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875 Dufferin St., across from the Dufferin Mall, south of Bloor. Double pad. For ice conditions, call the rink at 416-392-0913. For our current rink schedule: Read more

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Archives 2004-2005


Rink Diary 2003 - 2004

Nov.25 2003

There’s trouble at the rink. Last year’s excellent City rink foreperson finally left employment with the city, for a better job. It seems like he had the impression that his skills were not valued in any way that would lead to more responsibility. He was probably quite right.

One thing that this foreman admitted last year (and that was the case in certain other years as well) is that our rink (and the other rinks, too) didn't get enough of a base put down before opening day. So last year again, the rink couldn't open on the hockey side, on our official opening day. Our records show that the weather was cold but there were only two nights of flooding activity. The rinks need to have at least three nights of floods, four are even better. Two nights will absolutely not do.

Scrimping on flooding times is a false economy since it means that rink staff are reporting for work on opening day anyway and if they don't have rinks to run, because they have to stay closed, they just sit around. This year we asked the manager to let us know if they haven’t got the staff to start flooding. Then we can line up some rink users who can put the base down by tonight. A group of local folks staying up all night is better than thin ice on opening day.

But the City Rinks manager is away on a course. The rinks supervisor isn’t returning calls. He assured the manager before he left that he would begin the flood for the rink today. Despite those promises, there was no flooding today at all, and no word of explanation either. Frustration, year after year.

From the December 2003 Park Newsletter

DUFFERIN RINK OPENS SATURDAY NOV. 29 AT 9AM Same story as last year and every year: pleasure skating all the time (the gate is never closed), shinny hockey on the hockey side Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., some shinny permits 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., fire in the wood stove inside, chess and checkers, some toys for the little kids, organic coffee and hot chocolate and mini-pizzas and slices of fresh park bread, snow hills for climbing and sliding outside, and free skating under the sky in the bracing Canadian winter. Fun!

BEGINNERS' SHINNY FOR ADULTS with Lawrence Barichello. Starts SUNDAY NOV.30, 7-8.30 P.M. This was a hit last year and it filled up really fast. If you want to get started playing shinny hockey this year, get your place early. Lawrence is taking calls for registration now. The class costs about $70 for 12 weeks, and you need skates and preferably a helmet and a stick if you have one. Otherwise Lawrence has extra. Men and women are both welcome. Call Lawrence at 416/530-4810, e-mail [email protected]

SKATING LESSONS: last year we had none but this year we've found a terrific teacher. If you want to enroll your child, call the rink (416 392-0913) and leave your number and the age of the child. We'll call you back within a week and let you know the time (Sunday mornings for sure) and the cost.

We have no adult skating lessons. However, for some years we have had a "skating practice" time on Sunday mornings between 10-12.30. That means that, to protect learners, we don't allow fast skaters or wild kids on the ice, and we have two rink staff on the ice as resource people -- i.e. if an adult (or child) wants to be out on the ice learning to skate (with a chair or without), the resource person will help them. It actually works very well, and it's free. It's also possible to arrange for a private lesson (for $20 an hour) with one of those resource rink staff after their shift, i.e. after 12.30. Usually people don't need such a thing more than a few times -- skating, like walking, is mainly learned through practice. We try to make the rink a friendly place to practice.

Dec.3 2003

From Jutta: There are only two rinks open in the whole city. So many guys have been coming to skate at Dufferin Rink that they can hardly move on the ice – it looks more like a cocktail party than a hockey game out there.

We had two zamboni drivers today. One of them is a guy new to this rink, whom I haven't met before. He told me that he’d heard all about me and my bossiness, and that there was going to be a new regime, now that he had arrived. All evening he went around saying to the skaters, who the hell is she? She doesn’t run this place, the staff do, don’t listen to her.

A lot of them didn’t say anything. When it came time to clean the ice, the new zamboni driver raised the lift gate, and I went out with the two rink guards to clear this mass of humanity off so the zamboni could go on. The new zamboni guy saw me, and something weird must have gone off in his brain. He said to the skaters, I told you, don’t listen to her.

The frustration of the crowding must have kicked in, even more so for all those guys who don’t normally come here except when no other rinks are open, and so have no attachment to the way things go at this rink. Lots of skaters decided to stay on the ice and not go off for the zamboni. As the zamboni driver was still raising the lift gate, they skated underneath and started shooting the puck around on the pleasure-skating side too. Pucks were flying, and the rink guards were yelling at people to get off. Lots of skaters ignored them and started to shove each other and play-fight and yank each others’ shirts off. I blew my whistle, but the new zamboni driver shouted, “don’t listen to her, she doesn’t work here!” So the melee got even crazier.

The rink guards couldn’t get anybody to get off the ice. Guys came out of the rink house and back onto the ice to join the fun. Half-undressed skaters were lying on the ice, pucks were flying, the lift gate was half up and the big iron pegs weren’t in to secure it, the regular zamboni driver was yelling at the kids but you couldn’t even hear what he was saying. The new zamboni driver was in some kind of hang – even though things were clearly out of hand, he recited his mantra: “don’t listen to her!!!!”

And they didn’t, nor did they listen to anyone else. I tried to pull some of the fighters apart and off the ice. One guy shoved me against the railing. That made a little shock in the melee – you’re not supposed to shove a matronly lady. I tried to take the moment to wake people up. The rink guards got some of the guys off the ice, and the other ones just stood there. Bless my soul if the new zamboni driver didn’t come over and start his campaign again. The regular zamboni driver tried to pull him away, but I guess this guy was just as excited by the thrill of the battle as the skaters who remained. “Don’t listen to her….”

Three of the skaters began to taunt the rink guards, and me. They lit cigarettes and smoked them very ostentatiously on the ice surface. They stood under the lift gate, still not secured with their pegs. Since they could see that this got the rink guards very agitated, they skated back and forth underneath. When I tried to pull one of them off the ice, I got another shove. I said to the regular zamboni driver: call your supervisor and tell him we need him here now! And one of the rink guards called the police.

The driver got the supervisor on his radio, talked for a couple of minutes and then said, “okay.” He said that the supervisor had ordered him and his partner to leave the building, on the grounds of health and safety. If there was a riot, the zamboni workers’ safety would be endangered.

So they left. I didn’t expect the police to show up anytime soon. What to do? The rink was chaos. Some skaters took off their skates and left, others stayed at the margins just watching, a few skated around trying to settle things down, and the three ringleaders kept the rest of the crowd pumped up. Nobody was listening to anybody; everybody was yelling.

The two rink guards, a few older hockey players and I formed a plan. We walked around telling everyone who could hear us: everyone off the ice. If this rink is not cleared in five minutes, we’re shutting down the lights and closing the place for the rest of the night.

A gamble – would the craziest skaters rampage around and break all the windows if we did that? But there was no other way to get back the authority, and I was quite sure that if we were seen as too weak to control the crowd, we’d pay, for weeks or longer.

A few skaters who would much rather play hockey than have a riot, skated around urging the crowd to cooperate. But most didn’t. So after about ten minutes, I went into the electrical room and shut off the main rink lights power switch.

That had an effect. There was silence, then shouts. “What are you doing? We want to play hockey!” I said, “I won’t turn the lights back on until everyone clears off the ice. Those three guys have to leave the building. The rest of you can get back on when those three are gone.”

The game was getting tedious. Everyone filed off. The three dopes sat down on a bench and started talking big. “We’re not leaving.”

I said that the police had been called and that no lights would go back on until the three of them were gone. They made a short try at bargaining, then threatening us again, while their peanut gallery faded away. Finally the three of them left, cursing about the injustice of it all. I switched on the lights and the rink guard started to lower the gate back down.

That’s when the chain that holds up the heavy lift gate derailed. The lift gate came crashing down. The look, the sound, was worth a thousand words. The gate must have already been partway off the chain when it was lifted. If it had come off all the way when that zamboni driver was letting the skaters go back and forth underneath with no pegs securing it, somebody would most likely have been killed.

Two police came about an hour later, and went away again, because there was obviously nothing wrong – just a bunch of hockey players trying to play hockey on snowy ice. The zamboni had never got on the ice because of the riot, and the drivers never returned.

Dec.4 2003

E-mail to the City rinks manager from shinny hockey player Veronica Pochmursky, cc’d to the "City rinks" web address"

“Dear Toronto Parks Staff, why is it so difficult to locate the dates when the ice rinks are open on the City's website? I've been burrowing through your website now for 10 minutes and still haven't located it. Is it really so difficult to post a list of rinks and the date they will be ready?”

Dec.5 2003

E-mail response from us:

Yes Veronica, there IS a way to find out when the rinks open. If the City web site won’t work, and the City “rink hotline” won’t work (it’s really a “lukewarm line” of recorded messages and right now the messages are out of date), try calling Dufferin Rink: 416 392-0913. Ever since last year, every day during the rink season – every few hours in bad weather – the rink staff change the voice mail to say how the ice conditions are. The Dufferin Rink number is on the City's rink line too, and the rink staff give out up-to-date rink information for west end rinks in bad weather. It didn't cost anything extra – the rink staff have to be there anyway, so they can answer the phone and change the recorded message.

As soon as people found out about Dufferin Rink's real-people telephone, they started calling from all over the city. That’s okay except when the staff can’t get hold of the forepersons for the different regions. Hopefully they'll get better internal cooperation this winter, and then rink rats and others can go to their various outdoor rinks with confidence.

Dec.6 2003

The other double-pad rinks opened today. The single pads will still stay closed for another week. But the double pad at Wallace Rink is only ten minutes from here, and the crowds are getting smaller.

The zamboni driver who caused the rink riot three days ago has been relocated to another rink, without being disciplined. The problem is that the guy was in the right – staff are not to be taking direction from volunteers. If he had been disciplined for his actions that night, the union would have backed him.

The three riot enthusiasts, when they tried to come back a few days later, were given letters of trespass. They can’t come back until they meet with Tino. When they found out that we’re following up, that we’ve got a memory, their language was obscene.

A lot of the troublemakers of other years are back, older now. Some of them complained tonight that it’s still too crowded on the ice. They’re right. We told them: “so go up to Wallace Rink, it’s open now.”

“No way. Wallace is dangerous.”

“It’s dangerous because of troublemakers like you!”

They laughed. “Maybe. But we’re staying here. This rink is the best.”

We’re allowed to say stuff like that to them because they know we like them so much by now, their spirit, their love of shinny hockey, their Portuguese sense of humour. We’ve been through the war together and the scars have healed now.

December 7, 2003

Our census Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 1,227 visits.

Out of eight west-central rinks scheduled to be open on Saturday, four were closed or barely open. As far as we know, none of the rinks got the three nights (minimum) of flooding they need to put down an adequate base. Dufferin Rink also got only two nights, but we and Rennie Rink were started up in time to catch the rain. That's not good planning, that's just good luck -- but for 4 of the 6 rinks scheduled to open next, the luck ran out.

From Jutta: I was astonished to hear from the City Rinks manager that he will be away again – at a First Aid course for two full days this week. I e-mailed the Parks and Recreation director:

For heavens sake, during the week when the biggest winter rink facilities are opening, your managers are re-learning how to apply a bandage? Please postpone all such training courses until your facilities are operating properly. I went around the area rinks during the weekend and I was dismayed. Please let me know, as soon as you can, if you intend to deal with this.

Dec.8 2003

No reply from the director.

Today the City rinks supervisor came to the rink to check on the zamboni, which has been giving trouble again. They cleared the ice for the zamboni and the supervisor watched while it went around. There was a big crowd of skaters jammed in behind the railing, waiting to go on again. The supervisor put on skates – something I’ve never seen him do before. When the driver was done cleaning the ice, he told him to stop the machine right there on the ice surface. He and the driver started fiddling with the blade, took it right off, and then the driver tried to re-instal it.

Meantime the supervisor skated around the ice in figures of eight, around and around, talking on his cell phone. Some of the skaters tried to come back onto the ice, but the supervisor waved them off (still talking) pointing to the zamboni standing there. So all the skaters had to stand behind the railing for another ten minutes, and watch the guy skating. There was a kind of rising rumble of anger in the crowd. No explanations from the supervisor or the zamboni driver, of what was happening or why the zamboni wasn’t moving off the ice.

Dec.9 2003

E-mail from Jutta to the City rinks supervisor:

You wrote in the log book that you were threatened by some hockey players yesterday -- that was after the zamboni was just standing on the ice for a long time, without any explanations for the skaters. We had far too many skaters coming to our rink this past weekend, already frustrated because the other rinks had not managed to open on schedule. The hockey players get mad if the rink is blocked, as it was yesterday. They are otherwise not bad. You will note that last year, very respectable adult hockey players at Ramsden Rink almost came to blows with your zamboni drivers because of the same sorts of issues. This has less to do with skaters being out of line, than with bad service by the city.

Suggestion: when there is an equipment problem, take the machine off the ice as soon as possible (preferably immediately), and do the inspection off the ice so the skaters can skate.

E-mail back from the rinks supervisor:

During the evening floods while I was close to the boards one of the 75 hockey players said "You better fucking clean the ice or I will call your boss". Two other players spat on the ice in front of me and the boys at the back chimed in with "hey you fucking asshole, clean the ice". If they had said it nicely it would not have bothered me but they obviously were local boys with not very good manners. My concerns are for my staff who tell me that the taunts are on going and I would suggest that if this continues that we clear the outside areas during flooding.The bottom line is that the clients were and continue to be way out of line.

E-mail back from Jutta to the rinks supervisor:

Please do not raise the specter again of forcing all the rink users into the building while your operator goes around the ice in solitary splendour. It will not happen. And if you attend to the limited suggestions in my previous e-mail, I won't have to send you any more unpleasant e-mails, which I don't want to do. I know you work very hard; I know the rinks didn't get the flooding they should have before they opened; I know that the fleet is in bad shape; I know that your department is in some disarray. But we may as well have a constructive conversation.

Dec.10 2003

Rink romances: A man named Mike came into the rink tonight and was showing his wife all around. They said they live in Thornhill, and they had intended to go to Niagara Falls. But the traffic was so bad that they bailed out of their trip and decided to look around Mike's old neighbourhood instead. Mike lived in this area from 1958 to 1971, and he said he used to come to Dufferin Rink all the time. He remembered the usual fights and ruckus, but also the Saturday evening skating. There was pleasure skating on both sides, there was organ music on the loudspeakers, and the boys would ask the girls to skate in the same way you'd ask girls to dance. Mike said, when a boy would go up to a girl and ask her to skate, all his friends would watch to see if he was accepted or rejected. Everybody went skating on Saturday night, he said. That was where romances started.

Dec. 14, 2003

On Sunday, with 10 cm of snow, as far as we know only two rinks opened -- ours and city hall. How many staff were paid on that day to open only two city rinks? How was it that we were able to keep our own rink open all day (sometimes just with a huge skating track -- LOTS of fun) by hand-shovelling and a bit of mechanical help and all those other rinks had to stay closed? How many rink operators were just sitting in their offices waiting for their shift to end?

Dec.18 2003

From Jutta: Today was the last farmers’ market before Christmas. About an hour before it started, two men in identical dark blue windbreakers came to the rink house and started walking around with clipboards, staring at the ceiling and the walls and making notes. They looked so grim that I went over to see what the problem was. It turned out they were Occupational Health and Safety inspectors who work for the city’s Corporate Services. At first they said they wouldn’t talk to me, they wanted to talk to staff, so Lea came over and joined us. They walked into the garage, shaking their heads and taking digital photographs, with Lea and I following them. The farmers were trying to set up their tables, but the zamboni was still in there. The foreman came in just about the time the inspectors entered, to drive the zamboni out so the rest of the farmers’ tables could be set up. The inspectors said, can we see your propane ticket? The foreman dug around in his wallet, looking worried.

They told him his propane ticket was out of date and he wasn’t allowed to drive the zamboni out of the garage. I started getting impatient. “Please call the supervisor and ask him to move the machine. We need the garage for the market.”

But the supervisor walked in just then, so he drove the zamboni out and the farmers set up as people were already waiting to shop.

While the zamboni was being driven out, the inspectors told us that they had just come from shutting down two rinks in the west end, because of employee-health-and-safety violations, and that they were very unimpressed by what they saw at our rink.

It got worse from there. When they saw the Clay and Paper Theatre giant puppets suspended by their ropes and pulleys, high up in the rafters of the garage, they were appalled. Next came the city’s large gas space heater, also suspended from the two-story-high ceiling, which they said should never have been installed there. Then when they saw our new community kitchen through the glass sliding doors, they said that this was the worst rink they had ever seen, and that they might have to shut us down immediately.

I said, “tell us what we can do to fix what bothers you.” They said: “if you’re not staff, we don’t even want to talk to you.”

So I called the City rinks manager. He groaned. “This is the visit I was hoping you would never get.” He got here within twenty minutes. He walked around with the inspectors for an hour or more, and wrote down everything they told him. After they left, he said he had three pages of employee-health-and-safety infractions, some so urgent they must be taken care of by the next day (Friday) to prevent the rink from being shut down. That period of grace was then extended until Monday at the latest.

So as the Christmas market got underway, and the shinny games continued on the rink, we had a new crisis. Our rink is not one of the winter treasures of our neighborhood. It’s a mass of employee safety violations.

I went home and wrote an e-mail to Claire Tucker Reid, the general manager of Parks and Recreation, cc’ing every person on my rink friends list, on my summer parks list, plus the list serve and the press and the City Councillor.

Dear Claire,

I have just been informed that Dufferin Rink will be shut down, probably tomorrow, if we continue with the mixed use that we now have. Two health and safety inspectors came and quite evidently found the whole scene we run, abominable. I called your rink manager to come down and they gave him all the details.

After 10 years of community-building at Dufferin Grove Park, it is a stunning experience for me to find that two gentleman can come and tell us that what our neighbourhood has built in this park is basically a giant heap of safety violations.

It is ironic and sad that as parks and recreation facilities all over the city, especially rinks, are crumbling before our eyes, one of the best outdoor rinks in the city would be closed. The Christmas holidays are set to begin. To have to face the end of our community dinners, the bread, the farmers' market, and much of what makes the rink work so well, will be a very serious blow for our neighbourhood.

The two health and safety inspectors who came today told me that it is a fallacy to think that parks belong to citizens: they belong to the corporate entity called Toronto. I hope that not everyone in city government feels this way. Please let us know where you stand.

Dec. 19 2003

The letters have been flooding in.

Dear Councillor, I own the large house that faces the rink and if anyone in the neighbourhood has earned the right to comment about the current state of affairs, it would be me. You will notice in the subject header that I refer to the rink as a Community Centre because that is in fact what it has become--- the least funded and probably the best community centre in Toronto in the true sense of the word community. Living where I do, I am very much aware that Dufferin Grove, as a large inner city park, has the potential to change its character in a heartbeat and become a dangerous force in our neighbourhood. Keeping the park safe is a very tricky balancing act. It's working because everyone uses it, so please do what you can to make sure that this state of affairs continues or the city may well have much more serious problems on its hands than a few health infractions. Annick Mitchell

Dear Councillor, I guess the powers that be at Parks and Rec are just fed-up with this community. It amazes me that they don't regard Dufferin Grove as the jewel in the crown. If things don't get resolved by Sunday, I would be more than happy to help organize a skaters visit to the Mayor's office on Monday morning. All the little skaters will be on holiday and the doors of city hall are open. Also, I am sure Monday will be a slow news day. I think this would be a perfect vision of the grinch who stole Christmas and then some. Kathleen Foley

Dear Councillor, This news is absolutely abominable, backward, and anti-neighborhood. The Dufferin Grove activities have been a model and a beacon of hope for all citizens of Toronto. What can you do to help stop the rink and other activities being shut down? And what can we, as concerned neighbors, do? Michaelle McLean

Dear Mayor and Councillors, I am sending this message to you all in the hope that some quick, sensible action can be taken in the face of what seems to be an idiotic bureaucratic farce. Our park is a shining example of what a park should be. It is a hub of vibrant and lively activity that attracts youngsters of all ages together with adults who participate in the varied and inclusive activities that the park offers. I cannot tell you how angry and outraged the neighbourhood will be if the rink is closed. Where are the youngsters going to go who use the rink? Do you want them to hang out on Bloor Street and in the Dufferin Mall during the Christmas holidays? All this talk about the impact that overweight children will eventually have on our health services ... it seems to me that the kids skating might just save us a few health dollars! Vivienne Smietana

Dear Councillor, For some years now, our foundation has been making grants to the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park to assist them in their efforts to integrate the park into the community. The irony in all of this is that the park applied for and received a grant from the city to buy and install the kitchen equipment which now appears to another governmental authority to be problematic. For what it is worth, we agreed to an $8,000 commitment to help with the kitchen which helped her secure the grant from the city. I am not one to normally harass those who represent me/us in the political process but this situation is ridiculous. Anything you can do would sure be appreciated. John Broley

Mayor Miller, As a resident and regular user of the park and rink, I am shocked to learn that the city once again wants to flex its muscle to close the rink and the park in spite of all the efforts made by residents to build a valuable and meaningful resource within the city. Please look at the facts and stop this madness. Tim Freeman

Dear Councillor, I have just been informed of the potential closing of Dufferin Grove Rink. THIS MUST BE STOPPED! This is a place that me and my family have been going to for years. Our time there is something we look forward to on a weekly basis as it is one of the only opportunities we have to all go to one place and ENJOY ourselves (the challenges of teenagers who rarely want to be seen in public with their parents). I presume I do not have to sell you on its merits. Please do WHATEVER you can to prevent this. IT IS A COMMUNITY BASED PARK, MADE FOR AND BY THE COMMUNITY. THIS IS ONE EXAMPLE OF CIVIC PARTICIPATION WORKING AT ITS BEST. PLEASE DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN! Loren Grebanier

Dear People in Charge, That's enough. No more of this bureaucratization of people's everyday lives is going to happen if I can help it. Dufferin Grove Park and the people who work and volunteer in it have given me a home away from home. It's a place I meet my friends for dinner and where I get to befriend people I would never have otherwise met. I go there and help out so that I can feel like I'm doing something good for the people in my neighbourhood. It is a labour of love. Caitlin Shea

Dear Councillor, “It is a fallacy to think that parks belong to citizens” ?? I feel that our park has always been in the forefront of community involvement. The number of people who use the park, rink, club house is incredible. And now some bureaucrats, who think that this park does not belong to us, want to shut the whole place down. As a tax paying citizen who has enjoyed this wonderful community park for years, I find this completely outrageous. A very concerned citizen who believes that our parks really belong to us -- Shanti Nahata

Dear Mayor Miller, and Councillors, What the community has done at Dufferin Grove stands as a shining example of what community really is ... and it should be duplicated throughout the entire city -- not taken apart. The rink, the farmer's market, the bread ovens, the friday night suppers, the wading pool and every other spectacular event that happens there makes me proud to live in this city. What is going on at city hall to stop this? and why is something so vital to the wellbeing of the city being attacked? Mary Myers

Dear Ms. Tucker Reid: Jutta and park staff have been doing some research, basically visiting rinks to see if they are in a working state. They have discovered many rinks get infrequent rink maintenance and in some parks, the rink guard cannot be found. After the Dufferin Grove group discovered that there was some disarray in Toronto rinks and started reporting this to city types, we got a "surprise" visit from the two employee health inspectors. The bad feeling in my stomach, and I am speaking personally now, is that in the city bureaucracy, there are some people who are unhappy about the Friends of Dufferin Grove. They do not like the idea that we feel it is our place to tell them to do their job. Jane Price

Dear Councillor, I hold up Dufferin Grove as a model of right thinking and action, it's the way communities should be using park opportunities. Please understand that what has been accomplished is sustainable only with support. To hear that anything other than support and gratitude is being offered from paid city officials seems a weird misunderstanding that needs be quickly resolved. Dyan Marie

Dear Mayor Miller, Dufferin Grove is not dangerous to those who treasure it, in any way. We won't slip on the ice, or choke on some fresh warm bread and sue. We love our park. Perhaps when goodwill can be tagged and weighed, we will be able judge real value, and to offset the cost of maintaining all that constructive joy. Then we'll know the real cost of shutting down a community jewel. Until then, it is going too far when you consider harming our treasure. Roscoe Handford

Group e-mail response from the City Rinks manager:

Dufferin Grove will not be shut down over the holiday season. There are some Health and Safety issues which will be addressed in the very near future. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you require further information. James Dann

Group e-mail from the Councillor’s assistant:

I've spoken to James Dann in Parks and Rec and received assurances that the Dufferin Grove rink will remain open, as will access to the rink house for skating activities. There are still some issues to be addressed and details to be worked out, but I'm happy to say that the immediate concerns have been resolved, and skating is still on!

Thanks again for your emails and calls. We'll be sure to keep you informed of developments. Kevin Beaulieu

Group e-mail from the general manager:

I have asked staff for a report on the Health and Safety violations, and I will be receiving this information quite shortly. Please know that we will do whatever we can to ensure that the facility stays open for the residents. I will be in touch as soon as I have the information and a proposed solution. Claire Tucker Reid

Group e-mail from Carmen Smith, the Mayor’s office:

Mayor Miller has asked me to respond directly to your e-mail regarding the Dufferin Grove Park. The Mayor understands the importance of Dufferin Grove Park to residents in the area and the role it has played in building and supporting a strong community.

We have received assurances from senior staff in Parks and Recreation that the arena will remain open. Staff have requested a report to address a number of Health & Safety concerns. Once the report is complete, Parks and Recreation staff will convene a meeting with members of the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park early in the new year to communicate further on the issues.

Group e-mail from Jutta Mason

Dear rink and park friends, Here are some follow-ups to the nasty little drama that began just before the farmers' market yesterday afternoon. The list of infractions: I don't know it in detail because they said it wasn't their job to talk to me at all. But the list, I'm told by James Dann (west end parks and rec manager), went from storing things too close to the water heaters (already fixed) to having no face plates on a light switch (done last night at 10.30 p.m.) to not having a proper vent on the kitchen stove (we just got an unexpected donation, and that will be done) to Clay and Paper puppets tied up to the high steel struts across the ceiling (not allowed even if the puppets are light, don't ask why). So they will be removed and taken away from the park on Monday.

Most of the things are do-able, and some are even sensible. But the bombshell is this: the two gentlemen said that regulations require the garage to be totally off limits to us during the three months the zamboni is kept in there. That means we can't get to our new kitchen (an enclosed alcove off the garage), nor to the fridges where the juices and cookie supplies are kept, nor can the farmers' market be there. (In fact, the two gentlemen suggested that it might be a good idea to rip out the new kitchen altogether.)

A parked zamboni is a lot like a parked car -- not all that dangerous when it's just standing there. And the garage has lots more room than is needed for the zamboni. That’s why we've been able to use the garage for all sorts of other things for almost ten years.

But the two gentlemen, apparently, are adamant. Rules are rules, they told me, whether they make sense or not.

They will do a repeat performance, of sorts, on Tuesday, to summon everyone and say what their requirements are. If one of the requirements is that the rink house lock should be changed so that we can't get at our food supplies and kitchen (one suggestion on the table), that will mean that this rink will revert to a condition closer to other rinks and the clubhouse era will be over.

However, James Dann, the manager of our region, spent all day finding solutions. Claire Tucker Read (General Manager) left a voice mail saying she was hopeful that the rink would not have to close. The Globe said they'd do a piece and so did the Star. And no wonder -- the eloquence (and the number) of the e-mails that went around was amazing. I will post them on the rink bulletin board.

It may be that we attracted the attention of the two workplace-health-and-safety gentlemen in the first place because of e-mails I've been sending to park staff in the past few weeks, documenting the deplorable condition and poor ice maintenance of many of the city rinks. Lack of good supervision is a bigger issue here than lack of money. And talking about it can make enemies.

In the end, what troubles me the most is the way Parks and Rec lurches from one crisis to another.

For now, we have the weekend to enjoy the rink more or less as usual. The zamboni is being kept outside, unprotected, during the day (when it's outside there is no restriction -- anyone can approach it freely, damage it even -- apparently that is not of concern to the workplace health and safety duo). So that means we can use the kitchen. But no one on the staff has the taste for making Friday or Saturday night supper. We'll wait to see what happens on Tuesday.

I won't send out any more general e-mails after this one, unless it's to confirm that clubhouse use is suspended. Which it probably won't be -- the pressure was very very strong today and interest is high by parks staff to protect what we have. But there is still a chance that the two gentlemen will prevail.

Dec 23 2003

James Creighton (title: Corporate Services senior consultant) came to the rink at ten this morning. The two inspectors came too, but they stayed standing against the back wall, their arms folded, stonefaced. Four park staff were there, plus Jane Price and I and the rinks manager.

Mr.Creighton started off by telling us about his innovations in Health and Safety: under his direction, worker accident claims (or reports, I can't remember which) have been reduced by 85%, which he says makes the city very proud and puts them ahead of almost any other similar unit in North America. Although he’s on City staff, his title is ‘consultant’ because it’s his job to consult with every section of Parks and Rec and make sure they know the rules.

Park management staff, and city councillors, can be fined and even jailed if they do not ensure that the city is "in compliance." It’s Mr.Creighton’s job to help them avoid that.

He laid out the main points of what he’s going to recommend:

1. Parks and Rec must remove the "home-made kitchen" (i.e. our city-funded community kitchen)

2. Parks and Rec must change the locks so we can't use the south room of the building (i.e. as a mixed-use garage/storage/farmers' market area)

3. Everything must be out of the garage except what's directly related to flooding the ice.

The detailed document, giving the relevant regulations to justify these suggestions, is still not ready and will not be ready until "the end of the week" -- that may mean after New Year's.

The zamboni has been put back inside and Mr.Creighton now says it must not be left outside, unprotected. No kidding.

After dropping these bombshells, he left, flanked by the two inspectors. The manager stayed at the rink another ten minutes. He said, “Mr. Creighton is supposed to work for Parks and Rec, and the director doesn’t have to take any of these recommendations from Mr. Creighton if he doesn’t want to.”

You sure wouldn’t know that. Mr. Creighton talked as though he was simply conveying the inevitable.

Just before supper i got a one-liner e-mail from the Mayor himself:

What response did you get?

I wrote back:

-- they plan to destroy the community kitchen and change the locks on the garage so we can't do the supper/famers' market/snack-bar things any more.

Dec.24 2003

This morning the blue propane Olympia ice-resurfacer is gone and we have a shiny white gas-powered zamboni instead. So the propane rules no longer apply. The manager says that propane rules were really the main sticking point on combination uses of a building.

I sent around Mr. Creighton’s most recent pronouncements to the rink friends, plus the Municipal Health and Safety Association Newsletter description of his achievements.

- From a park friend who works at a large corporation:

This is just the sort of thing that gets benchmarked - in order to measure "successful management"...

- From a park friend who’s a journalist:

I'm sorry, but what a bunch of horseshit.

- From a park friend who’s an aspiring politician:

I think it would be really great if we could have a community meeting sometime before January 5th to strategize about what to do. I have no doubt that we will be able to organize a really effective campaign to prevent the Dufferin Park community from being shut down over some bureaucratic red tape. I am optimistic because once word gets out, I think people all over Toronto will be really pissed off that an example of how to make a city park actually work breaks some rules.

Dec.28 2003

Joe Adelaars, our web master, looked up the Occupational Health and Safety Act on the internet. 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.

The inspectors’ visit has brought the problem with this legislation into clear relief for us, but it’s always been in the background anyway. The tricky question our neighborhood park poses is – what is our rightful power as citizens in shaping the use of our public space?

Today the city carpenters came and built us some much nicer storage shelves in the garage. The public health inspector still has to come and so does the fire department.

Dec.29 2003

We’re still waiting to see the inspectors’ written report. The outcry that followed that first alarming day got responses from park management and the councillor and even the mayor. But the friends of the park are not at the discussion table, and neither are the actual park workers 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 have basically gone back to trying to make the rink work.

From the Park Newsletter January 2004

HOCKEY NOISE: Since the rink season lasts only three months, the staff try to let people use the rink at every possible moment. That means they keep the hockey rink open 14 hours a day, and they never lock the pleasure-skating side at all. The lights go off after 11 p.m. but some folks even play hockey in the half-dark afterwards, using their shoes to mark the goal. But late-night hockey makes a hardship for the people living nearby: the sound of the puck keeps people awake when they want to sleep. So, if you play hockey late at night, shhhh! Don’t hit the puck against the boards and don’t shout to your friends. There was a very unhappy anonymous phone call on the park voice mail a few days after Christmas, suggesting that the caller intended to start a neighbourhood petition to stop late-night skating. Oh dear! Please, late-night skaters, remind each other to be quiet. And please, neighbours who suffer from the noise – leave your name and phone number at the park so the staff can get details from you, and go after the noisy folks and tell them to put a sock in it.

HOCKEY TOURISTS: Just after Christmas a big group of hockey players and their families showed up at the rink: seven families, mothers, fathers, and kids (26 people in all) from Sheffield, England. This was their second winter-time visit to Canada, looking for snow and good ice. They didn’t find any snow, but they found us, and here’s how: on Boxing Day some of them they were standing in an endless line-up at Wal-mart across the street, waiting to pay. Because people in the lineup had plenty of time to talk, somebody told them about our rink.

So they all came over and checked us out, and then they played at our rink many times in the five days that followed. They told us that Sheffield is the fourth biggest city in England, with over a million people, but that they don’t have any rinks like ours. David Garrity and his wife Michelle said that if such a rink were to be built in their city, it would be vandalized immediately: the nets would be stolen, the fences slashed, the windows broken. They have to rent indoor ice time back home, and it costs a lot. They said they couldn’t believe their good fortune in stumbling across our free rink, and to show their appreciation they gave us some quality kids’ hockey gear for our loan box, when they left.

The pleasure these folks took in playing hockey (and having many cups of tea in the rink house) was lovely to see. But we hope they’re wrong about vandals. Maybe if they made a rink in Sheffield that was well looked after with lots of free hours and skate loans (and cookies and tea), they’d find out, as we have, that vandalism can almost disappear.

HOW MUCH YOUTH WANT TO PLAY HOCKEY: Our rink was one of the first two neighbourhood rinks in the city to open this year. So it was even fuller than usual in the first week. Often there were over 50 shinny hockey players on the ice, with several different games going on at the same time. Permits for the 9-11 period filled up fast (those for youth are free), and after the building closed, there was usually a crowd of shinny hockey players on the pleasure-skating side as well. After eleven when the lights go out and the hockey side is locked, hockey players would jump the fence, and another whole game would take place in the moonlight. The players would try to play as quietly as they could so as not to bother the apartment building next door. - That's how much youth want to play hockey.

Jan.2 2004

The Globe piece ran today. The reporter quotes the general manager: "I'm a huge fan. . . . This is a park that is clearly alive, during the day, in the evenings, on weekends," Ms. Tucker-Reid said. She said she was confident the city and Ms. Mason will sit down soon and sort out the issues raised by the safety inspectors, but warned that rules will have to be followed. "We won't compromise on health and safety."

I have had no invitation from Claire to “sit down and sort out the issues.” Who does that?

Jan.14 2004

Park friend Veronica is not only a shinny hockey player, she also works for the Ministry of the Environment. It turns out she used to be a health and safety inspector herself, until her job changed again. When she heard that the kitchen is supposed to be torn out and the locks changed in the zamboni garage because that space is deignated for the zamboni, she wrote:

I've never run across the phrase "designated space". There is a legally defined term "designated substances", but its for things like asbestos, isocyanide etc and would have no relevance in this case....Whenever someone says to you "there's a regulation.....," MAKE THEM REFERENCE THE REGULATION. ....Find out the credentials of the city employees. If they were doing a workplace safety inspection, then (a) your park staff have a right to ask for a copy of that inspection and (b) at least one of the inspectors should have been a "worker" as opposed to management.

Jan.18 2004

The park staff have been asking everybody to put them in touch with the Health and Safety Committee, but so far no luck. Its membership is a bit fluid, maybe. The City rinks manager says he’ll try to get them a copy of Mr.Creighton’s final report on the rink infractions, but it’s still not ready. From Jutta:

I’ve sent a request to Mr.Creighton, for copies of his annual health and safety reports, to find out what sorts of other things the Health and Safety staff do.

Jan. 21 2004

From James Creighton:

Thank you for your email. Unfortunately I am not allowed to go public with internal stats as there is private information in them.

February 2004 park Newsletter

HEALTH AND SAFETY INSPECTORS AT THE RINK: THE SEQUEL. The outcry that followed the threat to shut down Dufferin Rink just before Christmas, the newspaper coverage, the intervention of our new councillor, Adam Giambrone, and the thoughtful e-mails sent by so many people, all contributed to producing a silver lining that at times seemed to engulf the black cloud almost entirely.

The inspectors emphasized that the lack of clear boundaries between staff and friends of the park at our park were too risky. But Parks director Don Boyle said: “we have to work closely with volunteers, all over the city. In each neighbourhood, the boundaries are worked out differently. If a collaboration with community people works well, we’ll support it – that’s the point of parks and recreation.” That’s his decision, and he’s sticking to it.

As it stands now, it seems that all our clubhouse activities are within range of what the regulations require. We don’t know how many other inspectors are still to come and what they will identify. But maybe the storm is coming to its end, and it’s time to celebrate……..

“MY FUNNY VALENTINE" ZAMBONI FESTIVAL Saturday February 14. Cavan Young, who used to arrange outdoor concerts at the park when we started all our activities ten years ago, and David Anderson of Clay and Paper Theatre, have devised a St.Valentine's Day festival when the zamboni will be officially invited to become part of our community.

To show that we are serious about our attachment to the zamboni, we are renaming the rink snack bar the "Zamboni Cafe" and the new community kitchen has already been renamed the "zamboni kitchen." The giant puppets will return on that day, from the places they were evacuated to.

It may be that the inspectors think health and safety is NOT FUNNY. Whereas Cavan Young and David Anderson say that our mental health and safety depends on seeing the fun in almost everything, at least for a moment.

Cavan got a National Film Board contract to do a 10-minute movie of this Zamboni Valentine, so his crew will be filming on that day. Cavan is also holding a nicknaming ceremony, to cement the zamboni’s position as one element in our community. Zack? Zoe? Zorra? Zed? (One of our rink staff will officiate at the christening – his name is Zio.)

This festival will have the additional purpose of celebrating the saving of our community kitchen. Cavan will be requesting comments on-camera from anyone who is willing, but it doesn’t matter if you’re camera-shy; the festival will be a celebration of coming through this latest storm, and that’s the heart of the matter. Food, music, beautiful skating, a campfire, snow hills, and neighbours: Happy Valentine’s Day. And remember to wear something red.

Feb.19 2004

Lots of snow yesterday. Mark Culligan is the park maintenance worker who often drives the big case loader that moves the snow off the rink after a snowstorm. He must have come in really early this morning. The rink was all ready for skating, but also Mark has made a snow road along the main walkway through the park, so people will have an easier time going through there.

Then Mark ploughed away the big snow “mountains” that are near the rink and the wood ovens. Otherwise, when the weather turns warm and all that snow starts the melt, the whole oven area changes into a giant muddy bog. He used the loader’s huge bucket to carry the biggest snow mountain away by the giant shovel-load. With this snow he created a long snow climbing-wall to the west of the park oven, where the hill slopes toward the street and the melt-water can drain away. Since then the kids (and dogs!) swarm all over the climbing wall and the bakers get to walk around with dry feet.

Mark, who rides a Harley-Davidson motorbike in his off hours, says he has so much fun using the case loader, that he can’t believe the city actually pays him to operate it.

March 4 2004

Great confusion reins about whether the rinks will stay open, because the weather has been so warm. The first plan was that Dufferin would stay open until March 7. Then it was decided to keep 20 rinks open until March 21, to let the kids skate through March break. Then it got warm and sunny (sun is much worse than warmth). Yesterday the order came to close all the rinks by the afternoon (for the season). Then we heard, close all the rinks by evening. Then we found out that Dufferin Rink would be allowed to stay open until March 7, as was the original plan.

But the message didn’t get passed to the Tech Services staff. So this morning the compressors had been turned off and the electricians had reset the rink lights for summertime. Sigh. Then they had to come back and turn us on again. On top of that, one of the compressors had blown a gasket and was overheating. So the mechanics came last night at midnight to work on it (they work during the night so that the ice won't melt when the compressors are turned off for servicing). They stayed until 10.30 the next morning. A lot of overtime charges! But now the ice is perfect, although it's 6 degrees out.

March 5 2004

Today it was 18 degrees in the afternoon. But no sun. So there was half an inch of water all over, but underneath, the ice was smooth and hard. Some people came and skated around, having fun shooting up the water with their skates when they stopped. Late at night the temperature dropped and the ice returned to normal: magic. And then we heard that five rinks - including us - would stay open to the end of March break.

March 10: The ice has been good most of the time, but even so, the rink has often been fairly empty. People walk in and say: What? You're open? We had no idea!

Everyone still thinks the rinks all closed at the end of February, as they did last year and the year before. And the city's rink "hot line" didn't carry the news of the extended season until the end of the second week. However, people will catch on.

March 12 2004

A couple of pucks went through the compressor-room windows this winter, now that people have started playing shinny hockey on the pleasure-skating side after dark. Tino put in a work order for protective screens on the windows. They put them up at the rink today. The city welder put crossed metal “hockey sticks” as the screens' reinforcement. The foreman said he didn’t want to just have ugly bars to strengthen the screens, so he and the welder decided on a hockey theme. The screens look wonderful – random acts of nice design, by city trades staff. We called the foreman to thank him, and he sounded pretty pleased.

April 2004 Park Newsletter

TINY DRILL HOLE CAUSED RINK TO SHUT DOWN EARLY The two giant vats of brownish liquid temporarily located outside the zamboni garage are brine vats. Brine is what circulates in the pipes underneath the concrete surface of the rink, and keeps the ice frozen in the wintertime. The city technical services staff noticed this past winter that there must be leak in one of the pipes, since the brine (salt and water) needed more topping up than it should. They finally had to shut down the rink at the beginning of March break (to the great disappointment of the kids), even though the ice was in excellent condition, because they were concerned about the salt pollution happening under the rink, with the brine leak. (It's illegal to leak salt into the ground except on roads and sidewalks.)

Soon after the rink was shut down, the technical services people came and drained all the brine that hadn't leaked out already, into the two big vats, so they could try and find the source of the leak. Then an expert in brine leaks came. He discovered a drill hole in the concrete near the tennis practice board. No one knows who might have drilled that tiny hole, although the city workers are wondering if the community might have done it, since they're sure they didn't, and that only leaves us (?) Two more drill holes were also discovered. Sabotage? Concrete worms?

This past rink season the intermittent brine leak was a cliff-hanger, and other equipment breakdowns added to the suspense. One night there was an ammonia leak at midnight. It’s was discovered by chance – somebody walking by there smelled it. That's how we found out that the rink's flashing ammonia-leak sign is not connected to any central alarm, and therefore it alarms nobody.

Here's a puzzle: the technical services mechanics tell us that on many days during the rink season, the rink lost 80 gallons of brine most days, out of this little drill-hole. That's a lot of water. It didn't come out the top like a geyser, or we would have seen it. Did all this water hollow out a cave under the concrete pad of the rink, so that the concrete is just hanging in mid-air the way the ammonia tank was? As of now, there are no plans by the city to find out.

April 22 2004

Letter from Barbara Shulman, City of Toronto Director of Human Resources, to Jutta Mason:

Ms. Mason, I recently had the opportunity to view a video of the short film that was aired on CBC last month, which reflects the Friends of Dufferin Grove's reaction to a Health & Safety report prepared by two City employees. The report noted many concerns related to the safety of the facility and made recommendations on changes needed to ensure that the facility offers a safe environment for City employees and members of the public.

The City of Toronto is committed to providing and maintaining safe and healthy working conditions for all employees. The Parks and Recreation division is committed to providing people in the diverse communities of Toronto with full and equitable access to high calibre, locally responsible recreation programs, efficiently operated facilities, and safe, clean and beautiful parks, open spaces, ravines and forests. The film that you prepared ridicules the work of my staff, the Health & Safety Inpsectors who are committed to the health and safety of City employees and the public, and is highly offensive. To make a mockery of efforts to ensure a safe working/recreational environment is irresponsible.

I do hope, that in the future, efforts to ensure a safe environment for staff and the public, are recognized and appreciated.

April 23 2004

Reply from Jutta:

Dear Ms.Shulman,I'm so sorry that you found the NFB/CBC film "Citizen Z" upsetting. There are however several things I think you should know about the case.

1. I was interviewed in the film but I did not make the film, as you seem to think. The film was a co-production between the NFB and CBC Newsworld, for a series on democracy. I would have liked the film to be different too – I think it was rather mystifying in its presentation of what goes on at our park. But people who are interviewed by the media don't get to determine what's in the final product, not even a little. That's how the media work, they don't let people make the films or write the articles for them. They make up their own minds -- freedom of the press.

2. You seem to feel I have a poor grasp of the work of your inspectors. If that is the case, their unwillingness to let me read the report you refer to may have contributed to my ignorance. Although I twice asked for a copy of the report, which you say "noted many concerns," my request was refused. Two recreation staff at our park asked for a copy of the report and they were not given one either. I believe this latter refusal contravenes the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which requires reports of hazards to be open and available to workers. Moreover, when I asked for a copy of a more general report, referred to in a MHSAO newsletter, Mr. James Creighton wrote back (January 21 2004): "Unfortunately I am not allowed to go public with internal stats as there is private information in them."

An organization that allows no public access to any details of what it does may find itself, in the end, exposed to mockery.

The cure is simple: please let me read the inspectors' report about Dufferin Rink, and also make the unit's more general summary of their results available.

April 27 2004

The drill holes in the rink surface that made the brine leak out all last winter were clumsily camouflaged with some kind of blue-gray putty. Is it possible that the sad and angry zamboni driver from the previous rink season came back after the ice was out and tried to wreck the rink even more? There’s no way of knowing. The hole is patched now. But there might be bigger rink problems. The concrete rink surface is full of cracks.

It's not only Dufferin Rink that has cracks. The newer city rinks -- Campbell, Trinity, and Christie -- all have them. The older ones: Wallace, Scadding, and Ramsden -- have no cracks. Dufferin Rink is the first-rebuilt rink of the new series, and our cracks are the biggest. At all the new rinks, the cracks show yellow stains.

Our new rink surface and machinery cost about $1 million to build in 1993. It's supposed to last much longer. Something strange is going on here, and we wrote to the City Councillor that the rink needs to have an inspection by CIMCO, the company that installed the compressors and builds rinks too.

Big mistakes were already made at this rink, and were then mended. This may be the biggest problem yet, or it may be relatively easy to fix. Now is the time to find out.

April 30 2004

The manager of Technical Services wrote to the Councillor that three years ago the City hired consultants to check out all the Parks and Recreation facilities, and they found nothing wrong with the rinks. The City has now hired another consultant to do an even more detailed inventory later this year. They’ll let them “know of our concerns” and tell us more then.

Another “don’t worry.” But the consultants who work with the City all have the same complaint – when they go around to do the inspections, they can’t get into the buildings, they can’t find anyone who knows anything, and so on. We've asked them for a copy of the first consultants' report from three years ago.

May 2 2004

Dear Ms.Shulman, A week ago I sent you an e-mail asking for two specific Health and Safety documents from you and I have not heard back. If the absence of response from you to my previous e-mail was simply an oversight, could I ask you to clarify this by tomorrow morning? We want to avoid beginning the "access to information" process if this is just a misunderstanding. Jutta Mason

May 3 2004

Dear Ms. Mason,I'd be happy to share with you a copy of the Health & Safety report prepared following the December 18th visit to Dufferin Rink. I will have a copy forwarded to your office.

With respect to the annual Parks & Recreation Health & Safety report for the past 4 years - I am waiting to hear back from the Freedom of Information office regarding my ability to share these reports. The concern I have is that these documents, which are generally prepared for management's use only, include references to specific managers/supervisors. While you may know their names, it is not our practice to compromise the confidentiality of any of our employees and share this type of information with the public. Barbara Shulman

May 6 2004

The "state of good repair" consultants' audits, on this rink and a few others in the neighborhood, done three years ago, arrived in the mail today. The technical services manager must have sent them off right away. He went to some trouble to explain his spreadsheets. He says the first consultant was doing a “visual audit” or a “snapshot” so that may mean somebody went around and looked at what was rusting and said, “that needs fixing.” Plus they looked at the life expectancy of machinery and building materials according to their dates of purchase, and estimated when they’d need to be replaced.

”The total dollar value of the items identified by the consultants for Dufferin Grove is $171,700. This figure has been increased to $220,000 for account for inflation, contingency and consultant's costs. The next round of audits later this year would be more ‘in depth.’”

The kicker is that the manager says none of either this “visual audit” or the “in-depth” audit can be done by staff. The electricians, the plumbers, the machinists and the carpenters who have been working around Parks for years or even decades, and who are often being called to fix things, are not part of this loop.

The City trades have occasionally shared how they feel about this state of affairs. They hate it. It means that year after year, there are lists of what needs to be done, prepared by visiting consultants. And year after year, there’s little money to do it.

The manager’s letter ended with a reminder:

Please bear with us and understand that we too are committed to the responsible care of public resources, including financial resources.

If only we had the same understanding of how one cares for public resources.

May 11 2004

The rink audits that the tech services manager sent have some problems with dates. The consultant is one year off for the year Dufferin was rebuilt, 34 years off for Trinity, and 19 years off for Campbell. It’s the communication problem that people keep talking about, with consultants – there’s nobody from the City assigned to do fact-checking.

The audit says that none of the rinks show any cracks. That either means the consultants were blind-folded or this problem has come up very fast.

From Jutta to the technical services manager:

Your spreadsheet calls for repair/replacement expenses in 2003 of $85,000, including an item called "area refrigeration systems" for $61,000. According the inspection report, that means replacing the water pump motor, the gas and liquid pipes, the overflow tank and expansion tank, the condenser pump, and the back flow preventer, and relocating the ammonia diffuser. (If I understood it right). Does that mean those things plus all the smaller bits were done last year?

The manager e-mailed back:

No, it doesn't mean those things were attended to last year. It just means that they were items which the consultant recommended should preferably be attended to at that time. However, the total dollar value of all items flagged by the consultants at all facilities across the City for 2003 could not possibly be afforded with available capital funds. So, all of these projects have been prioritized and scheduled to be attended to as soon as capital funds can be made available. Until then, we have to try and keep them operable with our maintenance budget and staff.

The manager went through each of the items on the consultant’s replacement list, and explained that it had not been necessary to fix them yet.

But there was the all-night overtime job just near the end of the rinks season. We know that was done. Was it on the consultant’s to-do list?

No. Shaft seal on compressor was the problem diagnosed by our in-house mechanics, which was confirmed as the problem by CIMCO mechanic who provided second opinion. Was not an item flagged by consultant.

What about the ammonia leak that finally shut down the rink last season? Was that problem foreseen by the consultant?

From the manager:


May 13 2004

From Jutta: I sent the manager my conclusion:

Okay, so it turns out that:

1. None of the things the inspectors slotted as work to be done at our rink (with specified years) actually need to be done at those times.

2. None of the things that actually went wrong at our rink were identified/predicted by the 2001 inspection.

What we learn from this inspection experiment is that general, large-scale inspections are a waste of money and time and should be stopped.

May 13 2004

From the manager of technical services:

I don't agree that the large scale general inspections were a waste of time and money….The more detailed "due diligence" inspections of City rinks planned for this year will review the original recommendations in the 2001 visual audit and assess the urgency for them to be addressed. They may also identify other items which may have been missed or not completely investigated in the visual inspections. Revisions to the long range capital plan (both in dollar value and timeframes) may be made based on their assessments.

So if the rain dance didn’t work right the first time, dance harder.

May19 2004

The Health and Safety Inspectors’ report on their visit to Dufferin Rink on Dec.18 2003 arrived in the mail a couple of days ago, at long last. It runs to five pages, with lots of annotations about the relevant regulations. It was lively reading for a whole bunch of people.

Letter from Friends of Dufferin Grove Park to Human Resources Director Barbara Shulman:

Now that you’ve given us Mr.Creighton’s report (Dufferin Safety Audit, December 24, 2003), we would appreciate some clarification on the connection between these recommendations and the legislation that was cited in the inspectors’ report.

1. The first of these recommendations was that the ice-resurfacer room be cleared of everything not directly related to outdoor ice flooding or maintenance. In support of this recommendation the report cited the Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000, Reg. 211/01 – Propane Storage and Handling.

At the time of the inspection, park staff asked inspectors if there was anything that could be done immediately in order to remedy any serious violations in the setup of the ice-resurfacer room; they were told that there was not. However, to the best of my understanding, after having read the relevant section of the aforementioned act, once the propane ice-resurfacer was removed from this room and replaced with a gas-powered zamboni, there was no longer a violation of the Technical Standards and Safety Act. Exchanging the propane machine for a gas zamboni was a very simple thing.

Could you please point out to us any other regulation (which perhaps we missed) prohibiting mixed use of the rink garage?

2. The second recommendation in the report asks that the locks on the access door be changed so that only qualified/certified staff have access, and that a sign be posted reading “Authorised Staff Only.” Is there any regulation that could be cited supporting this ban on mixed use, once the propane machine is gone?

3. The third recommendation is perhaps the most puzzling to us. It asks that the “home made” kitchen be removed. The legislation that is cited in Mr.Creighton's document does not require this. Public Health, when they came to inspect the kitchen, required the addition of a fourth sink, but that was all. The Fire Department asked us to relocate the fire extinguisher, but that was all.

Is there is something included in the legislation cited in the report or anywhere else in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that prohibits the use of this room? We suspect not, but we realize we may have missed something in our reading of the Act.

4. The fourth recommendation states that all storage and safety related concerns must be addressed, with the assistance of the appropriate Joint Health and Safet Committee members. We assume that this section includes the various housekeeping concerns raised by your inspectors.

New shelves were built and more woodsheds were placed outside for the bake oven wood storage. Hooks were put up to store the large zamboni hose when not in use. (Your inspectors reported that the hoses were on the floor and were a trip hazard, “due to all other available space being taken up by the community group.” However once the room was emptier and the hose storage hooks were up, the zamboni operators still preferred to keep the hoses on the floor. Happily no one tripped on them, ever.)

The puppets which were suspended from the steel roof trusses by ropes and pulleys (not by “strings”) were removed by order of your inspectors. They told us there were building code regulations that forbade any extra weight on those trusses, but we cannot find that regulation referenced in your inspectors’ report. In fact, there is a reference in their report to “allowable unit stresses” under the Building Code Act. We consulted with a structural engineer and he said the stresses posed by the arrangement of the puppets are well within the allowable limits.

Your inspectors found one puppet suspended from a gas pipe and one giant puppet shoe suspended near the gas-fired space heater, and they pointed those out. We agree that neither of those arrangements were acceptable, and they were quickly remedied. However the wholesale expulsion of the puppets was very difficult and, because so rushed, resulted in significant damage to the theatre company’s puppets.

Please inform us of any regulation that prevents us from storing the puppets up in the rafters as before. (The fire inspector said there is no regulation that prohibits flammable objects being stored in a room, so long as there are sufficient escape routes. So the mere fact that the puppets are made of papier mache is not sufficient to prevent them being stored there.)

5. The fifth recommendation says that the Public Health Department must be brought in to do an inspection of the cooking operations, and the appropriate licenses must be acquired in order to continue these operations. The recommendation also states that all staff and volunteers should be required to obtain a Food Handling Certificate.

The whole building and the farmers’ market have now been inspected by the Public Health Department, and passed. Staff asked the Public Health Department about acquiring the appropriate license to continue the cooking, and were told that it is not currently the practice to require one on city property. As to matter of the Food Handling Certificate, this certificate is not required, according the Public Health Department’s website.

6. The last recommendation in the report stated that the Fire Department should be called to arrange for the appropriate inspection. This has been done, and we passed that inspection as well.

Your inspectors also gave it as their opinion that the relationship between staff and community people contravenes both the intent of the city’s “internal responsibility system” and the Occupational Health and Safety Act’s description of a supervisor. It’s true that the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park, and particularly Jutta Mason, are very involved with the day to day operations at the park. However, it seems to us that Ms. Mason fits into the “competent person” category, as defined by the legislation cited in the report, as she is both experienced and knowledgeable, is familiar with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and has knowledge of the potential and actual dangers that exist at the park. As well, Friends of Dufferin Grove Park are not in a supervisory position at the park, because it is ultimately the city staff who are in charge. Close relations between staff and community are common in many parks and recreation centres. It’s hard to imagine how else public space could work well. And in our case, we have contributed enough to the working of our neighbourhood park that we have received numerous awards, internationally as well as locally. We deserved more respect and better co-operation than we got from your staff, on December 18, 2003.

We look forward to your responses to our remaining questions regarding specific regulations, so that we can finish the follow-up on this matter.

June 19 2004

Not a word of response from Barbara Shulman, to any of the questions we sent her a month ago today. Perhaps there will never be a response.

June 2004 Park Newsletter

RINK CRACKS NO PROBLEM: As this newsletter was ready to print, City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s assistant Kevin Beaulieu called to say that a concrete expert from CIMCO (the rink company) called him to say that he had dropped in at our rink on his way by and he’s pleased to tell him that the many cracks in our rink are no problem at all. Also, Councillor Giambrone wrote to let us know that the technical services manager has assured him that all our concerns have been flagged for follow-up during the Dufferin Grove inspection, including the cracks in the cement, the reinforced sinking floor, the rust and the leaking of brine last season. He expects that a city-wide rink inspection will come to our rink in late summer.

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Content last modified on March 19, 2007, at 09:55 AM EST