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posted October 15, 2005

Community Dialog about Rink Openings, and Wallace Rink Issues

October 10, 2005, group letter from Jutta Mason to the "friends of the rink list":

"Here we go, deja vu all over again, time to ask you to ride to the rescue (with your phone calls and/or e-mails):

1. help reverse the delayed rink opening: last April there was a well-attended rink user/rink staff post-season rink meeting that had lots of good ideas, many of which will be put into effect (see attached October newsletter). But one thing nobody realized then was that City management has still not agreed to run the outdoor rinks for their full season (historically, outdoor compressor-ice rinks opened just after mid-November). Almost every year they seem to need another reminder -- the fifth, by my count. I just heard that this year the City plans to open two or three rinks on Dec.3 and the rest on Dec.10.

No matter how eager people are to have their winter exercise -- skating and shinny hockey are having a huge vogue, note the crowds at our rink last year -- the City seems to regard opening rinks late as an easy way to nickel and dime their budget problems (maybe because of year-end budget panics?) If you feel that there are other, better ways for the City to save money, please call and/or e-mail the office of Parks, Forestry and Recreation general manager Brenda Librecz (416 392-8207, e-mail [email protected]). Ask her to let two rinks in every region open by November 26.

You may want to also contact the mayor's office (416 397-2489, e-mail [email protected]) to let them know that cutting the rink season is a false economy.

2. help me slow down the doubtful Wallace Rink rebuild: One way to save money is not to spend it foolishly. That would mean not committing just under $1 million to a Wallace Rink-machinery rebuild until the project's serious problems are addressed. This particularly matters to us because Wallace Rink is the nearest to us, and now part of our "cluster" (see the newsletter). Neither Wallace Rink staff nor rink users were consulted in this plan (just now going to tender). The structure of the city department in charge of the project leads them into a conflict-of-interest situation -- the more large projects they undertake, the more they can cover their staff's payroll -- and they're pushing to get this approved NOW. The general manager has listened to my objections, and has put a hold on the approvals until a park/ planning staff meeting takes place in the next few days. But I'm not invited to the meeting. I'm worried it will just be a formality rather than looking at the issues (including entrapment issues in the way the rink is set up, that put rink users in danger)."

October 10, from Matt Price:

"Can you elaborate a little more on the Wallace rink issue? It's just that, not knowing much about this issue, I don't want to step on the toes of people not lucky enough to live as close to dufferin grove as I do..."

October 10, response to Matt Price from Jutta Mason:

"in answer to your request for clarification: Wallace Rink, our closest neighbour (at Dufferin and Dupont) is scheduled to have its very well-functioning physical plant replaced by a different kind of physical plant, this coming spring. But the rest of the rink area -- e.g. the slummy change room and the hidden-from-view outdoor change section -- will be kept exactly as they are.

The area where rink users can change their skates is very dangerous because it's a blind corner that was created by really poor planning. Youth wanna-be gangsters have colonized that rink so much that it's less and less used by anybody else. Many people who use Dufferin Rink tell us they used to go to Wallace but find it too scary. This past summer there was an execution-style murder 20 meters from that area -- it's so hidden that it was easy to do despite being right beside the Galleria Mall.

I want the City to wait a year so that THIS WINTER we/they can do some good consultation with rink users and front-line rink staff so they can fix the whole problem, not just change the refrigeration system. Wallace Rink has the potential to be as good as Dufferin Rink -- why not?

The City managers need some guidance to take this very sensible step. The computer scandal makes it clear that the City bureaucracy needs some external help at the moment, some citizen involvement.

Hope this information helps."

October 10, from Ann Bjorseth to Brenda Librecz (cc to park):

"Since I have moved in June to Emerson Avenue, a block away from Wallace Park, there have been two shootings, and a number of nasty fights and other dangerous incidents in the park and attached parking lot. Also, I know that the Galleria is soon to start a major rebuild. Safety and careful planning for Wallace Park is very important to me.

I was at a meeting in the Spring of rink users at Dufferin Grove Park, and heard about the plans to rebuild the machinery at Wallace Park. I understand that the plan in now underway to the cost of almost a million dollars.

Of course I want Wallace Rink to work well and have attention and money from the city, but this plan seems careless to me."

October 10 2005, from Jacqueline Peters to Brenda Librecz:

"Apparently, once again, your department is planning to open the outdoor rinks later this year. I wish I'd kept my email from last year so I could just cut and paste my comments. I know this issue has been coming up for a number of years--followed by a flood of neighbourhood lobbying and a sensible decision to have an earlier opening at a number of rinks. Why do we have to reinvent the wheel each year?

The issues are the same. There is the increasing concern about our inactive youth--the logical solution is to provide inexpensive and fun active outlets for physical activity in our communities. We are also concerned about youths with too much time and too little to do and the way this feeds into gang violence. Again, ways to engage youth in our communitites is part of the solution--and free outdoor rinks are one important ingredient. We live in Canada--outdoor ice rinks are an integral part of our communities and an important way to get a good dose of fresh air and exercise during the long winter months. The stats show the high usage of our rinks, so why would we want to cut them back?

If we can't open all the rinks in mid-November like we used to, we should at least open 2 or 3 in every region. This is a smart and effective way to use our tax dollars. I invite you to drop in at Dufferin Grove and see the wide aray of cultures, ages and socio-economic backgrounds of the users. What a beautiful symbol of the best our city has to offer. Let's nurture this-not cut it back!!!"

October 11, e-mail to James Dann, rink manager from Jutta Mason:

"to recap: I asked Brenda that I be invited to the Wallace rink rebuild meeting that is now scheduled at my urging. But I found out today that I will not be permitted to attend.

I accept the decision not to invite me to the meeting. As you said, some of the staff at the meeting might not find it possible to speak freely in my presence, and that would not be desirable.

I would like, instead, to see the detailed minutes of the meeting (including the decisions made, together with their rationale). Please let me see the minutes as soon as they are printed out, or let me know if it's necessary to go through the City's freedom of information office to see them."

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