Centre For Local Research into Public Space (CELOS)

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Phase one 2006

Note:This page has been moved to the cityrinks website, and is being maintained at that new location. Therefore the page here is now obslolete. Please refer to the cityrinks version for further updates.

Stairs for winter

From Jutta Mason to Parks manager Sandy Straw, May 02, 2006

access to rink entryway

This section of dirt is a main "cowpath" for people coming up from the sidewalk to the rink entrance in winter. We tried growing flowers there every year but the ground is too compacted from people walking on it. The parks workers laid that strange steep path of interlock paving stones at the left (about 7 years ago) but it's treacherously slippery in the winter and people avoid it. As you see, it's also missing some pavers.

What's needed there is some stairs. Could you find out if this can be done this summer?

Meeting date: May 26, 2006

Parks manager Sandy Straw came to look at the stair location and agreed to put them on the park to-do list for this year.

August 2006: temporary stairs for winter

temporary stairs to rink

Parks manager Sandy Straw said there's no time or money to build the stairs in time for winter. They will be built next year, she says. But it's been nine years since rink users first asked for stairs there (the city built the slanted interlock path instead). So a two-stair riser was bought with community money (steel and two-inch wood) from Home Depot, and installed. This will make the winter passage safer. Next year, or in a few more years, the City can instal stairs using their own carpenters. Hopefully they'll be this useful.

Dec.13 2006, around 1 p.m., stairs fenced in by someone, no consultation

At about one p.m., rink users noticed that they no longer had access to the winter stairs, but had to go up the slippery incline again. No one had seen the person who fenced in the stairs, nor had on-site rink staff been notified.

fence blocking winter stairs, Dec.13

fence gone but sharp steel poles remaining
Dec.13, 2 p.m. SAFETY FIRST: blockage removed

stairs usable again Dec.13 2 p.m.

The city-built interlock incline is a dangerous access where many people have slipped and fallen when it ices up in the winter. It was already iced twice this year. Blocking the safer stair access is dangerous for rink users, so the fence was removed. That left the four steel posts which are also dangerous because someone could fall on them and be impaled, so they were also removed and safely stored in the breezeway. The stairway has now been restored for rink users to access the rink entryway from the sidewalk without having to put themselves at risk of falling on a slippery grade.

Another good reason for storing the four steel posts away from where they can be (easily) pulled up, is that this means they can't be used as a weapon. Note that so many youth come to this rink that there has been a threat of some kind about every second day since the rink opened for the season. There should never be access to a steel post temporarily erected by the City.

From Jutta Mason to Parks manager Sandy Straw, Dec.13 4 p.m.

This afternoon someone came and blocked off our community-built winter stairs leading up to the outdoor ice rink entryway. No one saw the persons who did this, nor did they consult with any rink staff. But this fence makes winter access up to the rink door unsafe, so it had to be removed, and the sharp steel poles had to be stored where they could not become weapons.

Please let us know who did this and why. We need to talk!

If the City carpenters would like to make the community-built winter stairs safer, railings would be nice. And if the City's insurance people are worried about lawsuits, maybe they could start with the two rink construction sites in your area?

From Jutta Mason to Councillor Adam Giambrone, Dec.22 2006

Dear Councillor Giambrone,

For the second time this month, the community-built stairs to provide safe access to the Dufferin Rinkhouse entryway have been destroyed by the City. No one has said they did this. But the evidence is there: the pre-built Home Depot two-stair riser that we bought is gone and a danger fence is erected around the section, forcing rink users once again to go up the steeply inclined path put there by the City years ago. It has no railings and it is slippery even in rain. When there is ice or snow, people often fall there.

second destruction by the City

Please find out for us who did this and why. We would like our stair riser back, or the money we paid for it: $73.39.

And please ensure that proper stairs are put in immediately. Last May Parks manager Sandy Straw was made aware of the need for stairs, and she agreed to get them built. But in late summer she said there were no funds to do the stairs this year. We put in temporary stairs and notified the maintenance supervisor.

If the City wants to destroy the stairs we bought from Home Depot because they're not "up to code," please ask them to do the work themselves, NOW, to protect the rink users from injury.

Parks manager Sandy Straw to Jutta Mason, Dec.22 2006

We seem to have a communication problem here!!!!

1. We had an agreement that the ice rink repairs were priority for this year

2. Why on earth would you install any items on park property without consultation and approval;?

3. I arranged for appropriate City staff to inspect the stairs you installed and they are deemed unsafe, a trip hazard, and do not comply with code. Code and legal liability issues lie with City staff to ensure the park is safe and MUST be adhered to.

I understand you removed the safety fencing the first time staff erected it. Please understand this is not a legal action to undertake.

I was of the understanding you and I were trying to work together to ensure the park received amenities but that we would do things that did not jeopardize public safety or any legal liabilities that surround such actions.

When I return in the New Year we can plan for the 2007 park amenities as we originally agreed.

In the interim I expect you to respect the fact that the current version of the stairs constitutes a safety hazard and liability issue for the City and must not be reinstalled.

From Jutta Mason to Parks manager Sandy Straw, Dec.22 2006

I agree: there is a communication problem here.

In answer to your question, why we would instal the stairs -- because the existing City-built access is a safety hazard. That is what I told you in May and that's why we put in a temporary alternative in August. I notified maintenance supervisor Peter Leiss in August and there would have been plenty of time to take action then.

I am most interested in rink user safety and I know how many people have wiped out on that access, including me. I also know how many people have complained to the rink staff about the poor access for years. I am not persuaded that the City is concerned about that information. But parks are for citizens, and if the City doesn't take proper care, then who will?

Please have proper stairs put in now if you will not allow us to do our temporary fix. In the meantime, I will not remove the fencing, since your staff took our stairs. Instead, I will post the City's reasons as you've given them here, right on the plastic fence, and rink users can let City management know what they think. And we can update the photos as soon as the snow falls, when the City's access path becomes impossible, starting on Tuesday. Perhaps you'd like to at least ask your staff to put up danger tape there?

P.s. I see that your general manager, your director, and the supervisor who works for you are all on holiday, and you're about to go too. The timing here is regrettable, since this is also peak season at the City rink.

To Kevin Beaulieu, assistant to City Councillor Adam Giambrone, Dec.27 2006

Here's my request for rink stairs follow-up. We need to talk to the building code inspector a.s.a.p.

In the past few days I've been talking to rink users about the City tearing out the rink clubhouse access stairs, and many people signed the attached letter to Adam (I have quite a few pages). I'll give that petition to staff at McCormick to send in to your office via inter-departmental mail. I've also stuck the letter onto the City's danger fence, right beside the sidewalk.

For the solution, we need to find out what dimensions the stairs need to be, and whether they can be made of wood, etc. -- i.e. what the actual problem was, so that new stairs can be installed before the first snowstorm or ice storm.

The number of people who have told me in the last few days that they fell/almost fell there is so high that it's only a matter of time before the City gets a claim -- and now that it can be shown that the City removed the alternative, they might be in worse legal trouble than I'm in with Sandy Straw.

Text of petition to the City Councillor:

Dear Councillor Giambrone

Please help us get a safe stairway to Dufferin Rinkhouse as soon as possible.

The existing access to the rink from the sidewalk is dangerous. Parks staff were notified of this in May 2006 and said they would put in stairs this year. That was postponed (as it has been for many years) until next year at the earliest. So a community-built temporary stairway was put in, but was removed by Parks staff without consultation for not conforming to code. Please ask City staff to instal a temporary stairway that conforms to code, now. That way there will be no more injuries to rink users who lose their footing on the existing access this winter.

From Kevin Beaulieu, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, to Jutta Mason, Dec.28 2006

I spoke with Vince Conforzi of Buildings and Sandy, and it looks like the decision to remove the stairs had nothing to do with the Ontario Building Code, so a visit with a Buildings inspector won't be necessary.

It's Parks staff we need to work with, because the concerns were that the stairs didn't satisfy Parks construction codes (I don't really know anything about those at this point.)

Because of holidays, the earliest I could get a commitment for a site meeting was Tuesday, January 2 at 9 a.m. Sandy will be there, as will John Howlett and others. Chris from our office will be there, because I have an 8:15 meeting here at City Hall, but I'll bring him up to speed.

From Jutta Mason to Kevin Beaulieu and Chris Gallop, Dec.29 2006

I kept the petition here to give to you on Friday, but maybe we'll just post the whole thing, signatures and all, on the danger fence.

Here's the quote from Sandy after she got the stairs pulled out:

"I arranged for appropriate City staff to inspect the stairs you installed and they are deemed unsafe, a trip hazard, and do not comply with code."

So I would appreciate it if you could find out from Sandy who that City staff person was and ask them to attend, so that we may all learn which code was being infringed (I've cc'd her here, as you see). Being treated like this was a miserable experience for rink friends, but at least we can learn something, to shape the recommendations CELOS wants to submit to the Parks Committee in mid-January.

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Content last modified on October 17, 2009, at 12:35 PM EST