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.