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Comments for Dufferin Grove Park conservancy meeting

Tara Detweiler, Sept.16, 2018

I worry if they tear down the rink house and skating rink that so many of the wonderful features of the park will be gone. Gardens, wood burning ovens and the programs lost. This is what makes Dufferin Grove special.

Why not prioritize some repairs and serve the community? So many children, new Canadians can come skate because it is a welcome and affordable option. The idea for a conservancy sounds great. I aim to be at the meeting. I love this neighbourhood and the park is the center of it.

From Belinda Cole, Sept.17, 2018:

I am most concerned about the plans to tear down the existing Dufferin Park clubhouse, rink and bake ovens. I'm also really surprised that I've never been approached while in the park - at a park bench, or at the Thursday market, for my (and fellow park users' ) views about whether or not we want new facilities. Nor was I aware of discussion or suggestions about replacing the existing facilities. So where - or who - did this proposal come from? And why? Some time ago, I saw signs inviting park users to go to a site (with a complicated, non-intuitive site address) to find out about the 'revitalization'. This is not meaningful park-user consultation. I want to be approached by real people, have discussions, and be able to ask key questions when I'm already in the park.

I'm not aware of fundamental problems with the existing facilities. Are there problems which require everything to be torn out? If so, why is there no information about this in the park, where we can see them? I hear a lot of talk about scarce budgets. My priority is to see money spent wisely, and to use our existing city - and parks resources well - keep them in good repair, and make changes, as they are needed, and in response to the priorities of park users, staff, and friends. The environmental costs of demolishing sound buildings only to re-build them with new materials is unconscionable - and totally unacceptable to me.

And, I am not willing to pass on two or three rink seasons, and 2 or 3 years with no Thursday farmer's market, nor food in the park - to undertake what appears to be a totally unnecessary, costly, environmental irresponsible project. The Dufferin rink, market, food, and other programs I come across in the park are gems, and I'm not willing to see them disappear.

I'm most concerned about the rising costs of managing Dufferin Grove, and I want to see a local conservancy take on the running of this park. I'd like to know more about the plans for how this would work.

From Cathy Hluchy and Nick Hagiepetros, Sept.16, 2018

We both believe it is absolutely essential that the community have EQUAL input with the city with respect to any future development/ changes planned for the Park.

From Jane Price, Sept.17, 2018

We believe that Dufferin Grove Park can continue to be a unique public space which fosters simple yet personal activities created by citizens and supported by staff.

We believe that the "revitalization" the city is planning will shut down the park for 2 years, during which time, much of what has taken our community 20 years to build, can be lost.

We persist in trying to make the park work better, just like others before us have. One example is the work David Crombie and Karen Pitre put in to save the TDSB pools, by the simple suggestion of reducing permit costs and increasing usage by people.

Dufferin Park has a simple recipe – allow people to use the park in the ways they want, allow them to give their gifts so that others can share, have staff that are happy to help, and the park will thrive.

We believe these things can happen only if there is a return to active partnership by long term/veteran staff and park users.

From Georgie Donais, Sept.18, 2018

The park and its facilities are vital to the neighbourhood's health, and any plan that shutters park activities for long periods of time is not in the best interests of the neighbourhood. I hope that the city can figure out how to value the incredible ways that the park and its staff have nurtured the community, and make any changes in concert with and in consultation with the people that make up the park community.

From Jason Bomers, Sept.18, 2018

I agree that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I think that the city could save some money by instead of ripping everything apart considering the following:

- the rinkhouse is dark, small and grungy - a glassed extension/wall facing the green space with more seating would be welcome, perhaps including a covered area for the market
- bathroom upgrade
- in the main space, a more transitional type of seating, so that benches and chairs could be moved in and out
- ART, or a consideration for nicer materials (to hide the cinder block walls).

From Abigail Pugh, Sept.18, 2018

Perhaps the City has some irresistible offerings that will justify shutting down all the community riches at the Dufferin Grove rink and rink house for 1-2 years. (2 can stretch to 3, I know from personal experience).

The skating. The market. The Friday night suppers. Dark for years.

From the evidence so far - and I learnt a lot from the recent CELOS newsletter (pithy, rich and clearly expressed as always!) - the losses risk undermining the gains.

What we have is precious and mustn’t be risked. It took over 2 decades to build and perhaps it doesn’t need a multimillion dollar intervention but just some clever thinking and acting.

What is this ‘it’?

- Kids begging for a few precious minutes out of parental sight to huddle with friends, generating social space that’s all theirs while caregivers buy bread and slow down to hear the music.

- Saskatoon berry stained hands and adults swinging from low tree branches.

- Skating for sunny, hectic family sessions or alone for 10 stolen minutes late at night.

- A lovely, veggie-rich meal on a tired Friday night in January, with local faces long-lost since the cold weather came in.

- Encountering others without preamble or planning, different every time; regular connection. (A factor in health and long life by the way).

These are some of mine. Maybe a few others could share a sentence about the ‘it’ we have here! Then we could put them together and make a big document to bring to the meeting on Sunday September 30th at 4.00 pm.

Creating a ‘conservancy’ may even go beyond being a mechanism to avoid sexy-but-massively-disruptive infrastructure changes, to also correct the losses in both efficiency and ‘soul-attunity’ that many have seen happen since 2012. (Summarized nicely in the newsletter.) So it’s something to get excited about...in an era of worry about erosion of local democracy and increasing social isolation for elderly people and many others...and a terrifying host of other social ills.

Clement Kent, Sep.18, 2018

The current facilities in the park work pretty well. Yes, they are not all beautiful, but they are functional! To shut them down for several years is not revitalization, it is devitalization. The idea of a Conservancy is intriguing, and should be tried. Also worth noting is that with the reduction to 25 wards, our councillor (whomever that will be) will have less time to devote to individual park issues. So, it makes perfect sense to decentralize some of the decision making to the local level.

Jode Roberts, Sep.18, 2018

I am intrigued with the potential for conservancies in Toronto parks and public spaces, especially in a 25-ward landscape. Dufferin Grove has been a testing ground for community-building ideas, big and small. It is time to explore new types of relationships between the city, its residents and these essential spaces.

Maria Hajigeorgiou and Rob Mulvihil, Sept.18, 2018

If there was true neighbourhood input on the “revitalization” project, then it certainly bypassed us, and we live just down the street from the park. The rink and building seem in solid shape; certainly some upgrades would be welcomed, but a complete tear down seems unnecessary, a waste of funds and detrimental to a neighbourhood that relies on the facilities as a community hub year-round. We would like to know who made this decision and what public consultation was done. if the project is going to move ahead, it is imperative that park users have a voice and are represented. We support the idea of a conservancy for the park.

Michael Louis Johnson, Sept, 18, 2018

Over the years of coming to the Farmer's Market, enjoying the playground with my daughter and partaking in various community parades and other events, what has always struck me is the sense that everyone involved with Dufferin Grove seems to really care about it. They seem to have a sense of "ownership" of it. I'd hate to see that turn into roles filled by others who have a "just doing my job" mentality.

It looks to me like this Conservancy arrangement is the best way to proceed.

Is there something insufficient with the rink and the structure as is?

Colin Prince, Sept.19, 2018

My comment for city hall is step back and watch all the good things that can happen when locals feel empowered.

From Pat MacKay, Sept.19, 2018

Closing down and "fixing what ain't broke" just doesn't make sense.

A park is just a plot of grass and trees and picnic tables until it has people enjoying it together. Then it becomes a community, a neighbourhood and eventually, a Family.

Dufferin Grove Park is a family! It includes toddlers and old folks and basketball players and pizza - eaters! It has open arms for newcomers and activities or a peaceful spot of grass to sit on if that is your choice.

It doesn't need a big sign that says "Welcome" - you just know it right away.

In the winter, you can skate as long as you respect the other skaters who may be a bit wobbly- and then you can dry your mitts by the fireplace and have a hot chocolate and a cookie.

Let it be....let it be... It is doing just fine in the eyes of the people who love it.

From Gene Threndyle, Sept.20, 2018

Just the idea that the rink house and ice pads would be demolished and replaced in a 2 or 3 year process without an involved community consultation gives you an idea of what the outcome will be. The Rec Centre at Trinity Bellwoods was closed for about that amount of time to rebuild and the resulting building is so poorly thought out that many rooms sit empty while the main open space inside the front doors is filled with ping pong tables. It is great to see so many people interested in ping pong but it has a limiting effect on anyone going in who does not play that game.

The poor design of the Trinity Bellwoods rec centre pretty much guarantees that community initiatives like those in Dufferin Grove won’t happen. It is designed to isolate community users from each other in their particular activities, engaging rarely with others in the park doing other things. That is the exact opposite of community building, something Dufferin Grove does so well. Even the farmers’ market at Trinity Bellwoods is as far away from the rec centre as possible as though people interested in physical activity would not be interested good food. Forget about eating in Trinity Bellwoods, that is what restaurants are for. If the city has its way Dufferin Grove will end up like Trinity Bellwoods, a popular lawn with a physical activity/sports component. Forget about the community building.

From Ahnan Boughton, Sept.20, 2018

Instead of wasting money on replacing our serviceable facilities, is there something that most of that money could be used in an area that needs it more?

In an effort to keep Dufferin Grove magical, I would like to see funds focussed on improving and beautifying our park and it's facilities. I am not interested in new structures, construction for new builds and a park that is unusable for long periods of time.

Please listen to the needs of the park staff and the neighbours and visitors who use the park.

Kathryn Scharf, Sept.20, 2018

I volunteered to be on the community reference group for this project. Even though in the two meetings that were held of this group, the general opinion was that we wanted to hear the rationale for all the disruption and change-- what are the broken things that we are fixing?-- we were never given access to this information, and the call for proposals went out unchanged by our feedback. I don't think anyone had the time to do this, plus it felt that the horse was already out of the barn at this stage.

The only real input we were offered was the opportunity to volunteer for what we were told would be two full weeks of volunteer time reviewing the submissions. I am extremely concerned that this project will only decrease the use of the facilities, both in the short- and long-term. What will happen when the bake ovens are torn down, the gardens ploughed up, the rink/skateboard park/bike polo facilities shut down for a couple of years. What will they look like afterward? Do we really need a skating oval in the park? A fenced-in dog run at the cost of the good times provided by the "toboggan hill" for little kids?

Having seen so many results of city-driven projects, I'm not at all confident that either the process or results will be good for the park. In the meantime, I have seen only attack and erosion on the great work that has been done in the park. This is not in the form of physical infrastructure, and it's not something a new building or rink can fix. It's the community volunteers and staff culture that said "yes" not "no" to exciting, fun, innovative, human initiatives. THe City has repeatedly demonstrated that they are more concerned with uniformity across all parks, even if it means a race to the bottom.

Dufferin Grove is not the same as when we leaned so heavily on all the great staff and programs when my son was small. I feel so sad that others are not having the opportunity to experience the difference having a park like this as your "third place" can make to your quality of life.

Anne White, Sept.21, 2018 I am very concerned about the proposal to completely demolish and rebuild Dufferin Grove Park's facilities. The park has thrived for years with existing facilities, and I know this first-hand as both a staff member and as a park user. Repairs and minor additions could be a great option, but not without public consultation. And I just can't see how the community could continue to thrive if the facilities were totally closed for at least a year. There are so many people who rely on the community and programming DGP provides. In general, the city needs to communicate with the people who are using these programs. Parks and Recreation shouldn't operate from a bureaucratic bubble, pretending it knows what's best for the people on the ground without even asking them. In general, I would like the chance to explore alternate decision-making models, such as a conservancy. I think the city owes the community that uses DGP the opportunity to discuss this model, submit proposals, and give feedback.

Simon Chamberlain, Sept.21, 2018

I don't know all the details about why the City is planning to do the rebuild at Dufferin Park, but when I look at what we are able to achieve (when the weather cooperates) at our extremely minimal, makeshift Pearen Park facility, it is difficult to justify a major expenditure to upgrade a well established facility that is already functioning effectively.

And a one- to two-year facility closure just looks like poor planning. With proper planning and timely budget approvals, the City should be able to schedule the work such that it is all done in the summer months. Back in the old City of Toronto, where I was Director of Budgets for the City Property Department which oversaw all major capital projects, the timing issue arose because no money could flow until the current year's capital budget was approved in the late spring. I would have expected that now, in the far larger amalgamated City, a more efficient process would enable more a user-sensitive approach.

Jeannie Stiglic, Sept.21, 2018

Definitely, I do not think there needs to be a clubhouse, especially one made of glass and steel that will become be a freezer in the winter and a hothouse in the summer. Think of the costs of heating a glass structure in the winter and cooling it in the summer. Makes no sense.

Fran Freeman, Sept.23, 2018

I used to live at King & Dufferin in the early 80s. I worked on College near Kensington Market and walked home each day past Dufferin Grove Park. At the time I was struck by how beautiful the park was with its majestic trees--and how quiet. I never saw a person in it. Probably people walked through it on their way to somewhere else but it was never a destination.

How very different it is now, having evolved into a community park over the past three decades or so. This is where my son spent many an afternoon playing in the oversize sand pit, where I was able to bring raw bread dough from home and bake pita bread in the community-built brick oven, where I've watched innumerable performances by local theatre groups and internationally-renowned dancers, where I happily freeze every February enjoying the antics of fearless bicycle couriers in their Icycle races, where I come every week for the best farmers' market in the city--and I don't even live in the neighbourhood!

There is a real risk that all of this would end, possibly permanently, with the major changes being proposed to the rink house and surrounding area. What a tremendous loss that would be. "Improvements" to the park must be made in consultation with the community and with that community's needs in mind.

Sue Johnston, Sept.24, 2018

The park is a wonderful place for the children with plenty of activities and play structures....although only 1 swing for children with special needs as it has a safety belt on it....there are many families that would love to play at the park,but no structures are ability designed....the city should be investing money into equipment for these special children not enhancing a rink and skateboard area that is fully functional as is....

MIgs Bartula, Sept.24, 2018

I think the Conservancy idea is a good idea, and from working with the Bentway I can definitely see the differences in how they operate vs. the parks department. I am sure you visited their ice path and observed how differently it operated and was activated with supporting activities. Having said that, I don't think they Parks department necessarily thinks that there is a huge problem with the way they operate the park and I am not sure they would be willing to give it up to another organization. At the very least you may get them to study the opportunity and implication of having a conservancy operate the park. This would require allocated staff and resources and would probably take a year or two.

Is there another option?? perhaps having a stronger parks friends group that works closer with the councillor and parks staff to make recommendations and improvements on the day to day activities at the park.

In terms of the renovation of the rink and clubhouse. Rink: its definitely nearing the end of its life, the skateboarding community is looking forward to having a nice new smooth surface to ride on. The ground is very rough and the newer polished surface at Scadding Court is much better for riding and more forgiving when you fall. Ideally we would only lose one season at which point the ramps could be moved somewhere else. Some of our members have been building ramps at Christie Pits and this year was the first full season and it has been succesful. Perhaps we could move the ramps to Christie or another rink in the interm. Ideally as part of the revitalization, we could get dedicated indoor storage space for the ramps, or a shipping container. Right now they are stored outside during the winter which is causing a lot of water damage and increasing the amount of maintenance required.


I feel like the clubhouse is a bit worn down and clustered inside, especially on busy nights. Whether it needs a full rebuild is a good question, but from my understanding the parks department feels like it is being used in a lot diverse ways than was originally intended and they would like to build a more modern facility that can accomodate all the different uses. I believe they also want to make it bigger as there will be a lot of new residents soon with all the condos.

. I think it is a useful question to ask as to whether is can be renovated instead but it seems like the decision has been made and the wheels are already in motion. So, the question is, do you fight that decision or work collaboratively with the parks department to make sure that the new building is functional and meets all of the communities needs.

Capital projects in general:

The money is already allocated and the consultant is already hired, so this is moving along, although slowly at the moment. If this project moves along as intended I think the key thing for the community is to be very closely involved in the design, but also to make sure the design stage moves along quickly so that tendering and construction can happen efficiently to minimize disruption of existing programs. I am currently working closely on 2 skateparks projects with budgets around 500,000$. They are both delayed and one of the main mistakes was that we did not get the tenders out at the right time.

For large capital projects, you have a numerous community meetings, then the designs are prepared, more community meetings, then detailed design packages are prepared and put out on the market. The tendering process is (I think) 7 months. Bids come in and the lowest bid is selected, then the construction schedule is set. Our tenders were put out late december, early january and closed in the spring time (bad time to close a tender). The general contractors already have their schedules set and they can bump the costs if the Parks Dept. really wants the projects done. We did not have budget flexibility so we had to repackage the tender and put it back out. They bids came back over budget and we had to ask for more money. Anyway, what I am getting at is you need to set timelines for each stage so that you can start construction at the ideal time, so for the ice rink, best time to start construction is in the spring so that the ice rink is done for the following season, to start in spring you need your tender package out 7 months earlier.

Hope this helps, I have learned a lot from the half dozen capital projects that I have been involved with and the numerous studies we have conducted with the parks department and motions that we have passed at council. I have also learned a lot from reading through a lot of the documentation that you have on the Dufferin Grove and Celos webpages. The parks department is a complicated beast with many departments that do not always coordinate well. I think the best approach is to find a balance between what the community wants ( and is willing to support) , what the parks department wants and what is the most realistic outcome keeping in mind how the parks department operates.

From Shujauddin Qamar Sept 22, 2018

Over many many years Dufferin Park has been a centre of public interest .This park is different than other parks in many ways. In other parks except few games here and there, there is no other attraction which dufferin park provides. it is a place where children,parents and seniors all enjoy in different ways. Eating Pitzza is very simple , but making it with their own hands is a fun for the children.I noticed how much children enjoy when they do things with their own hands . Various cultural shows and programs bring various cultures together . People mix with each other and learn so many new things of the other cultures.

I hope 30th Sept. meeting will be a successful one.

From Jane LowBeer, Sept.25, 2018

If it ain't broke don't fix it!

Dufferin Park is (sadly becoming was) a unique green space in the city that is very much used by all walks of life. It would be disastrous for its liveliness to close for two years to build some unnecessary expensive structure.

The city of Toronto could use the money more wisely.

Hannah Sung, Sept.25, 2018

There are so many aspects of Dufferin Grove Park to love -- the year-round farmer's market, the skating rink, rinkhouse, Cob cafe, volunteer and community-run gardens, outdoor bake ovens and pizza parties for the children. It would be a real shame to close these things down for years in order to make changes, especially if they are changes the community doesn't deem necessary. Some real city leadership would let the community have a say in the stewardship of these park programs. This is an active and engaged community.

Mark Thoburn, Sept.28, 2018

I've played shinny at the park for years and years. The rink house and farmer's market and bake ovens are an important part of our lives - really! I agree with many others, that while upkeep and repairs are important and needed, they should be in ways that aligns with community needs and values.

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