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Follow-up comments/statements after the "Ghost Oven" Open Letter

Open Letter

Aug.29, 2022, from Dale Howey:

"a reference to the focus of the ‘hearth’ in family and community might tug a bit more at their heart strings"

From Jutta: I'll add that to the next letter, or you could say it at a meeting, if one comes about (I mean, a real conversation about the issues involved).

Aug.30, from Lily Weston:

"Partnership since 2000? not since it was built?
- encouraging outdoor learning in all seasons
Can you include a few pictures eg community suppers, moms and tots..."

From Jutta:

pizza day

moms and tots at pizza day, 1998

Friday Night Supper

Aug.31, from Barry Ross:

"We at Fairmount remain available to you and any others of the park’s oven leads to overview about our procedures and processes/project management for how our oven functions.

These procedures are always evolving, be it a learning thing or continuous improvement thing or just thinking up new events to include."

From Jutta: Thank you to Barry Ross for highlighting an issue to take into account when thinking about the ovens.

Barry helps to run the Fairmount oven, on Gerrard East near Coxwell -- that's the original Christie Pits oven, which city staff moved across town in August 2019 to Fairmount Park, on a flatbed truck.

Barry has also been part of the Fairmount "Ice Masters," a large and lively group that creates and maintains a natural ice rink at Fairmount Park for below-freezing days every winter. Barry says the ice rink group has been going for about 30 years, on the principle that Parks and Rec should leave the Ice Masters to do their thing and not interfere.

Park neighbours at Fairmount have been operating their bake oven in the same leave-us-alone way, after it became evident that working with Parks staff would mean very limited oven use. At Fairmount oven, the approach is still working (and it’s wonderful to see the relocated Christie oven having its second life). Barry has offered to tell how they do it, and told me he would prefer it if other oven users would take a similar approach, instead of sending this open letter.

But the "ghost oven" letter I've drafted comes from a different direction: an interest in giving a public account of what's wrong in the Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) bureaucracy, using our specific experiences with the ovens as one part of the evidence.

Two reasons why this documentation matters:

1. The operating budget (not including capital) of Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) for this fiscal year is almost half a billion dollars ($482 million). The administration cost is very high. Many of the services have diminished even as the budget has increased. The ovens, now mostly padlocked, are only one small sign of the problem.

2. There’s a possibility that there will be a pushback, before too long, against PFR. The last time that there was a serious rebellion against the city bureaucracy was at the end of the 1970s. In 1994 I interviewed Herb Pirk, the last commissioner of Toronto Parks and Rec before the forced city amalgamation. He told me that in 1973 he got his first Parks and Rec admin job doing "community consultations."

“The Department of Parks and Recreation was very conservative at the time, very insular, city-hall controlled. They sent me out to meet with the community and be the kind-of front person. And so I got hammered from the community and I’d come back to city hall, and they’d say, “well, you’ve got to hold the line here,” and I’d say, “wait a second, you can’t, this is not going to go well here.”……[The result was that] city council created a task force to review the neighbourhood social and recreational services of the city….to see if there were ways to remove some of that central control from City Hall and put it into communities. During that time there was also a movement of neighbourhood city halls. We were going to decentralize city hall and put in little mini-city halls into the neighbourhoods.”

There has been a big turnover at all levels of management and supervisory staff at PFR in the last few years. These new civil servants need to hear that their bureaucracy too often erects barriers which block the enjoyment and surprises that can emerge in neighbourhood public spaces. The new staff also need to learn the complexity involved in removing such blocks. I would like to contribute to this learning with a public account of the policies leading to "ghost ovens." I'm curious to see what can happen, among park users and also at the different levels of PFR staff, when the situation is made explicit.


Sept.6, 2022 Letter on the Maytree website

Sept.9, 2022, from Recreation manager Cheryl MacDonald

Wanted to connect regarding bake oven access at Dufferin Grove. We recognize the importance of the bake oven to community building and the concerns raised by the community with regard to access during the construction period.

Have met with Anthony and the team to work out some options to support bake oven programming over the coming weeks, that would align with the Thursday Market.

Would like to set up a call to discuss.

Sept.12. 2022, letter from PFR general manager Janie Romoff to Alan Broadbent

From the general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Sept.12 2022:

“Prior to 2022, the use of bake ovens in this park was coordinated with City food programs and community programming supported by City staff….Once the state-of-good-repair project is complete, anticipated for early 2023, these programs will be reinstated at Dufferin Grove.”

“[W]e have heard from members of the local community that this temporary solution [I.e. charging for oven use, no staff support] does not meet their needs. Based on this feedback, we've proposed an alternative arrangement that will allow an adjusted food program with staff-facilitated access to the bake oven to be reinstated at Dufferin Grove Park this year, and we're working with community members to implement this.”

read more

Sept.14, 2022, a letter from Michele Landsberg

Why would they call us “customers” instead of “citizens”? Why do they want to stop, prevent, repress rather than enhance, enable, encourage? A park is not a business. A community is not a corporation. read more

Sept.15, 2022 Letter from Recreation Director Howie Dayton

The City recognizes the social benefits of outdoor ovens in parks as amenities that support community building and the simple enjoyment of park spaces. Although as City staff we are obliged to work within food and fire safety requirements, resource availability, liability, and bylaws, and this is why the Council-approved permit option is in place for these amenities, we also aim to increase and facilitate community access.

read more


Sept.16, 2022

removing the ghost signs

Meeting at the park near the oven: with Anthony DeLaurentis, Jutta Mason, Sofia Oliviera, and Nicole Jacobs. We discussed the logistics of using the oven again, with city staff support. The first tryout is planned for Sept.22, doing a pizza day with homeschooled kids and then with children who are there at the farmers' market.

Here are some links to former outdoor oven information lists.

Pizza day info from 2010

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