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Summer 2011

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 11, Nr.10, Summer 2011: the Money Issue


Events in June

Saturday June 11th and Sunday June 12th, Adoptathon, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days.

From Toronto Animal Services organizers: we will be adopting out pets at Dufferin Grove Park. There will be cats & kittens, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, and other small animals looking for a place to call home. You will find them on the east side of the hockey rinks and basketball courts.

Adoptions will be approved and processed on the spot by a Toronto Animal Services employee and your new friend can come home with you the same day - EXCEPT dogs, which must be picked up at the shelter at a later date.

Everyone is welcome to come meet the animals, although their comfort levels must be respected. We look forwards to seeing you!

Sunday June 19, 2 to 5 pm, ninth annual Day of Delight

From David Anderson of Clay and Paper Theatre: Our ninth annual celebration of love, courtship and desire. Bring someone you love, for an afternoon of theatre, music, dance, installation and participatory works including: Cardbodia, our beloved cardboard village, aerial dance, Punch and Judy’s puppet kissing booth, stilt dancing, storytelling, anonymous love letters to strangers, a stag n’ doe can-can, country love songs, and a musical bicycle parade – complete with giant puppets – that will deliver you to our very special Day of Delight wedding.

Participating artists include: Lisa Marie DiLiberto, CYCLOPS Cycling Oriented Bicycle Squad, Sage Tyrtle, The Upside Down Ladies, Circus Alchemy, The Ismailova Theatre of Dance, Clare Samuel, Members of Parahumans Dance Theatre, Shannon Roszell, The Saucy Tarts, Martin Helmut Reis, Blackcurrant Productions, Kristina Esposito, Richard Underhill, Honey and Blair, and more! Pay-what-you-can, $10 suggested.

Park heroes for June:

Park staff dad Zoran Stambuk donated time and parts to fix the cob cafe storage cabinet doors; park friends Silvie Varone and Simon Evans re-installed the cob cafe faucets, and rebuilt the cafe playhouse sink-covers; Jason Kun and Thomas Berry and their friend Greg spent a day building and fixing the park’s skate board equipment, with the help of materials donated by Rob Poyner. Other good works were anonymous: thanks to them too!

Public meeting: The future of the park.

Tuesday June 21, 7 to 9 pm, with Councillor Ana Bailao. At the park clubhouse. Bake-oven supper available from 6 p.m. Everyone welcome!

Brenda Patterson, the general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, has been meeting with people across the city to discuss the current organizational restructuring, called the Recreation Service Plan. Her consultations have been going on at the same time as the City’s broader public meetings about the Core Service Review, to consider what programs/facilities can be cut, what fees can be raised. The City is approaching a watershed of insufficient funds: we are short between $500 and $770 million for next year’s budget.

General Manager Patterson has invited Torontonians to hold their own meetings about what kind of Recreation programs there should be, and forward the conclusions to her staff. A good idea! The meeting topic for the Dufferin Grove meeting just needs to be broadened a little, to include how to protect the park as the budget storm approaches.

Parks and Community Centres are high on the list of places to cut costs. In the last four years, the operating cost of Parks, Forestry, and Recreation has increased by $51 million (to $376 million this year). Nearly $32 million of this rapid cost increase is for wages and salaries. Dufferin Grove Park users know that despite this increase, a week was cut off the beginning of last rink season, and there are so few city carpenters left that we have only half of the picnic tables we had a few years ago. What’s in our future, for all the city’s parks and public buildings? There may be mothballed wading pools and ice rinks, and fire-sales for community centre buildings, while taxes go up.

Costs need to decrease, that’s pretty clear from the math, but the interesting question for park users is – how to simplify in smart ways instead of waiting for our troubled councillors to hit the problem with a blunt hammer in September. So come to the meeting to help begin these neighbourhood deliberations. See the money issue for more information,
There will be a kids’ play area set up near the meeting. In the weeks leading up to the 21st, there will be some fascinating facts and figures posted on the park bulletin boards and on the website, in preparation.

Park bread alert: does anyone know how to get a donated dough mixer for the park?

The park has two Hobart dough mixers. Both were donated years ago, and one of them has finally packed it in (after about 40 years, if you count its first service at the Bayview Golf and Country Club). This may be a sign that it’s time to scale back outdoor bread baking. But just in case there is another commercial-size dough mixer not needed somewhere, please let the bakers know: 416 392-0913.

Regular park programs – summer

Wading pool: The wading pool is set to open for the season on June 30, although it will open sooner if there are two or more days over 28 degrees before then. During the summer, the wading pool is open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., except if on really hot days – then the wading pool stays open until 8 pm. All children must wear bathing suits or swim diapers. Swim diapers are available at the wading pool for the cost price.

The pool surface is a bit slippery; rubber swim shoes can help. The pool is supplied with little boats and other toys – feel free to donate more! Water wings are allowed but no larger float devices that could obscure visibility. The Dufferin Grove pool, because it’s got shade, gets very busy, and the pool attendants need to see well. Sandpit and playground: The sandpit is a fine place to make dams using real shovels and logs and the continuous stream from the watertap. There’s a good old-fashioned wooden playground right beside it, of the type that’s been torn out of most city parks in favour of plastic. Spread over both play areas are the big Norway maples, so that on hot days it’s always five or ten degrees cooler in that wonderful shade. There is also a wheelchair-accessible swing, and this summer the recreation program staff want to add a few other access features for challenged children. (All advice is welcome.)

In the eighteen years that the sandpit has been at the park, there have been very few injuries. Children are talented at looking out for each other. Once in a long while there’s a child who is reckless with a shovel. If you are a parent or caregiver and see someone using a shovel to hit or throw dirt, please tell them to stop. If they don’t listen, tell the wading pool staff right away. Interference is helpful – it takes a village (park!) to raise a child.

There was concern from park neighbours that the sewer in the laneway would be plugged at the bottom of the “river,” with sand being washed into the drain, so that they’d get backup into their basements. The City’s Technical Services supervisor John Abela tested the drains by sending a camera along the whole length of the pipe. It turns out that (a) the laneway sewer is connected to a kind of holding tank under the corner of Sylvan and Dufferin, so it doesn’t lead to drain pipes close to houses and (b) the camera found minimal sand or debris in there. It’s good that John got it checked, for everybody’s peace of mind. Waterplay is a wonderful thing for children, whether it’s a splash pad, a wading pool, or a sandpit. Nice to know it’s not a problem.

Cob courtyard cafe: Seven days a week, although it might be stopped after this year (see pp. 5-6). As in other years, all food is made at the park and the suggested prices are by donation.

Sports: For soccer and the baseball diamond, the field is free to book with staff for community use from Saturday 2pm to Sunday 10pm. All other times the field is used by the Toronto Eagles. The hockey-side rink pad is free to book every evening from 5pm to 9pm. The pleasure-skating side can't be booked – it’s drop-in skateboarding and basket ball, all days, all times. Lights go out at 11pm. Many sports activities, like basketball or volleyball or frisbee, are just drop-in. For more information call 416 392-0913 or email Regular bookings already made for this year:
Sundays: 12-2pm Beginner soccer (field) women friendly
1pm-7pm Bike Polo (hockey pad) - intermediate level
3:30-5:30pm Queer West Soccer (field) - non-competitive, all skill levels, fun-focused
5:30-7:30pm (field) Ultimate Frisbee
Tuesdays: 7-8:30pm Women's ball hockey (hockey pad)
Thursdays: hockey pad, 6:30-11pm Thursday Bike Polo - all are welcome, new participants encouraged

Campfires: These are booked directly through the Dufferin Grove staff, not centrally. Call 416 392-0913 or e-mail There are two campfire areas, central and south (near the playground). In summertime, the playground area can be booked only after 6 pm, preferably by smaller quiet groups (it’s nearer to houses). Neither of the campfire sites allow drumming or amplified music. But at both sites, it’s possible to borrow fire-stands, pots, and marshmallow skewers from the park. You have to bring your own wood. There is a suggested donation of $20, which is one-quarter of the regular city charge for using fire pits. The $20 goes to the city to cover recreation staff time wages; the lower rate is because campfire users also act as “eyes on the park” at night – and very effective eyes.

Picnics and birthday parties: These are one of the ways parks are made lively and fun – even for people just passing by and enjoying the sight. A few cautions: Smoky barbeques beside the wading pool or the playground are no fun for the park users. A birthday party that sets up right by the cob cafe or right at the edge of the public wading pool – this is confusing for park users who suddenly feel like uninvited guests at the party. Streamers from tree to tree to tree suggest staking out part of the park for private use. And since picnic tables are becoming scarcer, bring folding tables and chairs from home, to make sure all your guests have places to sit. Larger groups need a city permit; anyone else, just ask the park staff if in doubt about where to set up.

Pizza days and Friday night suppers: During June, you can make your own pizza on Sundays between 1 and 3, materials available from the staff. Friday Night suppers are from 6 to 7.30, weather permitting. All food offered at the park is by suggested donation. Tasty, too. For people who want to cook their own food in the park ovens – contact the park staff to set up a time, 416 392-0913 or

The Money Issue in 2011

During May and early June, there were eight public consultations about the City’s “core service review.” The first one was at the North York Civic Centre. Participants were placed at individual round tables, and each table was told, “we’re not looking for consensus, we’re looking for a rich dialogue.” A tough call! At one point, the city’s chief financial officer, Cam Weldon, went to the microphone to give a short briefing. He was in shirt sleeves, and he looked tired. He told the audience that the city’s operating budget for 2011 is $9.383 billion, and the capital budget is just over $2 billion. The reasons for the operating budget shortfall of $774 million next year are many, Weldon said. He listed: the cost of salaries, fuel, increases in transit riders, and a growing capital budget (meaning more debt charges for the operating budget). Taxes, Weldon said, are only 38% of the city’s revenue. Provincial and federal funding provide the other major revenue source, with fees next, for instance fees for water and garbage.

One table called over a “subject matter expert” (a circulating city staff person) to find out the dollar figure for two sample city service costs. In 2011, the police will cost $917 million. Servicing the debt from capital expenditures (like buying new TTC trains and building new community centres) will cost $408 million. The debt keeps increasing, and so does the cost of paying it off.

Consultation participants were given a questionnaire, with “in-depth service questions.” Each table had to choose three sample services and determine whether “maintaining the quality” or lowering the city’s cost is more important. There was some objection among the participants about the wording of the options. Why was there only an either-or choice? What if the quality could be maintained, or even improved, at the same time as the costs were lowered? The facilitators said that this objection had been mentioned by others, but since the questionnaire was already online, the phrasing would have to stay the same, for statistical reasons. The follow-up questions were equally narrow – should the city increase user fees, or increase taxes, or increase both – or just contract out?

Some participants left the meeting early, feeling that the meeting was not dealing with details, only generalities. The details are being worked out by the giant consulting company KPMG, which will present its recommendations to city manager Joe Pennachetti. He will decide what to propose to City Council, and then the councillors will decide what to cut.

The scale of the decision-making is so large that the outcome will most likely be pretty messy.

The Recreation Service Plan: The general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation held four May/June public meetings, about the current restructuring her staff are working on, called the “Recreation Service Plan.” The most recent “strategic plan” before this one, developed under the previous two general managers, was published in 2004 as a thick, colourfully-illustrated booklet called “Our Common Grounds.” This plan was meant to cover a longer period, but it has now been removed from the city’s website and is presumably no longer in force. A “Parks Plan” comes up for discussion in September. User fees are also under consideration, as is the “Welcome Policy,” which is the last vestige of the former City of Toronto’s universal free programs policy prior to amalgamation.

The fate of the park: Somewhere between $500 million and $774 million has to be cut from next year’s budget. Right now it looks like the only tool available is a very dull knife. Will the city shutter Dufferin Rink, or install turnstiles and reassign all the rink staff to collecting admission? Stop operating the wading pool? Turn off the basketball lights?

All of this is possible, multiplied across the city, but it’s not the only way to reduce costs. Another way is to simplify the way parks and community centres run. But in order for park users and staff to find solutions, we need to broaden the considerations that are on the table. A couple of ideas, for starters:

Idea: Hold off on building more new mall-style community recreation centres. Building new community centres increases the debt and the staff needed. 17 years ago, some neighbours of Dufferin Grove Park decided to try and use one orphan field house and one underused rink house more fully, as well as the park around them. A “Community Centre Without Walls” grew up over the years. This “CCWW” is used by more people in the course of a year than most of the city’s mall-style Community Recreation Centres (“CRC’s”). The total cost to run the CCWW is about $560,000 this year. (About $190,000 of that is paid for through the summer and winter cafes, Friday Night Supper, and bread baking for the farmers' market.) For comparison, the City’s formula for projecting the operating costs of new CRC’s is 10% of the capital cost. The two new CRC’s being built right now cost $20 million and $27 million. By the formula, it will cost $2 million plus $2.7 million a year to run these centres (is debt servicing included?). Eight new CRC’s are planned for the next ten years.

Meanwhile, the city has a big list of existing orphan field houses and three-month-usage rink houses, some of them far more elegant than those at Dufferin Grove. The buildings are presently used to store trash cans or road salt for most of the year. The city can try the Community Centre Without Walls model in some of the places which are waiting for a Community Recreation Centre.

Idea: Reassign staff back into neighbourhoods. There are too many staff working in central planning, policy-generation, standards and innovation development, risk assessment, central training, permit and user fee administration, community capacity building, youth outreach, fee subsidy assessment, and community engagement development. Let them move back into direct, neighbourhood-based parks and recreation work which naturally involves many of those issues, locally.

Of the approximately 432 management-level staff listed in the Parks, Forestry and Recreation directory, at least 118 are part of that extra central layer listed above. That layer costs at least $10 million in salaries, and the cost of the various staff meetings generated by these policy/standards activities, if tracked, would come out to millions more. Any such tracking doesn’t even include the widespread unhappiness of staff who have been reassigned to administration, book-keeping, and compliance-detection, but who actually want to go back to working in neighbourhoods with ordinary people.

Those are two ideas, out of many possibilities. Contribute your insights:
Tuesday June 21, 7- 9 pm. Public meeting: The future of Dufferin Grove Park: putting our heads together about city plans and budget dilemmas.

With City Councillor Ana Bailao. At the rink clubhouse. Supper available by the oven from 6 pm.

Neighbourhood news:

* Campbell Park Supper and Campfire, 6.30 to 10 pm Tuesday June 14: Thanks to strong support from Ward 18 City Councillor Ana Bailao, Campbell Park's rinkhouse/clubhouse has had the staff office turned into a kitchen, with donated sinks, running water and a stove. This lets park users and staff expand the menu at the winter snack bar and cook food for community events.

To celebrate the new kitchen, Campbell staff would like to invite Campbell Park users to have supper at the park. They’ll be serving a main dish for a suggested donation of $5 and desert for $1. From staff Michael Monastyrskyj: “The donation is to cover costs, but we don't want anyone to go away hungry, so give as much or as little as you like. After dinner, roast marshmallows over the fire. And if you have a guitar, bring it along!” There is also a new bulletin board which will show neighbourhood news & history, the planned wading pool renovations, and recreation budget changes.

* MacGregor Park, campfire and coffee house, Fridays, June 17, 24 and July 1
Artist-in-the-Park Kristen Fahrig is back from her art-making trip to Rio (see her fascinating blog at To celebrate the completion of the MacGregor field house renovations last fall, Kristen is joining with Recreation staff and artist-storyteller Jane Wells to make some extra fun on three Friday nights in June. There will be art session for kids, 3:30 - 5:30; a Cooking Fire with food, 5.30 to 7.00 p.m., storytelling by Jane Wells, 7 to 7.30, and musicians from 7.30 to 9 p.m. Everyone welcome!

Garden news (from the “garden club,” everyone welcome):

From garden club staff Rachel Weston: “We are expanding the herb wheel and also reintroducing a variety of beans, which were missing from the garden last year. Currently the garlic is proliferating nicely around the edges of the children's garden, the peas and spinach are growing slowly, and the tomato seedlings are ready to harden off. Gardening sessions: Sundays, 2 - 4 pm and Wednesdays 3 - 5 pm - snacks and drinks provided


Market manager Anne Freeman sends weekly market news to market list subscribers every Wednesday. To sign up, visit the market page at

Public consultation questions, June 21 2011

The general manager’s questions in the City’s Recreation Service Plan “Consultation toolkit”:

Click to enlarge

1. What are the barriers to equitable recreation opportunities across the city?
2. Your opinions on the currently available mix of programs?
3. How to engage people who don’t use recreation programs now?
4. “How can PFR help to strengthen communities and who can we partner with?” 5. How can PFR find and keep volunteers?
6. Other comments?

Some issues to consider, in the light of the general manager’s question topics:

Before the four cities were amalgamated (Toronto, Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough) in 1997, the former City of Toronto had universal free access to recreation programs. Former Toronto’s total Parks, Forestry and Recreation operating budget in 1997 at amalgamation was $53.1 million (down from an all-time high of $59.1 million in 1993). The total operating budget for Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) in the current city of Toronto is $375.7 million for 2011 ($275.1 million if you subtract the revenue collected in fees and provincial grants). Over the past four years, PFR’s operating budget has increased by $51 million (of which $32 million is for increases in wages and salaries). The budget expenditure rise is not correlated with a corresponding rise in the number of people using recreation centres nor with a rise in the number of picnic benches available in parks.

At the same time as costs have been rising quickly, some major themes have emerged in how PFR is managed. The current problems at Dufferin Grove reflect these themes:

Process over outcomes: the majority of management staff time citywide is now spent monitoring compliance with City Hall policies rather than in setting up and running programs. Example: all city wading pools are supposed to have two staff on duty, no matter how many kids use them.

Management has now determined that Dufferin Grove wading pool must have the same as the others, so the extra wading pool staff provided in past years for such a busy pool has been reduced to two. Silos: The wading pool staff have always been involved in other playground programs when they have time. Management says this is not acceptable. Wading pool staff must take their direction from separate aquatics co-ordinators. They are not supposed to be integrated with the Dufferin Grove team. Issuing tickets and times for kids at the wading pool has been suggested as a way to deal with the staffing restriction when the pool is crowded. That outcome is not seen as a problem as long as the central staffing process is followed.

Cost of monitoring and training for proper process: The mandatory training for wading pool workers takes between 8 and 24 hours, rotating between Year One or Year Two of their work. Even senior staff have to retake the training, which includes information about sunscreen and wearing flip-flops. Most Dufferin Grove staff report that a four-hour training session could have been condensed into 10 minutes. The cost to the city of substituting mandatory citywide lowest-common-denominator training sessions for good local supervision is unknown. The local cost of supervisory staff who are monitoring compliance with policies and who are reworking what goes on at Dufferin Grove is perhaps $40,000 in additional staff wages. Mistrust: Staff and citizens are supposed to follow centrally-generated policies, and wait for direction. Dufferin Grove Park’s on-the-spot collaboration between staff and park users is seen as an inappropriate independence of PFR policies. Also, citywide wage categories do not fit Dufferin Grove work descriptions. The most senior recreation workers at Dufferin Grove earn less than an entry-level park litter-picker. Attempts to outline a more accurate work description are ruled out of order. Management has suggested that attempts to use existing pay codes to make wages fit with Dufferin Grove work amount to “wage fraud.” Downloading: recreation workers used to run kids’ sports leagues and special events. Then kids’ sports leagues were downloaded to external groups with no help from recreation staff. Events like park concerts and fun days were not longer put on by the city. Neighborhoods were invited to organize such events themselves. Then the sports and events organizers were charged permit fees to do that work. Example: A recent neighbourhood park party at Healey Willan Park involved two city wading pool guards for three hours of wading pool time, and no other help. Neighbourhood people were charged $354 for permission to do all the work (a “bargain,” down from last year’s $450). And despite the presence of already-insured city staff at the wading pool, the neighbourhood still had to take out separate insurance in case of injuries from the music, the bake sale, the kids playing, and the neighbours meeting. Partnership limitations: If Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment paints a rink change room (including its logo), there is no permit fee for them. They are seen as a partnership with Parks and Recreation. If a band offers to give a free concert at a park, this is not considered a partnership and the band is charged a permit fee for playing. Restrictions on fundraising: for three years, CELOS (the CEntre for LOcal Research into Public Space) has been negotiating with the City to hand over the money raised through the food and skate lending operations, so the city can use the funds directly (instead of going through CELOS) to pay for the extra staffing to run these programs. No progress yet, because the food and skate lending are against policy.

Many parks are not very lively. And Dufferin Grove Park is sometimes too lively.

Good ideas for the general manager?


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web sites: Henrik Bechmann, Aseel Al Najim,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


Newsletter sponsored by: Edward Cayley

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason Park phone: 416 392-0913 Illustrations: Jane LowBeer www. Web sites: Henrik Bechmann, Aseel Al Najim, Newsletter sponsored by: Edward Cayley

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