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posted November 05, 2007
held Friday November 2, 2007 at the Wallace-Emerson rink
Notes recorded by Michael Monastyrskyj
1) CELOS 2) Friends of Dufferin Grove Park 3) CELOS rink report 4) Consultation about policy changes 5) Shovels and ice clearing 6) Facilitating community initiatives 7) Phones at ice rinks 8) Bulletin boards 9) Rubber mats 10) Signage 11) Windows in change rooms 12) Wallace-Emerson Zamboni 13) Unlocking rinks 14) Staggered rink openings 15) More discussion about helmet policy 16) Communication between park workers 17) Conclusion
Kevin Bowser began the meeting with a question about CELOS. He was unfamiliar with the group and wanted to know what it is and what it does.
Jane Price gave an overview of the organization. She said it was an incorporated not-for-profit group. Incorporation was necessary because it is a precondition for getting the grants CELOS sometimes seeks. Jane pointed out that in addition to funds received through grants, CELOS also generates revenue from the sale of food in the park. The money raised from food sales is put back into park programming. Jane said the Dufferin Grove model is probably not transferable to other parks because it requires an enormous amount of volunteer labour that might not be available elsewhere.
Jane explained that the primary interest of CELOS is animating Dufferin Grove Park. The creation of CELOS was an outgrowth of events that began about 15 years ago when Jutta Mason began to explore the question of what can be done with public space.
While the Dufferin Grove model as a whole may not be suitable for other parks, CELOS did receive a Trillium grant to export some of what happens at Dufferin to other parks.
Jane said the rink report was written out of an interest in rinks across the city. She emphasized that the report was presented in April and that it was time to get down to brass tacks.
Kevin Bower explained that he wasn't familiar with the history of Dufferin Grove. He said the rink report raised a number of questions in his mind. He pointed out that there were differences in the way rinks were run in the old City of Toronto and the old Metro suburbs.
Lea Ambros said that CELOS has 2 different streams. The first stream involves practical research. For example, it was learned through practice that food is a great animator of public space. The second stream is theoretical. Money received from grants is used to fund research into public space. Money for the rink report originally came from the Metcalf foundation. Lea emphasized that money raised from the sale of food *doesn't* go into research. It is put back into the park.
Friends of Dufferin Grove Park
Kevin Bowser then asked “What is the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park?”
Jutta Mason said that there never really was a Friends of Dufferin Grove Park in the sense of there being a formal organization by that name. She pointed out that this is explained on the Friends website. She described the various ways in which the name 'Friends of Dufferin Grove' is used by park users and local residents.
She pointed out that the large scale arrival of email in about 2001 changed the way in which people used the name. She mentioned that there is a very active Friends of Dufferin Grove listerv and that people who participate in the listserv's internet discussion sometimes are called the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park. Jutta said that when there's a crisis people tend to step up and say “I'm a friend of Dufferin Grove Park.”
Kevin Bowser seemed unclear about the difference between CELOS and the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park, suggesting they were in fact the same thing. Jutta emphasized that they were not.
Jutta said the CELOS held the money generated from park food sales 'in trust.'
Jutta began to describe the 2005 meeting about the park that was held in St. Mary's school. The meeting had been organized by corporate services.
Lea Ambros said there are different partnership models for parks. The Friends of Trinity-Bellwoods Park, for example, unlike the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park, is a formally incorporated group. Lea said that at the 2005 meeting at St. Mary's community members rejected the partnership models offered by the City.
Jutta said a lot of people didn't understand why that meeting had been called in the first place since they liked the park as it was. She pointed out that it was a well-attended meeting with perhaps as many as 200 people present.
Jane pointed out that community meetings are held whenever issues come up. Different people are interested in different issues so that the same people don't show up at every meeting.
Jutta said our mantra is “A park has no walls.” A park should be a place where people at least know who is who. People don't necessarily have to be best friends though it is good when friendships do develop.
Jutta said “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”
Jutta said that generally speaking there had been good collaboration between the community and Parks and Recreation, but that things changed somewhat after amalgamation. (Amalgamation brought pressure to harmonize the different policies still in effect in different parts of old Metro.)
CELOS rink report
Kevin Bowser said most of the rink report references rinks in the South district. He said we will always have different approaches to running rinks. He said he wanted to understand them. He said the Parks department was making a bigger commitment to rinks and it wanted a more consistent approach. He mentioned that different rinks have different usage patterns, but that the CELOS book really focused on downtown rinks.
He said he had to write his report and wanted to understand the recommendations made in the rink report.
Consultation about policy changes
He pointed to the recommendation that called for a detailed explanation of changes in policy. He suggested this was mainly a reference to the new helmet rules.
Jutta pointed out that the helmet policy was very unpopular and said policy changes really have to be discussed. She emphasized that the CELOS recommendation was about policy changes in general not just the helmet policy. Jutta said it was unusual to have a policy change this major without consultation. She said no claims concerning injuries caused by not wearing a helmet had been made against the City.
Lea said non-compliance of an existing rule makes the City more vulnerable to lawsuits than it would be if there were no rule in the first place. Jane agreed, saying that if a public authority doesn't enforce its own rules, it makes itself vulnerable to lawsuits.
Jane said “We demand collegiality. We expect collegiality.” Collegiality is necessary if you want the volunteer effort.
Lea pointed out that rec staff city-wide didn't know about the helmet policy.
Kevin Bowser said there was going to be an ice allocation policy and a 'consultation piece' might be attached to it.
Jutta said you could have consultation about the helmet policy simply by putting up notices.
Jutta emphasized again that the demand for consultation wasn't just about the helmet policy but about policy changes in general.
Belinda said that when the City intends to change a policy it should lay out its information for park users to see. Discussion would go forward based on the data.
Jane said occupational health and safety can be 'used as a guise.' She said, “Law is law. Policy is policy.” Policy is unenforceable if it's unsupported by law.
Shovels and ice clearing
There was a discussion about having rink users clear snow off the ice. Kevin Bowser said the biggest issue was who would buy the shovels and keep track of them.
Facilitating community initiatives
Kevin Bowser agreed that food brings people out but asked how you go about making food available. He said Dufferin Grove has a system in place, but wondered what you do about parks where there are no volunteers to help out.
Amy Withers spoke about barriers that blocked community initiatives in east-end parks.
Lea Ambros said no one is asking that rec staff across the city serve food; rather, the city was being asked to make it easier for people who want to do things in parks. She pointed out that in some cases permits had been turned down even when community groups provided the infrastructure.
Kevin Bowser said he didn't understand why the permis would be turned down. If a community group comes forward with an event proposal it's only a matter of matching times and places. He said the procedure for getting a permit was being standardized and permit requests would be going through customer service.
In response to Kevin Bowser's question about what to do in cases where there is no system like the one at Dufferin Grove, Jutta responded, “You do have the system in place. You have staff.”
Phones at ice rinks
There followed a discussion about phones at ice rinks. Kevin Bowser said phones would be reactivated in those rinks where they aren't working now. He said reactivating the phones raises a number of questions such as what the phones would be used for.
Jutta said there should be voice mail on all phones.
Jutta pointed out that until a few years ago you could find all the rink phone numbers in the phone book.
Amy Withers mentioned a public swimming pool that had seasonally appropriate recorded messages. She suggested rinks have similar messages where necessary.
There followed a discussion about rink bulletin boards. Kevin Bowser said that responsibility for them would be turned over to rec.
This was followed by a discussion about rubber mats. Kevin Bowser said they were working on minimum standards. He said park staff would be identifying what mats they already have.
Jutta brought up signage. Kevin Bowser said Parks&Rec struggles with signage because it's so costly. Someone, maybe Kevin, said something about having standard signs on outdoor bulletin boards. Jutta said there need to be signs showing where the staff rooms are.
Windows in change rooms
Kevin Bowser said windows are not on his list of priorities. He asked how you give privacy to hockey players who need to change out of their street clothes. Mayssan Shuja mentioned curtains. Anna Galati said at Wallace-Emerson there was a side room where players could go.
Kevin Bowser said getting a Zamboni for Wallace-Emerson was a high priority. He didn't know what kind of fuel it would use. He said rec staff should talk to the woman's hockey group about funding for a tent to cover the Zamboni.
Kevin Bowser said rinks would be unlocked in the daytime. “We're on that.” He pointed out that in some cases the buildings would still be closed even if the rinks themselves were open.
Staggered rink openings
Kevin Bowser said “I don't know if we're doing it.” He said there's real pressure to be open in March. He said March was the time of year they received the most phone calls.
He said part of the coming reorganization involved the elimination of seasonal jobs. The department was moving towards ten month permanent jobs. This might affect rink openings because it was thought November and December would be the two months permanent staff would have off. There was some discussion about how having permanent staff would facilitate training. Staff would know they would be working one place during one season and another place at another season. Slack times could be used for training.
He said there might be some staggered openings next year as a pilot project.
Anna Galati and Lea Ambros suggested that the city allow the Dufferin Grove rink to close early this year so that the money saved could be used to open early next year.
Jutta Mason said staggering has to done intelligently. “If we're the only rink open we will be dead.” There followed some discussion about the problems experienced in previous years when Dufferin was the only rink open.
More discussion about helmet policy
Kevin Bowser asked some questions about the helmet policy. For example, he asked whether rec staff thought young children should wear helmets. Staff agreed they should. There was also discussion about under what circumstances rink staff might wear helmets.
Communication between park workers
Lea Ambros said recreation workers get the most input from the public but have no way to communicate the information they get. Lea mentioned some problems with two Zamboni drivers. Tino De Castro and Brian know about the problems. Lea asked what rec staff should do about problems like this.
Amy Withers mentioned some previous altercations between rec staff and workers belonging to another union. She said rec staff would like to be able to speak on equal terms with other workers. Jutta interjected: “on collegial terms.”
Kevin Bowser said he was surprised the problem with the Zamboni drivers hadn't been dealt with.
Mayssan Shuja said there were communications problems at other parks not only at Dufferin.
Sarah Cormier said Zamboni drivers should let rec staff know when they arrive and when they will be on the ice.
Jutta asked, “How are we going to address the fact there are different universes? . . . I'm talking silos here.”
Jane Price asked, “Why don't you institute standard operating procedures?”
Kevin Bowser said there were two sides to the situation and pointed out that Zamboni drivers sometimes have trouble finding recreation staff.
Jane said having standard operating procedures would help both sides.
Jutta added that there would need to be follow-up.
Mayssan said working phones would help. Amy said in some cases walkie-talkies might be useful.
Kevin Bowser said he would be meeting with his group to discuss the CELOS report. He mentioned Constanza and John.
Jane Price asked, “What happens next with the CELOS report?”
Kevin said his report would probably be ready in November or December. He said the CELOS information seemed clear, but added his report on the CELOS recommendations was secondary. His priority was the reorganization and getting the rinks up and running.