stilter who wants to practice your skills for the Night of Dread parade, all are welcome to our drop-in workshops. Meet at the Field House at Dufferin Grove Park, that’s the small brick building adjacent to the soccer field. Cost: $5. Contact Krista for more info:


Saturday October 27, 5.30 to 9pm, assemble from 3 p.m. on.

The eighth annual community parade and celebration. Assemble from 3 p.m. on, parade leaves the park at 5.45 pm. Black and white dress code. (I.e. don’t come as Batman unless you really have to). Organized by Clay and Paper Theatre, with David Anderson as the parade master.

This is the annual parade that everyone gets to be in. Between 400 and 500 people gather by the rink and basketball court and then parade along Bloor, south down to College, and then back to the park. There are performances and bonfires at the park, wonderful bake-oven food (from 3.30 on), and music.

For more information, or to help make masks, wear a giant puppet, or bang a drum, call 416 537-9105, or visit, or e-mail


Friday, OCT.5. 6 to 7.30 pm

This time with candles. It will be a special menu, with all proceeds going toward sending Georgie Donais, park cob builder, to a nine-day conference called the “2007 Natural Building Colloquium” in Texas. Georgie sent this list of sessions:

Construction systems: strawbale, earthbag, cob, roundwood framing, compressed earth block, adobe, Light-Clay-Straw, earthen plasters, rainwater harvesting.

Philosophy and inspiration: Building with what is local and unmanufatured, living on a small planet, social justice in building, access to resources, embodied energy, carbon-footprint reduction, material life cycles.

Project planning: permaculture design, building orientation, design, when to work with licensed professional, building codes.

All the cob, rammed earth, new-technology experts in North American will be there, lecturing and building, comparing experiences.

Georgie will be available at the supper to answer questions on the conference and on the bio-toilet progress.

After this, the Friday Night suppers will stop (it gets too dark, and – eventually – too cold, until the rink is open (date still very uncertain).

Neighbourhood Events

Halloween Swap

Saturday and Sunday October 27 and 28, Masaryk Cowan CC

From Bruce Whittaker:

Just a reminder ... THIS SATURDAY and SUNDAY between 2 and 5 is the first annual TOYS/DVDS/BOOKS/Halloween Costumes SWAP. On Saturday, drop off all of that stuff you no longer use and replace it, if you wish, on Sunday. The SWAP will be located at Masaryk Cowan Community Center, around 4 blocks west of Dufferin at Queen. Check out for details. Lots of toys etc. will be going to families in need ... just in time for Xmas. Hope to see you there.



Although there were a few decent showers in September, the dry weather still holds on and is forecast to stay around all fall. Michael Monastyrskyj has continued to be the head of the watering crew for drought-stressed trees in all parts of the park, and also for the newly seeded grass areas at the summer site of the farmers’ market. City Forestry planner Uyen Dias came to the park at the end of September, to mark out new tree planting sites, and she was delighted to see how well the young trees from last year are doing. In many other parks and streets, newly planted trees are doing poorly or have died, from lack of water.

The City’s tree planting initiative is well-funded even though watering is not. So there will be more trees planted along Dufferin Street this fall. Here’s the planting list, sent by Forestry staff: tulip tree, burr oak, red and sugar maples, redbud, ironwood, red oak, and white pine. Bushes and shrubs for butterflies and birds: serviceberry, dogwood, American elder, and nannyberry.

Sadly, the largest remaining white elm (centre of the park) is on the list to be cut down – disease has finally got it. The Norway maples around the pool however, have a good chance to stay in the park for a while, since it’s now been decided for sure that the concrete wading pool surface does not need to be dug up when the wading pool is repaired. So the maples won’t have their roots disturbed, and they can last a little longer, until the newly planted replacement trees gain height.

The food cart “cookie money” is helping to pay for extra staff watering time – a very useful conversion of cookies into trees.


About six years ago, Emily Visser and Bernard King started the first neighbourhood e-list. Good advice about roofers, handypersons, restaurants, therapists, and mechanics trickled in, along with periodic discussions about local political issues. Much of the trades and service advice gets sorted into the “Neighbourhood” section of the web site. The only subjects that haven’t made it on the discussion list so far are religion and advice for the lovelorn. Now Erella Ganon is moderator, and the list has recently switched to google because of some technical problems with yahoo.

From Erella:

This is a neighbourhood forum, so please make yourself known by using your real name. The purpose is for us to enhance our ability to live as community members. Since this is a way for neighbours to get to know one another better, we do not allow anonymous members…Dufferin Grove Park and surrounding area is where we focus most (but not all) of our attention…Constructive reports, suggestions and criticisms are accepted, interesting resources or other city happenings that are worth letting our friends here know about. General complaining and unsupported assertions are not accepted…There are a lot of happenings in the city that get little or no exposure in the mainstream avenues, be selective, but if you feel strongly that our group should know about something, send out a message.

To sign up for the new google list, go to and look for the dufferingrovefriends link (enter an email address) down the right hand column of the home page. It’s easy.


Mayor Miller is sticking to his story that the city’s 49 outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks won’t open until January, to save money. (Or maybe: December 31.) So rink friends from various parts of the city started a new group, “Save our rinks” with a web site: Many rink users have already joined it, and have been e-mailing and calling their councillors. (Visit the web site and join, if you’re a rink user!)

At the September 20 Budget Committee meeting, several councillors asked for a discussion of outdoor rinks, but were told it was out of order. Again at the City Council meeting on Sept. 26, rinks were ruled out of order, and councillors were told that any rink changes would have to be brought up at the Executive Committee (the mayor’s cabinet). Right up until that meeting, the agenda for the committee listed no opportunity to address cost containment measures. Two of rink friends went anyway, just to see.

Then suddenly at the meeting, the rink issue turned up on the agenda. Councillor Karen Stintz made a motion (she’s not on the Executive Committee, but she was there as a guest), to allow the rinks to open in December.

In the absence of any other rink supporters (since there had been no prior notice of this new agenda item), Jutta Mason made an impromptu deputation about how the cuts are made with too blunt a hammer, and about the configuration of the rink season. She had brought along copies of the “save our rinks” weather graphs, showing that it’s much cheaper, with better ice, to run at least some of the rinks mid-November to the end of February, instead of opening them later and then keeping them open in March despite the high sun.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, also there as a guest, spoke against the lack of public notice about the rink cost containment item.

Mayor Miller hurried the discussion along to get done in time for lunch. Parks Committee chair Paula Fletcher (also on the Executive Committee) said she didn’t want to “cherry pick” items to be rescued from the list of cuts. Councillor Pantalone said that only a six-month-old baby would imagine that more cuts could be changed before accepting the whole land transfer tax package. Councillor Moscoe said that if people think they can avoid the new taxes, “just watch me,” for much worse cuts will come. Budget Chief Shelley Carroll was very puzzled about our organization – i.e. what was our expertise on outdoor rinks based on? (We later asked her if we could give her a rink budget briefing sometime soon, but she said no, the only conversation worth having at this moment is how to get the taxes through.) And Brenda Librecz, General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, came over to say that she had ordered the rinks to stay closed because of explicit instructions from Council, not because she herself wanted that rink season cut.

So Councillor Stintz’s motion did not pass. After the meeting broke up, Mayor Miller gave a message to Daniel Cayley (a “Save our rinks” researcher): “tell Jutta Mason that the rinks stay open into March Break because parents demand that, and the weather in December is too warm for the rinks.”

The Mayor is a lawyer, not a weatherman, but hopefully he will soon read the “save our rinks” temperature graph and will then grasp how outdoor rinks work.


In August 2006, Georgie Donais’ bio-toilet project was stopped because it was determined that it needed a building permit despite its small size. Parks Supervisor Peter Leiss hired an architect, and then an engineer, to make the proper drawings. After a year and quite a bit of back and forth, the permit was approved. Even now, there are still a few glitches. Since so much of the planning didn’t involve Georgie directly, the door specifications and the composition of the plaster in the approved plans turn out to have errors. This can be fixed when the Parks supervisor allows Georgie to speak directly with the planners.

The delay has been tough, and the fenced-in bio-toilet site, untouched for a whole year, has been a very obvious reminder of the difficulties of this project. But there’s always a silver lining: during the delay, cities elsewhere have been installing the same kinds of modern bio-toilets with success – Tokyo, Edmonton, Brooklyn and Vaughan are all ahead of Toronto. Now we can catch up. (And ours, with Georgie’s cob-building expertise, might turn out to be the prettiest.)

Even before the mayor’s cost cuts, there was reluctance by the City to help the project with any funding support. This is part of a larger picture: the Dufferin Grove access-road curb cut, additional bike rings, and bike route detour off the pedestrian sidewalk have also gone nowhere in over a year. So it’s time to pull in neighbourhood gifts and skills again. The venerable Phoenix Foundation has said they’ll accept donations on behalf of this project and give out charitable receipts. This winter there will be raffle tickets sold for the right of “first use.” (An unusual Christmas gift for a friend?) And next spring there might be a little fundraiser music festival in the park.

Meantime Georgie and her assistant Heidrun Gabel-Koepff have been visiting with other cob builders and increasing their expertise. (See Georgie’s Texas conference description on page 1). This winter, once the rink is open again, there will be lots of new material posted on the bulletin board, and time to make the final plans for getting the bio-toilet built as soon as spring comes.

To help with a donation or with your hands (or both): e-mail or leave a message at the park: 416 392-0913.


Derek Ryan, a television director working with HGTV, contacted the park a few weeks ago to propose that their Green TV series would build a greenhouse for Dufferin Grove Park. Calls like that don’t come in every day! This is of interest because there was some dreaming and discussion about a greenhouse soon after the City put in the zamboni kitchen in 2003. The idea was to put it up on the roof of the rink house, which has a lot of sunny space and no vandalism possibilities (access is by an interior passage). But since that time, so many other things happened at the park that nobody took it up again.

Derek Ryan came to the park in early October and had a look at the rink house roof to see if it would work with what they could do. He said it looks ideal, but of course they need permission from the City. City Councillor Adam Giambrone has been contacted to help find the right channels for giving proper consideration to this offer.

Derek said this would be a solar-heated greenhouse, ballpark cost between $50,000 to $100,000, no cost to the City. The project would have to include a better access stairway (now there's only a fixed steel ladder) and a water outlet -- otherwise it's pretty straightforward. The rink house roof needs to be checked for load-bearing capacity, but it’s an industrial-design building, so chances are good.

HGTV would want to do it in December or January -- it only takes about 3-5 days because they send in a big crew. They want to do it here because they wanted someplace where they could be sure the greenhouse would actually get good use. And it would make a good TV story!

Plus it would allow the park to grow more cheap food for the snack bar and food cart operations, and also to set aside some cold-season growing space for our community kitchen users. We’ll see if it can happen.



A youth is knifed in the leg, taken to hospital

Seven years ago last month, the Dufferin Grove Park newsletter was started. What prompted the first newsletter was a very unhappy incident on the basketball court – a young man was kicked into unconsciousness by a group of other youth, as a campfire group watched in shock (and then six of the group ran over, stopped the attack, and called for help). The police response at that time was very limited, since feet were the only weapons involved. The matter was treated as internal to the basketball group. Only one officer came to the park, an ambulance took the victim away, and for two days afterwards no one at Fourteen Division could find any record of the incident even having taken place.

The attack happened in view of enough park users that there was some community alarm over standards of acceptable behaviour in the park. The newsletter was born to follow up with police and with then-Councillor Mario Silva. But it wasn’t long before the newsletter got a whole lot of other, happier park stories too. (In the early days there were also recipes: for the park’s chocolate chip cookies, stinging nettle pizza, and Night of Dread skeleton bread with green and pink sugar topping.)

The police issues in the park were older than the newsletter. In 1997, the rink staff were so unsuccessful in getting police help with the culture of intimidation at Dufferin Rink that Recreation Supervisor Tino DeCastro hired a private security company. Three months of Intelligarde (complete with several visits by pretty serious Intelligarde dogs) was what it took to start a lasting change in the culture.

It’s been quite a few years now since the park had people throwing broken bottles, rival gangs with baseball bats, or riots on the skating rink. Step by step, families were attracted back to the rink, the playground got more use, the picnic tables filled up every weekend, the ovens beside the basketball court began to feed the neighbourhood, school classes booked park days. Park youth told their friends, “we don’t fight here.”

But public space has no walls, and trouble can still show up at any time. Over the years, park staff and park friends made various tries to build a collaborative relationship with local police to address trouble when it came. At the same time, many more police (often not living in Toronto) were hired, first under Mayor Lastman and then under Mayor Miller. Police presence in the park increased, but the building of relationships did not. There was a sense that much police activity in the park involved either driving through in cars or approaching black or East Indian youth at picnic tables and asking for i.d. Uneasiness came to a peak one day three years ago when police came to the park with drawn rifles looking for a youth with a bike and a gun (they did not find him at the park). One of the officers told park users on that occasion that it was necessary to respond with rifles because Dufferin Grove Park is very dangerous, and that in fact there had been a recent killing at the park.

This prompted a request for more information from Fourteen Division. But no information was given, so a more formal request was sent to the Police Freedom of Information office, for basic records (names deleted) of all police visits to the park in a three-year period. There were lots of visits recorded, but none mentioned a killing, in fact almost all visits were for routine checks – and there wasn’t any record of the police visit with rifles.

Since then nothing has changed very much. Superintendent Ruth White came to the park for lunch a year ago and met some park staff and park users. Park staff began working with school youth liaison officers to follow up on some bike thefts and incidents of vandalism, but it was often impossible to get hold of the officers. There were attempts to follow a few cases through the courts, but the court system is so convoluted now that park staff eventually lost track.

Of course, parks shouldn’t rely only on police or the court system to address trouble, and they don’t. Good recreation staff have been defusing trouble for many decades in Toronto parks and community centres, that's part of their job (getting to know the youth, helping them work things out, etc.) Most trouble one never hears about because it gets dealt with early (i.e. through good community recreation work). Dog walkers often help too, simply by being in the park at odd hours and keeping an eye out. Everyone who makes the park lively, by just using it for play or sports or conversation, contributes to its safety.

But still, parks have no walls, so new trouble can arrive. It shows up most reliably in fall, when the high school students return, and traditional rivalries between schools are re-opened by the younger students. One has to wonder how much the school board's "zero tolerance" policy is unintentionally increasing the problem. For as long as schools have existed, some kids have scrapped at or after school, but now they can't any more -- being caught fighting on school property (with fists, nail files, or baseball bats) means automatic expulsion (zero tolerance).

So youth meet up in parks sometimes, after school, in big truculent bunches (because they walked out of the school doors in big bunches). Fighting in parks can't get them expelled. It’s possible that when fights have to be planned like that, the pressure builds and the trouble grows in the planning. So in the first week of October, for two days running there were several groups of students from different high schools in Dufferin Grove Park after school was out, making a big hubbub. On the first day, the older basketball players went over and got the students to move out of the park. On the second day, the older basketball players weren’t there, and as the hubbub built again, one youth was stabbed in the leg with a knife. That made the crowd disperse fast.

Park staff had been at a meeting about the rink season cuts (with this newsletter editor) inside the rink house. When they realized there was trouble, they called 911 and went out with the first aid kit. Then the paramedics arrived, sat the youth up on a park bench, wiped the blood off his leg, and determined that his wounds were not life-threatening. Park staff talked to the kids who had gathered to watch, some of whom were upset. Police asked if anyone knew who had done the stabbing, but no one did. Beyond that, police seemed uninterested in talking to park staff. The paramedics put a bandage on the youth’s leg and took him away. One police officer began to enclose a huge area in police tape, as a crime scene. When the park staff tried to go back to their meeting at the rink house, the officer told them they couldn’t go by the tape he was putting up, and that all park staff and remaining youth must leave the park. As the newsletter editor ducked under the tape to go back to the rink house anyway, the officer grabbed her by the arm and told her he would arrest her. But he didn’t. The park staff and the editor found a different way to get back to the rink house, and continued their meeting about the rink season cuts.

Regular Events


Pizza days and Friday night suppers are over after October 5, but campfires are doing well. People who want to have a cookout with their friends/neighbours/kids/singing society/classmates over a park campfire need to notify the park staff 48 business hours in advance (this is a leftover from last winter’s new-regulation campaign). If you’re a new group, you’ll get a campfire safety lesson. Bring your own wood (but leave your drums or other noisemakers at home – low-volume acoustic guitars are fine). Park staff will provide buckets for sand and water, a shovel, and any fire-stands or grills you need. For more information, go to To contact staff: 416 392-0913.



Excerpt from market manager Anne Freeman’s weekly market notes (Oct.4):

It's a week for gratitude, and not only for the long weekend ahead! First, a very big thank you to our generous chefs, who fed everyone at the Tasting Fair so well and so beautifully. Then, a round of applause for the park staff for all they do (even when nuit-blanche-sleep-deprived). We couldn't have the market without their strength. And of course, as we get ready to carry home the makings of delicious meals from the Thanksgiving market, it's a good time to express appreciation to the farmers. There isn't a one who hasn't had some real challenges through the long, dry summer of 2007. Thank you all.

Newsletter and Website Credits

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason
Illustrations: Jane LowBeer
Web site: Henrik Bechmann

Park phone: 416 392-0913
web address:

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