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Summer 2013

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Summer 2013 newsletter

Garrison Creek Memorial Garden
Photo: Michael Monastyrskyj

Skateboarding news

For five years now, Dufferin Grove has had a community-led skateboard installation on the south rink pad in the summertime. Some of the kids who were digging in the sand pit a few years ago have graduated to the skateboard pad – time passes!

This community-led pad is a sequel to a city-owned skateboard pad that was located at Dufferin Grove for two years during the time Scadding Rink (the skateboard pad’s home base) was being rebuilt. The DG skateboarders didn’t want to go back to Scadding when the equipment was moved back, so they built their own smaller-but-still-fun structures year by year at Dufferin Grove. Of course, the actual builders are the older guys, some of them carpenters in their day jobs, or just handy with tools, with the younger ones looking on and passing tools over. The standards are pretty high since the builders are also the skaters, and nobody wants to get hurt. (Soccer is still the leading sport for injuries – there are surprisingly few injuries in skateboarding.)

From Jason Kun, the moving force behind the skateboard pad: The Dufferin Grove Skateboard pad has been busier than ever this year and has been recognized with a decorative tile in the newly renovated Dufferin Subway Station. The City of Toronto has contributed to the park by providing tempered polyboard (masonite) as surfacing materials for the skateboard park grind boxes, manual pads and ramps.  We would kindly ask people to not use the pads, boxes and ramps when wet as this wears down the surface material faster. The Dufferin Grove Skateboard Pad was originally created for use by skateboarders and we would also kindly ask BMX bikers to refrain from using the smaller skateboard equipment as the masonite cannot withstand this use.

There’s a surface material called Skatelite, which is specifically made for skateboarding installations (and works for BMX too). It costs $200 a sheet (from the Canadian Ramp Company in Burlington) and it has a life expectancy of 20 years outdoors. The masonite supplied by the City costs only $13 a sheet – but the new sheets are already cracking after one week of use. In the long run, buying cheap materials is a false economy, since it takes so much more fixing.

At this point the City is not covering any building or maintenance costs for this community-led project. Volunteer energy is running down. The flexibility of using the food donations (from Friday Night Supper and the cafes) – to buy good-quality supplies, and assigning staff to help fix things – is gone, now that the money all goes downtown. But maybe the park will be lucky and a skateboard friend will come forward to help buy a Skatelite panel or two. Meantime, for BMX riders the rule is: stay away if you have pegs, stay off the masonite, and when the skateboard pad is busy, go up to the bigger BMX park at Wallace-Emerson. The rule is: “four wheels first: 4W1.”

Reflexology Footpath in Dufferin Grove Park.

Many people who use Dufferin Grove Park either knew Jenna Morrison personally or heard about her tragic death in a bike accident in 2011, crushed by a truck at the corner of Dundas West and Sterling Avenue.

Jenna’s husband Florian Schuck, her family and friends, have undertaken a project to memorialize Jenna in Dufferin Grove Park, a place where she and Florian often took their little boy. Florian wrote: When Jenna came back after a trip to South Korea in 2001, she was enthusiastic about her discovery of the reflexology footpath. The reflexology footpath consists of a bed made of concrete in which cobblestones of various shapes and sizes are embedded to various degrees. Some are upright while others are flat, protruding the surface of the concrete at slightly different heights. As one walks the path barefoot or in socks, the sole, and therefore acupressure points of the foot, are massaged. The design of paths varies, but more often consists of a loop that allows the visitors to engage more than once over. Accompanying the path are benches for rest and removing shoes, as well as trees and shrubs for an “oasis.”

One of Jenna’s friends was Joey Gill, who wrote that they have to raise about $120,000 for the footpath (to be locate just north of the new armour-stone circle near the playground). Joey sent this news in May: This is Joey Gill, one of the driving forces behind the Reflexology Footpath - I'm happy to say that from our collective efforts, since I first contacted you, we've raised about $23,000 towards the Footpath project and are in talks with Rio Alcan re: a donation.

Councillor Ana Bailao has hosted one fundraiser already and is now putting on a second one: all donations collected at the councillor’s Ward 18 Community BBQ will be given to the Reflexology Footpath campaign. The BBQ is at Dufferin Grove Park, at the northwest end near Dufferin Street (west of the bake oven) on Saturday June 22, from 1 to 3 pm.

The glitches of Dufferin Grove Park

Back in July 2011, the management of Parks, Forestry and Recreation introduced an Action Plan to Assume Operations of Dufferin Grove Park. City staff were already running everything at the park, but not in the way that was “compliant” with the many new centralized city policies. So the part-time staff who were working at the park were downgraded in their responsibilities, and a series of new full-time staff persons were put in to tell them what to do. The new staff were only following orders from downtown, and the job was really tricky: imagine if you were told to go to a Starbucks with no experience and be in charge of running it (from a remote location). Not an easy task! And not really possible to do well, either. Dufferin Grove is a pretty busy place, and under the new system there are lots of glitches – and lots of frustration. We’ll report on how it’s going as the summer goes along.

A surprise donation

On Thursday June 20, a call came through to the park, from the head of a charitable foundation that donated money years ago to help build the zamboni kitchen (in the rink house garage alcove). The Foundation wanted to give the park an unsolicited gift of $2500, because they like some of the things going on here. On June21, the cheque was already in the CELOS mailbox. Wonderful! The Dufferin Grove food donation money now goes straight downtown, so the funds that were formerly used to buy park supplies directly are no longer available directly at all. But when you put the surprise donation together with the $1600 donated to CELOS by park users during the past half year, those funds can really accomplish something. $200 is going out right away to buy the first skatelite board for the skateboard pad (see the story on page 1). Another $125 bought a honey locust tree, a tough, fast-growing, drought- and compaction-resistant tree to provide shade for the Friday Night Supper area beside the big oven. (The big old sugar maple that used to be there finally died from the pressure of all those feet.) The Garden Club planted the honey locust. So: this donation means a return to a little bit of flexibility. More suggestions welcome!

Campfires, Friday Night Suppers, Pizza Days

Despite the new more complicated arrangements at Dufferin Grove, all three of these programs are continuing this summer. To become a campfire volunteer, email For more information, go to the website and click on “campfires.” Make-your-own pizza days are on Wednesdays from 12 to 2, and on Sundays from 12 to 2. Birthday party slots are available before or after (email Friday Night Suppers are from 6 to 7.30, by the ovens, weather permitting. For the week’s menu: the menu link is on the home page.

Cob oval bench is gone

When the Dufferin Grove playground bio-toilet project ran into neighbourhood opposition in 2006 and 2007, and was cancelled, friends of the project covered the dug-out foundation hole with a reinforced wooden floor. They worked with park staff to “cob” the oval exterior foundation walls and turn them into a continuous, broad, smooth bench. The oval bench became a popular gathering place, both comfortable and ample for picnics and sociable groupings of all ages. It was nicknamed the “gossip rock,” because so much news was passed along there.

Almost every structure in a well-used public space needs regular maintenance , and the oval bench was no exception. Every spring, experienced park staff re-cobbed the bench wherever gaps had developed, and gave it a new smooth covering of plaster. Some years they painted pictures or patterns on the bench too. But when the city took over all the cash handling from the food programs, there was no longer any access to money for materials, and anyway a different park maintenance crew was put in charge of looking after the bench. That crew was busy with lots of other projects, and so the bench gradually crumbled without care. This year the bench had become an eyesore, so Councillor Bailao’s office agreed to have it removed and the space in the middle filled in. The maintenance staff had over-ordered armour stone for other projects, and so they set up some of the leftovers where the bench had been. It’s hard to know how many people will want to sit on the big blocks, since they’re rough and uncomfortable and at an awkward height. A laminated photo of the original bench is up on the bulletin board nearby, as a little reminder of a sociable gathering place that worked for a good many years.

Chairs for the park: bring along your cast-offs, and help your neighbours sit down

Public spaces (like the rink house) wear out chairs. After a thousand bums have sat on a chair, it falls apart. The clubhouse stock of normal-size chairs is down to FOUR only. Are there any still-solid candidate (chairs) hiding in your garage or your storage locker? Chairs or stools that you don’t need any more could have a fulfilling twilight period at the park. (Will trade for bread or a campfire!)

The gardening club at Dufferin Grove

Dufferin Grove Park has a variety of gardens including native plant beds, native tree groves, a little rooftop garden, and a naturalized savannah garden, as well as vegetable gardens. The drop-in garden club helps maintain these gardens, and is open to everyone. You can join to help out as often or seldom as you like. From spring to fall, the garden club meets to seed, plant, compost, weed, harvest, prune, build garden beds, invent trellises, mulch, rake, build paths, and/or anything else that needs doing in the gardens. They welcome garden novices and experts alike -- the garden club is a great place to share what you know and/or pick up new tricks. There are three community garden support staff at the park: Rachel Weston, Leslie Lindsay, and (back for the summer) Anna Bekerman.

On the website there is a weekly gardening workboard, that tells what the current activities are. Here are some examples, from Rachel Weston:
Gardening this week: Hi everyone. We have been very busy in the park this week. Last Sunday we had one crew installing a climbing bean trellis, and another one building and installing a new raised bed, while yet another crew was renovating the herb garden. On Wednesday we took on the challenge of weeding the perennial garden beds in front of the rinkhouse and planting annuals there. This week we will be focusing on the south end of the park, rebuilding the pathways and weeding in the children's pollinator garden, and weeding the green roof amongst other things.

Remembering Garrison Creek Discussion and Planting Party:

We have been very fortunate to receive funding from the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto to revitalize the Garrison Creek memorial garden in the gully on the west side of the park (where the Garrison Creek tributary, Denison Creek, one of Toronto's lost rivers, once ran). This will be a hands-on workshop involving a discussion about Toronto's ravine topography and the buried rivers on which much of the city has been built as well as a planting session of moisture-loving native species in the garden.

The garden club meets Sundays from 2 to 4 and Wednesdays from 5 to 7. Meetings sometimes include a delicious lunch or snack using garden produce. To find out more:

Cheap natural playgrounds versus expensive ones

There are two new “natural playgrounds” in Toronto: McCleary Park at Queen near Jones (it cost $320,000) and Margaret Fairley Park at Ulster and Brunswick (still under construction, for $400,000). The city’s press releases say that these are Toronto’s first natural playgrounds, but of course there’s the adventure playground at Dufferin Grove Park as well (built for under $10,000). It takes some sand, some shovels, some water, some building materials.....

More support needed for Dufferin Grove’s three staff with significant disabilities

In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act came out with great fanfare. Amendments were added year after year, but for city employees with disabilities (and wonderful abilities!), the deadline for having even the fundamental supports in place is not until 2016. Meantime, these Dufferin Grove staff have been facing some big, unnecessary hurdles. This issue needs some speaking out from park users. For more information: talk to Jutta Mason (

Campbell Park (at Campbell and Wallace) summer program

1) Campbell Park Recreational Gardening Workshop: Fridays 5 to 7 pm. Come plant flowers, and veggies and help weed, water and learn about plants or come for the fun of gardening. Snacks available.  Volunteers are welcome to do between-session plant care if they consult with staff first. (Same staff as at Dufferin Grove.) Many preteens enjoy learning about growing things, getting their hands in the dirt. There are raised beds, growing vegetables, herbs, decorative and edible flowers. No registration is necessary, and the hands-on workshops are free city-run  drop-in programs

Community garden support staff Lucy Tishkina sends out weekly garden updates. Here’s an example: It is hard to believe that it has only been a few short weeks of the gardening season - there is so much growing in our gardens. Last week we put in the rest of the grow bags and planted some lettuces, herbs, cauliflower and swiss chard. There is potted lemon balm and mint to start a "tea herb" garden.   This week we will weed and mulch the path around the raised bed. We will also intercrop the raised bed with some fast growing greens (mostly spinach and lettuce). Snacks will be provided for participants

 2) Campbell Community Supper with Campfire: Saturdays 5:30-7pm.  Recreation staff work with local youth to cook a wholesome meal in the park clubhouse kitchen. Outside there’s a campfire.  The meal (suggested donation $5), includes a meat option and vegan option, gluten-free. There is always a salad and dessert. Hotdogs are beef, Halal, or Vegan.

3. First Saturday of every month: the Really Really Free Market. A great opportunity to recycle useful things like baby clothes or kitchen supplies or claim useful items like curling irons without spending a dime.  Bring what you want to bring and take what you need.

MacGregor Park (at Lansdowne north of College) summer program: 

Despite the wading pool problem (see below), some of the formerly integrated summer programs will try to continue in truncated fashion. The same staff who work at Dufferin Grove run MacGregor summer park programming in the traditional ways, for welcoming neighbourhood families and fostering new friendships. From Friday June 28 till Sunday September 1st, 2013, there will be a snack bar Monday to Friday 10:30-4pm, Saturday & Sunday 11:30-5pm. Non-pool program staff will run daily Arts & Crafts, games, Dress-up, Pickup sports, and summer reading.

There are also extra park programs throughout the week: 

Monday Evening Garden Club 6-8pm, with campfire 7-9pm
Waffle Wednesday public drop-in 12-1pm. $1.50/waffle. Group bookings available, 11-12, or 1-2pm contact
Thursday Garden club 10am-12
Friday community supper 6:30, campfire and songs till 10 Garden support staff Ava Lighbody sends out garden bulletins to anyone who wants to be on the garden list. An example: Our compost and mulch deliveries arrived from the City, so the path-making has begun and the new garden beds have been fully prepped. One of them has sunflowers growing it, while the rest await their vegetable seeds and seedlings – to be planted this week!

The concrete planters at the north-east corner of the park are slowly coming into their full glory. The strawberries are finally ready to be harvested, while the little green beginnings of Highbush cranberries and service berries (yum!) can be seen amongst the leaves.

Wading pools in Dufferin Grove Park and MacGregor Park

The wading pools at Dufferin Grove Park and MacGregor Park, like all the city’s other wading pools, will be run centrally by young staff without any links to other programs going on in the park. These staff seldom come from the neighbourhood but are sent all over, without enough stability to connect personally with park users (including the kids). This is a radical change from summer programs in Toronto parks for the last fifty years. It’s not based on any accidents or liability issues, but only on a new system with lots of new procedures. As happened last summer, centrally devised wading pool “safety rules” will mean that there are higher levels of chlorine and many periods of the day when kids are not allowed in the pool. Very sad.

Farmers’ Market news

Is the bloom off the rose at Toronto’s farmers’ markets? There are so many markets now. So many market shoppers come when it’s sunny and go to Loblaws when it rains. Some of the farmers are saying it’s not worth their while to make the trip into town, and they want to go back to selling at the farm gate. Dufferin Grove, being one of the older markets (and the second park market to be started, by the farmers themselves – Riverdale was the first) – Dufferin Grove is still doing okay. But we can’t rest on our laurels or history either. Here’s a recent subscriber market news from market manager Anne Freeman:
Last Thursday was about the worst June market we've ever had. The predicted showers turned into solid rain, and only a fraction of our usual shoppers braved the weather to get their provisions. I'd like to thank those trusty regulars, especially the ones with the instinct to buy extra on what was a very tough day for the vendors. We're not like a supermarket, where the 24/7 option allows for just shifting shopping to a more pleasant time, and even when customers decide they'll visit their favourite vendors at another market instead, it makes for challenges in planning, and wasted food. Really irregular attendance ultimately leads to fewer local organic food producers being able to make a go of it, and higher prices for shoppers. So while I understand that it's not half as much fun to head out on a stormy day, I'm going to ask everybody to consider yourself part of a co-operative venture in local food and farming, and keep that Thursday 3-7 slot highlighted on your calendars no matter what!

Anne is sounding a serious call to action. The farmers’ market, use it or lose it.

Of course, the rewards of coming are sweet – wonderful fresh food and face-to-face contact with the growers and snack-makers. Here’s the rest of Anne’s market news for that same day in early June: Returning to our previously scheduled good news, it's time for...(drum roll here) Strawberries! From Jessie and Ben Sosnicki, whose farm is near Brantford: "The last couple of years building up the strawberry patch should provide a good yield for market this year. We had no frost so all blossoms are intact and throwing gorgeous large fruit. Awesome flavour and yes, they are sweet! The patch is a colourful mixture of ripening berries, flowers, weeds and volunteer garlic. We are harvesting the early variety and by next week will be into the 'Jewels', the main variety. They're both excellent and are keeper varieties for sure. Less exciting but totally yummy and gorgeous too are our Mini Lettuces in dark red and buttery greens. Big Romaines and Beets too :) And I think it's time to bring our new baby Sadie to Dufferin for the first time. Can't wait to share the strawberry harvest and for everyone to meet the newest Sosnicki!"

The farmers’ market is every Thursday 3 to 7 pm, by the rink house and along the path.


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web sites: Aseel Al Najim,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


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