Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dufferin Grove Park

In 2008, I wrote a piece about an exceptional project I was involved in about five years ago that involved kids, dirt, and and the approval and support of Toronto's (then named) Parks and Recreation Department. I wrote:

"That all of this could happen was the result of a fruitful partnership between the City of Toronto Recreation staff and me, the project organizer. The recreation staff took this to be part of their mandate to provide free, drop-in activities. They expanded the boundaries of "recreation" to include activities that draw in many more newcomers, across cultural lines. That made the park so much livelier, and this drop-in activity resulted in a permanent, useful and much-loved addition to the park.

Forming a project around these principles requires something very important from the organizers/administrators: trust. They need trust that people are able to decide for themselves what is best for them, trust that people can be counted on to do good work, trust that people will come and take advantage of an opportunity presented to them.

A program free of coercion is one that truly honours the participants, and one that will reap benefits well beyond the original expectations of the organizers. Do we have the enough trust in each other to offer this of ourselves and our city?"

Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) is currently in the process of making sure that something this creative and inclusive never happens again. By shuffling Recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro and many other supervisors to new jobs and away from the communities within which they have worked, sometimes for decades, PFR is effectively severing the connection that allowed the kind of collaboration between people and parks that made the cob wall project possible.

You can read my original post here, and you can read more about the current PFR situation here. If you'd like to add your voice to the chorus of those concerned about these developments, click on that second link for more information.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rumford fireplace visit

I am fascinated by the concept of a Rumford fireplace; an open hearth that sends more heat into the room than it loses to combustion air, and one that charges the thermal mass around it to store and release heat radiantly (and conductively, depending on the design) long after the fire is out. I have built an outdoor Rumford, and have helped with another outdoor model and an indoor proof-of-concept retrofit, but I have not yet had the pleasure of enjoying a fire in a full-blown masonry fireplace of this type.

Last weekend, my family and I had the chance to visit some folks not far from where we live who have a Rumford fireplace in their off-grid strawbale home. They lit it up for us and, wow, it was a revelation. The room, already comfortably warm on that chilly night, became instantly cozy, with a handsome and robust fire blazing in the hearth. The fire hugged the back of the fireplace, and smoke was whisked up the chimney without straying from the amazingly shallow firebox.