Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Campfire Pit to be Brought to Parks and Environment Committee

It has been an eventful week (and it is only Tuesday!)  I want to thank everyone who took the time to write letters to the Parks Department and to Councillor Fletcher.  You made it clear that campfires are important to our community and your voice has been heard. The Toronto Star even picked up the story and published an article today (see the link below).  The City and our Councillor have voiced their commitment to maintaining authorized campfires in our park.  That is the good news.

The bad news is the City wants the campfire pit structure to be dismantled, stored in the fieldhouse and put back together each time we want to have a campfire. 

We can still save our campfire pit.  Installing a grate over the campfire pit remains, to my mind, a viable option to address concerns about unauthorized fires.  It seems like Councillor Fletcher agrees and intends to present the issue to the Parks and Environment Committee on November 2.  You can have an impact on the outcome by writing to the Committee.  I will provide the contact information shortly.

Below is the correspondence from the Parks Department requiring the removal of our campfire pit along with Councillor Fletcher's response.  I have also attached the Open Air Fire Burning guidelines.  Finally, I have attached a link to an article published in the Toronto Star about our campfire pit. 

We have not had a fully satisfactory resolution of this matter but the lines of communication are opening and progress is being made. 

Thanks again for all of your support!

Sent via email to Councillor Fletcher [councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca] on October 25, 2011.

Dear Councillor Fletcher,

Thank you for raising the issue of the fire pit in Withrow Park to my attention. I understand that there has been some confusion about the status of fires in the park, and in particular about the status of the bricks and pavers that have been installed as a firepit in the park.

As you know, we allow outdoor fires in Withrow Park around a fire by permit and under certain conditions. This process is to ensure that outside fires meet the necessary conditions to ensure public safety, prevent conflict with the adjacent community and other park uses, and to protect the trees and other park assets. The past practice for these permits, as required by our policies and Toronto Fire Services, is for temporary edging to be installed for the time of the permit only, and then removed when the permit is over.

Earlier this fall, some pavers and bricks were installed for a permitted fire, but remained on site after the permit without permission from our Parks staff. This installation has attracted some unwanted late-night activity, including fires and some garbage on site that residents complained about. In consultation with the Fire Department, a decision was made to remove the pavers from the site.

Just to be clear, we will continue to support fires in the park, as long as they abide by the permit process. Further, the pavers that are currently in the park will be stored in the field house and made available for groups to use as temporary edging around their fire.

I hope this clarifies the issue, but please feel free to contact me if there are any other questions.


Richard Ubbens R.P.F. Director, Parks
City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation 4th Floor, West Tower City Hall

October 25, 2011
Richard Ubbens
Director, Parks
City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation 4th Floor, West Tower City Hall
Dear Mr. Ubbens,

Re: Withrow Park Fire Pit

Thank you for your letter regarding fire pits in parks and the situation with the Withrow fire pit. I see from your letter that currently the fire code and PFR policies prevent a permanent fire pit structure. Of course the concern with a permanent and open fire pit is that non-permitted fires will be held in the park. Understandably this is a worry. However, another solution would be a locked grate over a fire pit - one that would only be opened for permitted fires. This is an option that has not yet been explored.

I will be sending a letter to the Parks and Environment Committee on November 22, 2011 asking for this option to be considered and that the policy of Dec 4, 2007 on "Parks Open Air Burning Policy" be reviewed to this end.
I will be forwarding your letter, the current policy and my letter to you to the Friends of Withrow Park and the many residents who have written to me on this matter.


Paula Fletcher
City Councillor
Ward 30 Toronto Danforth


TheStar Withrow Park users burn over fire pit dispute

Friday, October 21, 2011


The City has decided to remove our campfire pit due to concerns about un-permitted fires.  Below is my email to the City in response to this decision.  Please take a moment to let the Parks Department know how you feel by sending an email to the Supervisor of Parks for East York and Toronto, Colette Martin,  at cmartin1@toronto.ca and copy Councillor Fletcher at councillor_Fletcher@toronto.ca.

I am frustrated and disappointed by this turn of events.

I agree that the illegal fires have been a concern.  I had hoped that we could find a way to address that concern in a way that punished the people who were up to the illegal activities and not the community members who want to put our public space to a positive use.  One suggestion, which I don't believe has been fully explored, would be to put a grate across the top. On Wednesday I had left a voicemail message for Mark Hawkins and I had sent him an email asking that he speak to me about this.  I believe we could arrange for funding or donations to cover the grate as this issue was discussed at a Friends of Withrow Park meeting last week.  We just needed to figure out how to get it done.  My call was never returned and I did not have a response to my email. 

I believe many of the complaints that you received about the fire pit are with respect to the sorrowful state of the campfire pit area over the Thanksgiving long weekend.  For the record, the couch was dumped in the park for over a week before it found its place near the fire pit.  It was at the field house for at least part of this time.  I had assumed, obviously wrongly, that someone from the City would remove this dumped couch which was in plain sight. I can't understand how it was allowed to remain in the park for such a long time, including four days near the campfire pit where it clearly would only invite trouble.  If we want people to respect park rules and park spaces we should show them that we respect the park.  Letting people dump garbage in the park and not removing it does not invite respect.

I left a message earlier today to speak to our Community Liason Officer at 55 Division, P.C. McDonald, to speak about the policing aspect of this issue.  It doesn't seem like the police have become involved in this issue and I expect that a few interventions by the police would put an end to this activity.

It seems to me that the City has chosen the expedient solution but not the one that serves the community.  There is strong support for community campfires in our park.  I have heard many people comment that the fire pit is an attractive addition to our park.  People are not upset by the campfire pit but by the illegal use to which it has been put.  Why don't we address the illegal behaviour?

Also, I am tremendously upset that no one has contacted me.  The members of Friends of Withrow Park are willing to contribute to viable and sensible solutions so I cannot understand why we are cut out of the process.  We all want a safer park that is put to positive use by the community.  I wish we could find a way to reach that result together.  If you simply dismantle the fire pit without any discussion or consultation you are cutting the "community" part out of that equation.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin Parade November 1st from 6-8 pm!

On November 1st bring your Jack O Lantern to the park to light up the main pathway between Stratchona and Hogarth (in front of the Field House).  Join us for a campfire and pumpkin parade.

Last year we had over 300 pumpkins!  How many can we get this year! 

Here are some pictures from last year's parade.