Public Bakeovens



Cooking with Fire in Public Parks

Freedom of information requests and correspondence here.

We've collected three different city government permit information pages here.

Jode Roberts oven permit questions

Bake oven regulations and rules


December 2015, Christie Pits: engineer's stamp rule

It appears that Parks management has made a new rule -- that all ovens must have an engineer's stamp. For this reason, only small pre-stamped pre-fab ovens have currently been approved for installation. Publicbakeovens recommends that community groups not try for such ovens, since they don't work well in public spaces.

This has not been stated directly, but the evidence seems to be there. For example, at Christie Pits the original oven, which was in good repair, was removed from its place in the fall of 2015 and placed at the side for apparent disposal. After some discussion, the oven was put back beside the footings for a new prefab oven. See Christie Pits oven correspondence.

Sequel, 2016:

In the case of Christie Pits the new oven was not small (although the actual hearth size was not much bigger). But the oven was imported from France and a large housing was made for it, Final cost: $161,000.

read more


March 2016, Dufferin Grove Park

barriers to block the public -- but no repairs

New rule: when there's a fire in the ovens, they have to be blocked off.

Reason: so that no passerby or child can jump inside. (Note: in 21 years of oven use, there has never been an injury to the public.)

Effect: On a bread baking day, the bakers have to tend each oven around 10 to 15 times per oven and per firing. That amounts to 20 to 30 times per oven per firing for the two ovens. That adds up to 40 to 60 times of the bakers moving the barricades on Wednesday and 40 to 60 times on Thursday. In addition to that they have to set it up - moving 2 heavy barricades to position them in front of each oven, and afterwards to put them away again.

Note: this new rule appears to be modeled on the Riverdale Farm oven rules. That oven no longer has public use.

barrier at smaller oven

barrier at larger oven
Sequel: summer 2016

The city carpenters devised rather ingenious gates, made of wood, with nice hinges in a barn style. The barriers could themselves catch fire if there were sparks (which there are not), and during baking the gates are left open to give the bakers access -- which means that when there's an active fire in the oven, anyone could still put their hand in the fire. Happily, people don't do that, not before and not now. And the wooden barriers look so much nicer than the metal ones.

oven barriers open when fire is in

oven barriers closed when fire is out

History of the City of Toronto bake oven policy

Bakeoven Policy

August 2011:

Proposed City of Toronto Bake Oven policy: staff report

September 2011:

Response of bake oven users to the staff report: here, CELOS deputation

Commentary from Dufferin Grove baker Anna Bekerman:

The proposed bake oven policy does not adequately reflect the range of requirements that would foster community use.

Bake ovens can be used for private events like birthday parties, but they need some expertise (more than a BBQ). More commonly, bake ovens are used for a long list of open-to-everyone, community-based events (make-your-own pizza days, community suppers, potlucks, food preserving workshops, community baking, City councillors' community picnics, etc).

The success of community initiatives depends on:

- a) Collaboration with PFR staff. The amount of involvement from PFR staff would vary depending on the needs of any given community, from simply helping access water, kitchen space and bathrooms, to providing oven scheduling assistance, to providing staff. There needs to be clear language in the policy that supports collaboration.

- b) No fees for open-access community events, small as well as large. Open-access community-based initiatives are exempt from user fees in the proposed user fee policy here. If this exemption is ignored, fees will discourage involvement by smaller groups and individuals who are donating their time to provide a service to their communities.

- c) Coverage from the city's insurance. As open-access community-based park activities, these events should be covered by the city's volunteer insurance.


September 2011: This e-mail was sent to each member of the parks committee:

Friday Night Supper

Click to enlarge.

School Visit

Dear Councillor,

Now that last week's bake oven item at Parks and Environment has been deferred (thank you!) until your next committee meeting, could a couple of us come and see you with a little 15-minute presentation one day next week? We'd like to show you some pictures and a 7-minute video of bake oven users' commentary.

We'd also like to show you our alternative way of gaining revenue for the City through City-supported community use of bake ovens. At Dufferin Grove Park, during the last three months, bake ovens helped bring in over $35,000 ("everyone-welcome" pizza days, farmers' market bread baking, Friday night community suppers). All of this revenue was put back into the park programs: CELOS Financial records. We want to make sure that the City's bake oven policy explicitly enables such community uses, not mainly private birthday parties.

May we come and see you some time in the week of Sept.26 at a time that suits you? (I'll follow up this e-mail with a phone call to your staff.)

Jutta Mason
Public Bakeovens/guests


NEW BAKE OVEN POLICY passed on Nov.22, 2011....

by the Parks and Environment Committee -- to charge fees to baker volunteers.

Here are some park oven baker reactions on Youtube: bake oven fees

Here's our deputation (it fell on deaf ears).

Here's our earlier response to the city's bake oven policy. It's in the same format as the policy so that the two documents can be compared more easily. Our approach was to maximize community oven use and stress the need for a collaborative relationship between City staff and bake oven users. This version was not accepted by staff and therefore not considered by the Parks Committee.

Here is our chart of bake ovens in use in 2011

Here is the city's 2011 bake oven policy

Follow-up, one year later (2012):

A year after the bake-oven policy was passed, here is the census of park oven use in 2012 in Toronto:

Christie Pits: 3 times
Edithvale: about 10 times (new oven, started mid-season)
Scadding -- between 8 and 12 times
Riverdale: 31 times
Dufferin (2 ovens) -- 161 times

New public ovens built according to the policy: 0

Follow-up, two years later (2013)

When City Council approved the new policy on Dec.1, 2011, they called for a detailed follow-up report from the PFR general manager two years later:

"City Council direct the General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, in collaboration with the community representatives, local stakeholders and councillors, to report back to the Parks and Environment Committee two years after implementation of the policy on how the details of the permitting, fees, construction and operations are working."

We have asked the Parks and Environment Committee whether this report has been scheduled for the December 6 meeting of the committee. No answer.

Note: the new oven installation policy prohibits building bake ovens near ice rinks. That makes the Dufferin Grove and Scadding ovens illegal.

The Thorncliffe Tandoor oven was finally installed and used in the fall of 2013.


Follow-up, three years later (2014)

There was NO oven policy follow-up in 2014 at the Parks and Environment Committee.

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Content last modified on March 04, 2020, at 08:03 PM EST