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Over the four days after Dec.18, staff and neighborhood people worked to move stored items and clear out the south room. The exodus of the giant puppets was very sad, and left the south room looking barren and small. But it was do-able. Other things were not.
The inspectors said that our three fridges (where snack bar juices and other supplies are stored), the freezer, the washing machine (for kitchen towels and aprons), and the deck oven that are in the south room must be removed, and the new community kitchen must be destroyed. Their reasoning was that the south room, having been built originally as a zamboni room, must revert to having that as its sole function. No one without a zamboni license could be allowed to set foot in the room where the zamboni is parked, ever. That meant, no winter farmers' market, no cookies in the rink, no park bread, no rinkhouse suppers - just a plain rink like the others in the city.
Of course, our clubhouse long ago stopped being only a rink house. For eight years, it has been the main staging area and nerve centre for the many other things that happen in the park. A rink change house has been converted to a small community centre, at very little cost. This was done by using every bit of the building in as many ways as could be done, as ingeniously as possible. By now, the park is as full of activity as some of the city's busiest, million-dollar-budget community centres. But for the inspectors, our rink house is first and foremost a workplace for city staff. When we said to them: but surely this place belongs to the citizens? - they said: wrong. It belongs to the Corporation of the City of Toronto. So we don't even want to talk to you.
Joe Adelaars, our web master, looked up the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The regulations aren't on the web, but the general approach of the Act seems to bear out the inspectors' vision. Not only at construction sites, mines, and logging operations, but in all workplaces, there are only two parties which have standing: the workers (represented by the Act), and the employers. Seen through this lens, the third element that's always present in public space - the citizens - are invisible.
This is the crux of the problem. The inspectors' visit has brought the problem into clear relief, but it's always been in the background anyway. The tricky question our neighborhood park poses — what is our rightful power as citizens in shaping the use of our public space? — is the one that must be addressed.
In the meantime, we're still waiting to see the inspectors' written report of the various employee safety infractions at our rink. The outcry that followed that first alarming day was expressed in a large number of e-mails (many interesting, thoughtful e-mails, some of which are rink house bulletin board. Read some of them on the Rink crisis letters page and follow more of this story on the Hot Topics page). Both the park management and our councillor (and even the mayor) have assured us that solutions will be found.
So far the solutions are being sought in meeting rooms at city hall. A new report from the inspectors is not available to us. The friends of the park are not at the discussion table, and neither are the actual park workers - many of them at least somewhat friendly to our aims - on whose behalf the safety claims are being made. While the city hall folks are pondering what to do, without us, the rink staff and the friends of the park are carrying on with the delicate business of making the rink work - and for now it's still working.