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After last January’s campfire ban, the rink-stairs barriers, and more recently the almost-cancelling of a third of the outdoor rink season, the mood between CELOS and Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) was not very happy. (CELOS is the little public space research group that began at Dufferin Grove park about five years ago.) So in November, CELOS board member Jane Price wrote a letter to Brenda Librecz, asking for a meeting. Brenda is the general manager of PFR, and she’s awfully busy. But she invited CELOS to come and meet with her for 90 minutes on December 20, and so Jane, CELOS researcher Belinda Cole, and Jutta Mason went down to City Hall.
Brenda brought her assistant Wynna Brown and her director of Management Services, Ann Ulusoy. The conversation (in a little huddle in the corner of an empty and gigantic Committee Room Two) touched on many points, and actually went on for two hours. It seemed that the desire to pull together instead of doing the tug-of-war was shared on both sides. Brenda said, so let’s try it, let’s try and develop a new model of working together.
Open conversation seems to be the first thing. Brenda said she plans to invite one or two people from CELOS to speak about their work in local city parks, at a citywide supervisors’ meeting in February. Around the same time she’ll bring Jutta along to a meeting of a local PFR staff “Neighbourhood team.” And Wynna Brown will help to defuse crises like the campfire troubles before they get big.
So: friendly relations between park friends and City Hall return, just in time for the holidays. That’s a pretty good Christmas present, to everyone involved.