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Community Notebooks: Trying to make the rinks better
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CELOS rink report

07-May-2011 [140]

Municipal Outdoor Rink Report 2007 – CELOS Research Group (pdf)

CELOS Municipal Outdoor Rinks Report 2007 (pdf)

CELOS deputation Apr10_07B.doc CELOS deputation Apr 10, 2007

My name is Jutta Mason, and I’m here in as part of a small research group called the Centre for Local Research into Public Space, CELOS for short. Our group was formed in 1999. We think that Toronto’s parks and public spaces are a wonderful resource that can be used better -- to help neighbours build friendships in their public spaces and strengthen neighbourhoods that way. For the past 8 years, CELOS has had a broad mandate “to do both practical and theoretical research on issues concerning parks and public space.” We have our roots in Dufferin Grove Park and have gradually connected with friends of other parks as well.

If parks are beautiful and welcoming neighbourhood spaces, more people will use them. Our particular interest is to find what’s cheap and can be done now to enliven parks, rather than to focus on the more costly, long-term projects with large operating costs. At Dufferin Grove Park we’ve tried to make a “community centre without walls,” using existing staff and structures, and the good ideas of many park friends. Our operating budget is well below that of most City community centres, and this park is used by as many or more people than most City community centres with walls.

A few years ago we got a grant from the Metcalf Foundation, to research and write about what works in parks and what doesn’t. This Municipal Outdoor Rink Report – reporting on 27 of the City’s 49 compressor-cooled outdoor rinks – with its accompanying workbook, is one of the first group of reports resulting from this grant. There are a few others already: a little how-to handbook for rink staff, a Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market booklet, and a Campfire Handbook for Parks. Two more are already in the works and will be out this spring – a City Parks playgrounds handbook and another one called “The real world of safety and liability legislation in public space.”

All these are very detailed, locally focused reports, handbooks and workbooks. At this time, when Mayor Miller and many of our councillors are fighting the good fight to get the province to live up to its obligations in relation to the city’s budget, it’s also important to see what can be done on the home front, as cheaply as possible, making use of what we already have on hand. The outdoor rink report considers how cast-off benches, simple windows, bulletin boards, access ramps for zambonis, and so on, can make the rinks’ physical plants work better. Our report is about how better use of existing City facilities can make rinks into wonderful, comfortable, winter gathering places for families, youth, and enthusiastic new skaters of all ages and cultures.

Some of the CELOS researchers work as part-time casual staff for City rinks as well. These casual staff have worked very closely with rink friends to help rinks work better. Their knowledge, their enthusiasm as part-time CELOS researchers, their determination to help rinks work well, allow us to give the City a report that is full of specific, detailed information. What we’re asking now is for your committee to encourage the City Hall staff to review the report, working together with us – ideally starting now, not three months from now. Those things that work well at Dufferin Grove Park were established with just that kind of larger collaboration, over the past 13 years. Under the new, highly centralized restructuring of the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division, collaborating with City staff has become much harder for those on the outside. But we have to try.

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