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Cooking with Fire in Public Parks


Custodians:

Deputation to Parks and Environment Committee September 15 2011

Parks and Environment Committee
Sept.15, 2011

Dear Councillors,
I have read the proposed bake oven policy and discussed it with park bakers. Here are the problems we see: 1. The requirement for external insurance in addition to the existing city volunteer insurance will mean that almost no neighbourhood cooks will learn to use the ovens.

2. Permit fees mean the same. Neighbourhood cooks are being asked to pay for donating their labour to enliven their park.

3. The proposed policy is silent on active collaboration between interested cooks and PFR staff.  There ought to be an explicit statement about the desirability of promoting such active collaboration. That could be a reasonable workaround to the #1 and #2 problems, if collaboration results in donated labour by cooks being covered with PFR staff sponsorship.

4. The proposed amendment to the Municipal Code Section B (4) needs rewriting to allow nearby attendance to the oven, instead of requiring someone to be right there. The logic is parallel to reflecting pools e.g. at City Hall, which have no provision for constant supervision although it's easier to die from drowning than from burning. The Municipal Code should specify reasonable care of an enclosed (bake-oven) fire instead of constant attendance. Exception: locations where park users may seek to set themselves on fire (e.g. parks right beside psychiatric hospitals). If this amendment is not rewritten, ovens in frequent use (currently only the Dufferin Grove ovens) will have to stop most of their existing activities, including using the ovens for park fundraising.

5. The reference to the City's donations policy is interesting: the proposed bake-oven policy says that donors (in this case the people raising and delivering funds to build an oven) are going to have to pay for using the oven. The issue is similar to the community fundraising for Sorauren Park field house -- many hours of fundraising resulted in the same fundraising people having to pay the City to use the field house to meet. That approach needs work, since it's unlikely to encourage community donations.

6. The staff report calls for 100% cost recovery for any community bake oven program. Community ovens are one possible ingredient in creating "community centres without walls (CCWW)." If the CCWW option is of interest to Council, it's good to remember that the City's community centres with walls do not get near 100% cost recovery. If the two CRC's now under construction cost $20 million and $27 million to build, the City's formula of operating cost being 10% of capital cost means they won't recover their costs any time soon. It might be better not to handicap community ovens with that demand from the outset. At the same time, if blocks #1,2,4, and 5 are removed, some ovens may end up getting near 100% recovery fairly soon.

Jutta Mason Centre for Local Research into Public Space (CELOS); publicovens.ca; 416 533-0153


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