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< campfire permission removed | Problems 2007 | Outdoor rink ice maintenance >

Description: Community members respond to cancellation of campfires in Ward 18
Status: Closed
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Letters about the campfire program cancellation

1. From Meaghan Boyce to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Jan.29 2007

I would like to express my dismay and disappointment that there may no longer be fire permits issued for Dufferin Grove Park and existing fire pit reservations cancelled. This seems to me to be an unreasonable and reactionary ban given the fact that so many campfires have been held without incident over the years.

I believe that community is built through caring for and enjoying our common gathering places. It seems that community is being 'snuffed out' by the fear that someone, somewhere could be held liable if anything should happen. I would like our parks to remain vibrant, vital places. Instead, the spirit of local community investment and care is being preemptively annulled. This fire-pit ban seems completely misplaced and fosters a mentality of patronizing mistrust from the officials who should be partnering with the community to care for the park.

Please help to save a long and SAFE tradition that has been part of the life of Dufferin Grove Park since 1993.

2. From Jutta Mason to the Brockton neighbours listserv, Feb.2, 2007

hello Brockton neighbours -- I noticed that someone on your list had an item about a big snowball event at Trinity -- sounded neat but I didn't take much notice until I just heard that the event was disallowed today by Parks Supervisor Peter Leis. Apparently the snow-making machine was ordered out. I don't know if that's true. But the same Parks supervisor has created lots of unhappiness at Dufferin Grove Park by suddenly getting all the cooking fire/campfire permits withdrawn. (He's also the same guy who said in the summer that children under 16 had to kept away from any cob-building because it's too dangerous.)

Nothing bad happened with a fire -- the supervisor just felt that protocol wasn't observed the way he wanted, since he transferred here from Etobicoke where they run a tighter ship. He now says that the Dufferin Grove fire permit will no longer be done locally but given out centrally for $53 a pop. The campfires were part of an "eyes on the park" program and the cost would certainly undermine that. Plus there are many other reasons why "if it ain't broke don't fix it."

There seems to be an issue of "whose parks are they anyway?" developing here. A note to your councillor about this would be very helpful -- contacts with both Pantalone for Trinity snowballs and Giambrone for Dufferin Grove campfires would make a big difference.

3. From Jutta Mason to the dufferingrovefriends listserv Feb.2 2007

Dear park friends, Once again your e-mails can help a park problem. Pasted in below is the rink diary entry from Jan.31. Attached is a bit from the February newsletter. So far, attempts to fix the cancellation of Dufferin Grove campfires through negotiation have been unsuccessful. In a situation like this, your e-mail to the councillor is worth a lot: and cc

Councillor Giambrone supports the cooking fires and has come to them himself, but your e-mails can very much strengthen his advocacy for this matter at City Hall.

4. From Kathryn Scharf to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.2 2007

It is depressing to hear that there may not be any more permits granted for cooking fires at Dufferin Grove. So many pleasant things have happened around the fires, and as I understand it, so little unpleasant or dangerous, that it is just criminal to allow some miserably killjoy parks and rec bureaucrats to wreck the fun.

Just a few weeks ago, on January 13, I got a campfire permit to celebrate my son's birthday in the park, and on a warm sunny day my four-year-old and several cronies toasted marshmallows around the fire. Some kids we didn't know stopped by and they toasted some too. All of the adults there said what a wonderful thing it was to be able to do something so simple yet special in a public park.

Please continue to do your best to turn this around.

5. From Georgie Donais to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.2, 2007

I am writing to thank you for your support of the long-standing and ongoing tradition of cooking fires in Dufferin Grove Park, and other parks throughout Ward 18 and the city. I would like to encourage you to push for collaboration between the very experienced city recreation staff, and citizens -- who have been staging these fires without negative incident for thirteen years -- and Toronto Parks.

I would like to stress that a park's existence is for the pleasure and enrichment of the citizens who use and cherish it. It is not just another place of employment that the city must manage, and citizens are not liabilities who get in the way of administrative efficiencies. Successful collaboration will pay the city back many times in healthier, happier citizens who love and support their communities. That is truly an opportunity worth taking.

Thank you for your help.

6. From Erella Ganon to the Dufferingrovefriends listserv, Feb.2 2007

The ban on cooking fires? What is next? At the dufferin grove park, fires have warmed hot chocolates, cider, assorted other warm beverages and humans too for many years without any scary incidents at all.

Other parks all over the city try to emulate the sense of fun and community we have here at the dufferin grove park. Fires warm more than just beverages, I think. Sometimes they warm spirits too.

I don’t understand why someone would look at something that is working well and try to figure out how to spoil the fun.

I don’t know what it would take to get cooking fires allowed at the dufferin grove park again, but I would hope that Peter “kill joy” Leiss, the Parks supervisor reconsider his ruling and consider taking up a new hobby. There must be a better use for his time than closing down snowball games at Trinity Bellwood park and cooking fires too. He salary is paid for by our tax dollars. How did a man like this, with so little faith in humans ever get an important job such as this one?

7. From Angela O'Hara to City Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.2 2007

I am writing with regards to the cancellation by the city of permits to make cooking fires in Dufferin Grove park. I think this is a reflection of a very sad and short-sighted perspective on behalf of the city. Dufferin Grove is highly unique in Toronto for many wonderful things and one of those things is the ability to have traditional cooking fires, one of the few places left where this is possible. Having a cooking fire is one of the simplest and most pleasurable ways for people to come together and the ability to do this in a park in the city, particularly within the wonderful setting of Dufferin Grove, is cherished by the community. Depriving us and our children of this is surely a means to further sterilize urban life from the most simple yet fulfilling of past-times.

For many years, Dufferin Grove has had cooking fires without incident and it's fair to say that the circumstances around this particular incident in question and the heeded response (as I understand it) are up for debate. I implore you to please help us to reverse this ban on cooking fires in Dufferin Grove and preserve this vital community activity.

8. From Angela Shilolo to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.2 2007

This email is to express, both as a member of your constituency and community, my support to allow the continuation of campfires (and/or permits for) in public parks, specifically with regards to the recent related issues facing Dufferin Grove and surrounding parks.

With respect for all of our time and energy, I thank you for your attention to the matter.

9. From Ann Bjorseth to Mayor Miller, Feb.2 2007

I know you are familiar with Dufferin Grove Park and how wonderful it is for all of us in this community, young and old, a variety of cultures, middle class or whatever class, with special emphasis on inclusion and friendliness. That's why I'm asking you to support having camp fires available in our park. I have had a fire permit on several occasions, for children in my daughter's school, and for family events. The fires have been a wonderful opportunity for fun and celebration. On each occasion, the park staff has provided me with safety equipment and guidance. Please help to insure we can continue to have fire permits at our park.

10. From Nadya Burton to Councilor Adam Giambrone, Feb.4 2007

I am a regular user of Dufferin Grove park, and have lived in the neighbourhood for over 10 years. I have two children, currently ages 11 and 6, and I have been taking them to Dufferin Grove regularly since they were born. While there are many wonderful things about Dufferin Grove, that truly make it an outdoor community centre, the park fires are one of the highlights for myself and for many, many park users. I am shocked and angry that the city has decided to ban these fires.

I know that in the past you have been supportive of outdoor fires at Dufferin Grove, and as a constituent in your riding, I call on you to continue this support and to help this community re-institute fire permits for our park.

In all the years I have used the park I have never seen the fires used dangerously or inappropriately. My family has rented the fire pits for numerous family birthday parties, and I have attended gatherings of others at these fire pits in both winter and summer. Additionally, my family skates often at the Dufferin Grove rink. One of the delights of the Dufferin Grove rink is the small fire burning nearby, sometimes heating cider or hot chocolate, but more often just burning a few logs (it is never a large fire). I have, over the past decade, observed families (including my own) with toddlers and young children, and older kids and teenagers, as well as adults, all congregate around these fires. Park staff are always around, safety is attended to constantly. Any time I have rented a fire pit I have been trained by park staff about what to do, how to manage a fire out of control, and have been given tools needed (buckets of water and shovel) to manage a fire responsibly.

I can see no reason, other than bureaucratic rationales, which rarely apply to individual contexts or take into account particular circumstances, to ban small, controlled, outdoor fires in designated areas at Dufferin Grove Park. As you know, Dufferin Grove is a star in this city. It provides meaningful, healthy, creative opportunities for teenagers, young families and many individuals marginalized in other communities to share outdoor space in a wonderful way. The park fires are an integral and wonderful part of this community, and I find it shocking that they should be banned with so little exploration of how they are being used and managed in this particular community.

I would like to be kept informed about how the City is dealing with this situation.

11. Kyla Dixon-Muir, and George A. Moore, to Councillor Giambrone, and Mayor Miller, Feb.4 2007:

Thank you for your continued support for the long-standing tradition of cooking fires both in Dufferin Grove Park and other parks throughout both Ward 18 and the whole city. I am asking you to please push for more collaboration between the Toronto Parks' very experienced recreation staff and the citizens who have been staging these fires without negative incident for thirteen years.

I see you in action at Cycling Committee meetings, and know how effective you can be. I used to be a resident of your ward for many years, and a very regular participant at Dufferin Grove, having read and enjoyed Jutta Mason's text Cooking with Fires in Public Spaces, and having held my own keys to the bake ovens.

I live in Ward 30 now, and my husband and I are the coordinators of Riverdale Meadow Community Garden. As wood from this garden becomes weathered, we donate it to Dufferin Grove, so it goes from use in growing foods to use in cooking foods -- a fine furtherance, we think. We know this is not the only scrap wood being diverted to positive uses, having trucked many loads of what others might think is waste to a beneficial second life. Currently, our only other option would be trucking it to Michigan -- something we don't think you'd endorse.

I would like to stress that all park's existence are for the pleasure and enrichment of the citizens who use and cherish them. My husband and I continue to enjoy fires at DGP, and also often use the fire pits at Toronto Islands, too-- all year round. (Our little millennial bonfire shows in the photos of the fireworks printed in Toronto Life's 2000 celebratory spread, where we rented a cottage for a rare overnight New Years' treat.) Fire is something connected deep within our psyches and ancestral memories, and should not be reserved for the lucky few who can afford houses with fireplaces or who must drive hundreds of miles to campgrounds and cottages.

I concur with Georgie Donais who stresses that public parks are not just another place of employment that the city must manage, and citizens are not liabilities who get in the way of administrative efficiencies. Successful collaboration always pays the city back many times in healthier, happier citizens who love and support their communities. This is truly an opportunity worth continuing to take.

Thank you for your continued help.

12. From Suzanne Wilson & Ralph Kircher to Councillor Giambrone, Feb.4 2007:

I was extremely disappointed to hear about the recent "controversy" regarding the cooking fires in Dufferin Grove Park.

My family and I own a house adjacent to the park and have, since we moved here four years ago, been delighted to share in the sense of community that the activities at Dufferin Grove bring.

There is something about a wood fire, in particular in the cold winter months, that draws people together and fosters a sense of community and friendliness. Particularly for those of us with small children, it's a welcome addition to the long winter that helps draw us out to the park to play and take advantage of the rink facilities.

I have always been impressed by the responsible manner that both park staff and the members of the park community have handled the cooking fires. In fact, I feel that the respectful way that they treat the woodfires is a great fire safety learning opportunity for the children of the park.

I trust that you will continue to support this tradition - it would be real shame that if, in fear of some hypothetical "risk", we rob our kids and residents of something that really typifies the park community and the richness that so many of us get from it.

13. From Dave Howard to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.4 2007:

I am writing to thank you for your support of the long-standing and ongoing tradition of cooking fires in Dufferin Grove Park, and other parks throughout Ward 18 and the city.

I would like to encourage you to push for collaboration between the very experienced city recreation staff, and citizens -- who have been staging these fires without negative incident for thirteen years -- and Toronto Parks.

I would like to stress that a park's existence is for the pleasure and enrichment of the citizens who use and cherish it. It is not just another place of employment that the city must manage, and citizens are not liabilities who get in the way of administrative efficiencies.

Successful collaboration will pay the city back many times in healthier, happier citizens who love and support their communities. That is truly an opportunity worth taking.

Thank you for your help.

14. From Alan Carlisle to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.4 2007

As you are no doubt aware, the fire dept. has influenced the authorities into creating a fire ban in the parks. For all the obvious reasons, I personally oppose this initiative. Apart from the innate appeal of fire, that seems to so attract human beings, a total fire ban appears to be ridiculously, Draconian and unfair. It is ironic that with all of fire’s destructive possibilities, that a controlled fire in a safe Toronto Park setting is actually a community building event. Good for Chief Lyons, pointing out some of the possibilities of the dangers, after all his men and women risk all if anything goes wrong. I would hope that after addressing the chief's concerns, the sensible activity of public fire circles be restored. May I remind you that Ontario's public parks have strict fire making policy, yet thousands of campers enjoy and use fire as a fundamental activity for cooking and warmth and to generate that wonderful feeling of involvement with one's companions. Indeed, fires create a connection that consciously and unconsciously links us to our forbearers, to whom fire was a fundamental essential of life. Many communities in the rural areas tolerate fires as a direct symbol and activity of winter fun. Skating ponds from New Brunswick to Grenadier Pond typically have a casual small fire nearby for cozy evocations and practical warmth. Participants over the day and night, feed the fire and it is an engaging invitation that is real in its essence. It is not shopping, buying services, watching TV, computer time or driving. It is a modest, real activity that nourishes our soul and spirit. Done with understanding and respect, there should not be any reason to make permit fires in the park a banned activity.

Thousands and thousands of North Americans die every year on our roads and highways... many more are injured. One may describe this carnage as an epidemic. Are safety authorities calling for a ban on cars, trucks and driving? It is ridiculous to continue the park fire ban. May I suggest that park staff become properly alerted to hazards and safety issues, that a retraining session be arranged and then away we go with fire permits. I recall some years ago when a construction site on our street had a continous burning fire in a barrel. When I called the fire department to enquire, they showed up with a big, big truck, stuck their hose in the barrel and blasted away the fire...I understood that they did this because the barrel was unattended. They also told me that one may have a controlled fire for warmth and food preparation.

It seems since amalgamation, that City Services and Departments are unsure and somewhat disjointed, with Jurisdictions and protocol, liabilities and turf jealousies. This makes one believe the Public Service exists for its' own benefit and the actual serving of the public has become an inconvenient annoyance. Its like the old saying "a policeman's job is made easier in a police state." Let us not allow ourselves to succumb to the increasingly embraced process of allowing public policy to be determined by liability chill, so called public security concerns, crippling over regulation, worker convenience, department isolation and rivalries. we are indeed involved in the experiment of creating community together. By surrendering to rigid, uncompromising positions that are inflexible and serve perceived notions of the catch-all "public safety" we are condemning our selves to that grey, lifeless existence that in the end serves no one...

15. From Petra Hanzlik to Councillor Adam Giambrone and Mayor Miller, Feb.4 2007


we would like to continue with our tradition of having campfires in the park If there is a safety issue please send someone around to further educate us. There is NO REAL REASON that you need to cut them when we have proven we are responsible, careful and have a perfect track record.

Your immediate attention to this matter would be appreciated by all

16. From K.H. to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.4 2007:

Please I hope you can intervene regarding the new restriction on campfires in Dufferin Grove Park (and also at Wallace and Campbell rinks). The recreation staff, together with community residents have really made many positive changes in the park throughout the years; more people are enjoying the facilities and activities, one of which is the campfires. I hope you can help collaborate between the community's concern and the Toronto Parks and help to re-negotiate permission for campfires again.

I thank you for your kind attention.

17. From Roscoe Handford to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.4 2007

I'm writing to add my support to having cooking fire permits in city parks kept available.

Certainly we must be careful around how we use open fires in public spaces, but we must also be equally careful to not dismiss arguably the most basic way to bring people together to enjoy each other and to meet. Public services that protect people out of enjoying themselves are doing no service whatsoever.

Surely it's the duty of the fire dep't to see that lighting fires is done with the greatest safety possible, but not to deny them altogether. Likewise, it should be up to the Parks dep't to provide safe ways for people to do what they want, but not to deny what people want to do. I'm reminded of the Parks dep't salting the community rink over here at Wychwood barns a few years back, based on the information that it was icy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

18. From Henrik Bechmann to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.4 2007
Subject: Cooking fire ban is not about fire safety. It is about control.

I would like to contrast stewardship with centralized planning and control of programs, taking the position that stewardship is more effective in many situations than central planning and control. We now have a case in point: the edicts of Parks Supervisor Leiss and Fire Captain Lyons which have suspended cooking fire permits in Ward 18.

I remind you that the recent community events organized at Campbell and Wallace under the guidance of community stewards and community-based parks staff have been spectacularly successful. By contrast, these events are now under attack by the actions of Mr. Leiss.

I submit that the edicts of Mr. Leiss are far more about control ("who controls the parks?") than about fire safety, and furthermore that they demonstrate the weaknesses of over-reliance on a central planning and control model.

This is not about fire safety:

That the ban is not about fire safety is clear for several reasons:

1. There was never any actual fire damage. The ban was issued based on an incomplete evaluation initiated internally, not on the basis of any report of fire damage.

2. There was never any danger. The fires at Wallace were within Ontario Fire Safety code: at least one meter from the nearest flammable structure, and a height clearance of 3 times the height of the fire (3 meters for a latitude of a one meter high fire). Furthermore the fires were closely supervised at all times by highly experienced and trained city staff.

3. The edict of a 30 meter distance requirement is either incompetent or punitive. The Ontario Fire Code gives one meter as a safe distance for a cooking fire. Two meters would be applying an over-abundance of caution. Thirty meters is clearly absurd.

In the absence of solid fire safety reasons, this leaves control as the primary motivation for Mr. Leiss' actions.

This is about control:

1. Mr. Leiss ignores a 13 year precedent that was achieved in the same regulatory framework. This manifestly constitutes arbitrary action.

2. Mr. Leiss cites Municipal bylaw 608-10 as the basis for his action. Yet this bylaw is very general, and doesn't even mention cooking fires (although cooking fires are referred to in many regulations, including the City's, as special exceptions). In other words this bylaw is open to interpretation when taken together with other parts of the regulatory framework. Mr. Leiss had made an explicit decision to interpret the bylaw in the most restrictive possible fashion, in complete disregard of the damage to the community of his actions. This constitutes, in my opinion, abuse of authority.

3. Mr. Leiss is acting against the stated goals of Parks Forestry and Recreation with respect to community involvement. In my opinion this constitutes inappropriate behaviour for a public servant.

In short there is no defensible substantive reason for Mr. Leiss' actions. I can only surmise that Mr. Leiss either does not appreciate the role of stewardship in community development, or is actively hostile toward it. Either way he clearly has opted for an authoritarian, and indeed condescending approach, requiring a degree of bureaucratic control over activities (specifications, pre-planning, centralized permits, and fees) which does not contribute in any way to community development, but rather only serves to impede and impose his control over all activities within his domain.

In addition Mr. Leiss is developing a track record of taking regulatory positions that are unnecessarily damaging to community initiatives. This includes the barriers (literal and figurative) that he put in the way of the composting toilet project last summer, the recent ban of snow making equipment in Trinity Bellwoods, and this campfire ban.


The consequences of Mr. Leiss's action are damage to community development and specific activities, damage to morale among community workers and local parks staff, and waste of taxpayer resources through the unnecessary drama generated by his actions.

Action items:

I believe the following actions need to be taken:

1. Cooking fire permitting be re-instituted as before. For further certainty, the parties could agree (again!) generally that cooking fires should be one or two meters away from flammable structures, with appropriate overhead clearance, and that the number of cooking fire sites be appropriately limited and marked by local staff.

2. Mr. Leiss should be reprimanded. He clearly has a problem conforming to the needs of this community.

19. From Maria Brum to the dufferingrovefriends listserv, Feb.4 2007

I am not sure why the ban is happening-- which is a bummer !!!! ( more waste of paper and staff time at city level)

I have a very strong feeling that, this is a legal matter. That the city doesn't want to have events, where someone may get "hurt". Then the next thing that happens, is the city has a law suit on its hands. Given the increase amount of law suits over the last 10 years or so.

Is there any loophole in the this ban ????? -- any legal ppl out there ??? dose anyone know???

There is a way of getting around it !!!!!!!!! do read on

You/we can all take a portable fire- ie, a BBQ, a portable oven. That happens at beaches/ parks across the city and province. That way, programming, regularly scheduled ,can continue to do so.

Hot Chocolate or yummmmmmmmy melted marshmallows anyone ?? ( both for me thanks !) See ya at the park !

20. From Erella Ganon to the dufferingrovefriends listserv Feb.4 2007

The insurance industry has been raking in record profits in the last decade. This is a fact.

Every year is more profitable than the previous one or any that preceded it. Imagine that.

I remember when the playgrounds were all being ripped out of public playgrounds and schoolyards there was a lot of discussion about liability. With a small amount of research we discovered that way more injuries happened AFTER they took away the fun parts (swings, slides and sand boxes) and left the dangerous part (the concrete).

No one has been injured as a result of a cooking fire in the 13 years of that happening at the dufferin park. What has happened is a great deal of warmth of all sorts.

It seems like a foolish thing to charge fees in parks for a number of things like cooking fires. Charging people for having meetings in schools is equally short sighted. Building communities should be a priority for the parks department.

I wish it were being led by a person with vision.

How do these people get these jobs?

21. From Gene Threndyle to Councillor Giambrone and Mayor Miller, Feb.5 2007

I'm writing to ask why the city is opposed to the community building activities at Dufferin Grove Park like the outdoor fires. Certainly the idea of having a fire especially in the winter was not invented at DGP. I remember very well skating on Grenadier Pond and warming up beside a fire many years ago. What has changed to make this activity unacceptable?

I would give the city of Toronto the benefit of doubt because many thing that we could do in the past like fly to the US without a passport, we can no longer do. I feel that this however, is a case of the city going to war against its citizens because of the history at DGP. The city has been opposed to the farmers' market and many other things.

To the city's credit, it has not been so heavy handed as to stop all these community driven activities and in fact has allowed so many that DGP stands out as a shining example to other neighbourhoods as to what can be done if people only care enough to get involved and not simply let our masters run our publicly own assets for us.

When will city hall acknowledge that the Friends of Dufferin Grove is not simply one bad woman who needs to be controlled by middle aged men and their bureaucracies but a genuine, creative, democratic (albeit unstructured) response to urban life at the beginning of a new century? It is not perfect in fact it is a trial and error experiment but the city should be celebrating this and helping to expand it, not always trying to shut it down.

There are alot of things this city could do to help community involvement in parks and public space and to help neighbourhoods resolve conflicts in a bottom up democratic fashion but I do not see anything inovative happening in my city in those regards. Let them have fires in DGP.

22. From Jane Price to Councillor Giambrone, Feb.6 2007:

I am writing to thank you for your support of the interesting and creative life that now flourishes in Dufferin Grove Park and to ask for your support now in dealing with the troubles over cooking fires.

I believe the ingredient that makes Dufferin Grove park so vital. is that the park, as it now works operates, offers urban residents access to a public space where they can join or initiate activities that are meaningful to them. Dufferin Grove is not all about "programs" that people sign up for. Quite to the contrary, it is a place where people have a chance to make things happen from cooking fires to pizza parties to outdoor theatre.It is a place urban dwellers can make their own in way that we can never do if we are joining into someone else's program or set of instructional sessions. And, because people have the feeling they can "make the park their own," it is a fabulous place for people to gather, meet, and maybe go from being strangers to acquaintances and sometimes even, to friends. How valuable is a meeting place that breaks down the isolation of the urban dweller? How important are the activities that allow this to happen?

Cooking Fires are a great symbol of what Dufferin Grove is about and what other parks can become. There is long standing tradition of cooking fires in Dufferin Grove Park, and as well, in other parks throughout Ward 18 and the city.

We really need you to speak up now and push Toronto Parks to work respectfully with the very experienced city recreation staff, and citizens -- who have been staging these fires without negative incident for thirteen years in Dufferin Grove.

Dufferin Grove, like all Toronto parks, exists for the pleasure and enrichment of Toronto citizens. We need to remember that this is the goal and make decisions not based on the needs of the bureaucracy but with a view to the goal of enriching the lives of the city dwellers. Thank you for your help.

23. From Kathy Patterson to Mayor David Miller, Feb.11 2007

I want to add my voice to the many voices asking to have the campfires re-instated at Dufferin Grove Park. I am sure you are aware of how unique Dufferin Grove park has become over these last years ( if not- please visit!!!- especially for a Friday night dinner! ) As a family with a small child we have come to love Dufferin Grove for it's warmth and community spirit and for the vast array of experiences it offers- including a chance to enjoy a warm outdoor fire in the middle winter. The fires have always been well attended with people and buckets of water, and I have never felt or witnessed anything that would suggest there is a safety risk. On the contrary, I think the many varied dynamics at the park help grow a safer community- with better bonds between people of all ages and with lots of things for young people to engage in instead of getting lost to boredom. Please then help us to get the fires going again. My little daughter misses them a lot and it's just not the same with a pretend tissue paper fire that has replaced the dancing flames.

24. From Bob Edwards, Registrar, 62nd Toronto Scout Group, to Councillor Giambrone and Mayor Miller, Feb.12 2007

On behalf of the 62nd Toronto Scout Group and the 1st Centennial Scout Group, (an alumni group of former Scouts), I wish to register my concern about any changes to the campfire permits or procedures at Dufferin Grove Park.

We have held many campfires in the park. For some of our inner-city youth it's the first 'real' fire they've seen. It's a neighbourhood opportunity to teach fire safety and cooking skills etc.

The on-site staff are always very thorough outlining the rules and supplying the fire buckets, shovels and wheel barrow. They stop by to inspect the proceedings during the campfire and check up upon closing.

I have forty years of Scouting experience and cannot see any deficiencies in the practices and procedures in place. Surely, on site control and oversight is preferable to a Permit simply issued from City Hall.

Last summer we had a campfire for a group of Scouts visiting from Liverpool UK. They had never seen a city park with such community involvement and spirit. Several commented that they would like to borrow the "Friends of..." concept to use at home where parks are lifeless, dangerous places after dark.

Let's live up to the "A City Within a Park" motto by not stifling local initiative! Hopefully, procedures can be implemented that meet all party's needs.

25. From Gillian Green to Mayor David Miller:

I would like to take this opportunity to voice my disappointment with the current situation regarding campfires at Dufferin Grove Park. As a neighbour and a park supporter, we have reserved the firepits to celebrate many occasions over the years. We have had the fortunate pleasure of sharing our unique park with friends and relatives from across the country. Many of whom have been delighted and inspired by the community spirit and unanticipated adventure the park has to offer. The firepit is one of the strong elements that allows for the interaction and celebration to occur. We have booked the firepits to allow a warm focus to our gathering events; skating parties; outdoor wiener roasts and summer night fireside storey telling. Each time we marvel at how lucky we are to have such a wonderful opportunity right in the middle of an urban setting!

It is just too sad that bureaucracy has muddied the system. Reserving a spot, signing a form to take responsibility for the fire pit and garnering buckets of water for dousing the pit at the end-- I always felt that this existing protocol was simple and effective. Making the reserving of firepits inaccessible, expensive or additionally burdened with bureaucratic steps seems unfortunate and unnecessary.

Please lift the ban and hear the reason of thirteen years of safe and fun history park campfires. Please do not allow the pleasure of urban campfires to be engulfed in undeserving regulatory framework. Please let us keep our city within a park.

Do come and enjoy a toasted marshmallow in the sanctity of our Toronto neighbourhood park.

26. From Hastings Withers to Deputy Mayor Sandra Bussin, Feb.13 2007

I'm not sure if you would have seen the email below, but as Deputy Mayor, I'm sure you'd be interested in things outside of just the Beaches riding. Our family now go all the way from the Beaches to Dufferin Grove Park for their programs - which include community meals, hockey programs for women, for children, for beginner adults, and in summer they have theatre, dance and . and . and . . . the list goes on and on.

Everything I've seen about how they run programs at the park would lead me to have total confidence that the Scout fire lighting program would be excellently and safely run. Speaking as citizen, voter and past Scout leader, I would hope the Parks Department finds a way to make this program work as well as all the other programs at Dufferin Grove.

I'd appreciate it if you could pass my comments on to the relevant people in the Parks Dep't.

27. From Mary-Margaret Jones to Mayor Miller, Feb.12 2007

It is my understanding that Parks supervisor Peter Leiss has decided that Dufferin Grove Park should no longer be able to offer campfires. Parks supervisor Peter Leiss was concerned and unhappy about the safety of having all those campfires in parks, and gave the order to stop them on the grounds of "inadequate protocol."

First of all, there have been no incidences to warrant his decision. Apparently, Dufferin Grove has safely offered campfires and cooking fires to park users for 13 years. I understand the "what if" factor on this -- what if a fire got out of control etc. Thing is, I took the course and it was fine. I was told exactly where to find water, how to extinguish the fire regardless of my assurances that I am an experienced camper.

What is adequate protocol? Is Mr. Leiss a campfire safety expert? Could he offer a different protocol to the Dufferin Grove Park staff instead of just taking away campfires?

Dufferin Grove Park is exceptional to all other parks in the city. Volunteers have put a lot of time and effort to build a community that comes together for arts festivals, the summer playground, skating and -- yes -- campfires. Personally, I hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner at Dufferin Grove in 2006 and it was fabulous. People of all ages gathered around the fire to share food in a very meaningful way.

I realize that in a time when we are worrying about transit and gun violence that something like a campfire in a public park might not be an issue to a city mayor -- but it is to me, a constituent of this city who has supported you through two mayoral elections. This is about community building. My community. Please ask Mr. Leiss to offer solutions instead of taking away something that is dearly loved by the Dufferin Grove community.

28. From Mae Lee (Rigmea), Special Assistant,Office of Mayor David Miller to Mary-Margaret Jones, Feb.14 2007

Thank you sharing your concerns regarding Dufferin Grove Park campfires and related issues around safety and protocol.

Parks, Recreation and Forestry staff will touch base with you directly to address this issue. I encourage you to follow-up with your local City Councillor on the case. They are copied on this email.

29. From Mary-Margaret Jones to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.15 2007

Councillor Giambrone, please read below. I am aware that you are working with Jutta Mason on this matter. I hope that you are able to strongly recommend to Parks, Recreation and Forestry that they should consult the Dufferin Grove park leadership before making decisions that are not based in reason.

It seems that because Dufferin Grove operates in such a unique manner that the park staff, organization and community/ recreational offering is under constant scrutiny. Obviously transparency is encouraged but the Dufferin Grove model should be studied and celebrated as a successful community building project. It works.

From Friday night dinners to the rink to campfires and the adventure playground, people congregate in this park. Toronto residents who encounter Dufferin Grove for the first time are amazed that this park exists, in the middle of the city, across from the Dufferin Mall.

I hope that this issue can be resolved quickly and to the liking of the Dufferin Grove community.

30. From Parks supervisor Peter Leiss to Mary-Margaret Jones, Feb.15 2007

Thank you for your email. I would like to clarify some issues for you regarding the Fire Permits at Dufferin Grove Park. I am not trying to stop Cooking Fires or Warming Fires at Dufferin Grove. The bylaws as they apply to Parks require that any open fire requires a permit. In 2006 no permit was requested for fires at Dufferin Grove therefore no permit was issued. This also meant that there was no liability insurance in place.

Safety and safe use of the Park are concerns of mine as they are for all Park users. In the event of an incident or injury I would be required to demonstrate that I have followed all of the required procedures to hold an event in a Park. I am obliged by law follow the bylaws and policies and procedures that the City uses.

I am currently working with Park staff to put in place a protocol that meets the needs and desires of the local community and fits within the process of the City. I have had a number of meetings with Recreation staff, Fire Department staff, Permitting staff and Parks staff to resolve this issue.

I have also approved a Pilot at Dufferin Grove Park to allow Cooking Fires and to test the protocol that has been formed to date.

31. From Jutta Mason to Mary-Margaret Jones, Feb.16 2007

Peter Leiss is being a bit selective here. As far as I know, when Tino DeCastro, the recreation supervisor, tried to get cooking fire permits for our rink campfires and for other parks back in the fall, he was told that Permits doesn't give them (i.e. the locations were not "in their system," end of story). It may be that there was actually a new policy developing, to stop all campfires in city parks (or so rumour says). Certainly the city has reduced the number of parks allowing campfires from 16 to 11 in the past few years.

However, campfire users spoke up pretty loudly, and so did the staff who run this program. So I have just heard that Peter Leiss will be introducing a new city-wide "cooking fire/warming fire" protocol at a Parks, Forestry and Recreation management meeting next Wednesday. He and his superiors have not applied to any non-staff for their contributions to this protocol, nor have I heard of any plan to approach us.

Apparently Mr.Leiss will present our successful 13-year old campfire location(s) as a "pilot project."

It's certainly his pilot, which he began with a ban on all cooking fires/campfires, lasting (with a few one-off mystifying exceptions) from Jan.26 to Feb.16. Up until now, his pilot has involved 68 e-mail exchanges, plus an unknown number of staff-only e-mails, plus 26+ protest letters (not everyone cc'd me so I'm not sure of the numbers), plus maybe a dozen staff meetings.

The new cooking fire/campfire protocols that I've been able to ascertain so far are virtually identical to what we developed over the past 13 years.

There must be a better way, involving less grief and less wasted time for everyone. Conversation -- instead of unilateral orders -- would be a good beginning.

32. From C.Elder to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.18 2007

When my daughter and I were living in a tiny attic garret on busy Dovercourt 6 years ago, we spent a lot of time at Dufferin Grove park. We spent a lot of time building huge teepees and structures in the sand pit under the shade of those huge trees, enjoying the outdoor theatre pieces of Clay and Paper, eating the wonderful snacks from the roving cart. One day, in conversation with Jutta, we learnt that we could actually build a campfire at night in the park.

Now, at that time, my daughter and I had as much chance as going camping or to a cottage as flying to the moon. Imagine my delight to be able to hold campfire dinners in downtown Toronto with my daughter and her other inner-city friends, some who had never ever experienced a campfire! We sang songs, we baked potatoes and corn, we had great times with our friends. We even held a daycare fundraiser there. We were carefully prepped about safety and how to handle the fire and our responsibility to clean up the area afterward. No issue ever arose.

I cherish those memories with my young daughter. I cannot describe the feeling of adventure and confidence that this possibility meant for us: suddenly my relationship to my city changed. I realised that I had always assumed without realising it that some hidden administration held the power over our common space--suddenly I realised that as a citizen, I could bring forward ideas about public space and what we could do with it. I realised that my idea of this "hidden administration" dictating what could and couldn't be done in our public space was an idea I had made up. It was an exciting change, and I am sure, had an empowering effect on my daughter about her relationship with her city.

So, I am writing to thank you for your support of the long-standing tradition of cooking fires in Dufferin Grove Park, and other parks throughout Ward 18 and the city. I am writing to encourage you to do all you can to push for collaboration between the very experienced city recreation staff, and citizens -- who have been staging these fires without negative incident for thirteen years -- and Toronto Parks.

33. From Jerzy Jarmasz to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Feb.19 2007

It has recently come to my attention that the status of campfires in city parks, a popular tradition that has a long and venerable history at Dufferin Grove park and recently began to spread to other locations, has come into question. I understand that steps have been taken to regularize the process of fire permits at Dufferin Grove park, and as a regular user of the park I applaud this, assuming this is true.

However, from what I understand there is still reluctance from city staff to allow permits in other city parks. Of these other parks, I can only really speak about my experience with Susan Tibaldi parkette, down the street from my home on Brock Ave. On November 26 of last year, a number of people from the neighbourhood (probably about 40) came together for a community "wiener and marshmallow roast" that was made possible by the part-time staff from Dufferin Grove (and by your timely intervention regarding the permit). The event was extremely well attended and my family and I enjoyed it very much. I remember that quite a few people in attendance said that this kind of event just never happens in the community anymore, and that it was a great way to bring the neighbourhood together and lift people's spirits. Many agreed this kind of event could help people feel safer and more at home in their community, assuming it could happen with some regularity.

Thus, I and many of my neighbours feel it is important that permits for cooking fires be allowed at Susan Tibaldi parkette again. I understand there is a concern about cooking fires posing some kind of risk to the subway line that runs below the parkette. I find it hard to believe that a cooking fire would do any harm to the subway, which is encased in a thick layer of reinforced concrete. If you take a look at some photos of the November 26 event and the campfire that we used, I think you will agree (please see If it is objected that a larger fire that gets out of control poses a risk, then I would suggest that perhaps the staff at Dufferin Grove, who have many years of expertise with campfires, should be supported in they efforts to help other neighbourhood groups with park-related events such as cooking fires.

Of course as chair of the TTC you might have a different opinion regarding campfires over the subway line, and I would have to respect your more extensive knowledge on the matter. But as you know well yourself, our neighbourhood, on Bloor west of Dufferin, is a tough one with many problems. If campfires at Susan Tibaldi parkette can bring the neighbourhood together here, then I feel they would be a good thing in parks throughout the city (with a proper permit system of course).

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