posted December 18, 2007
The real cost of a park hot dog
Jutta Mason writes:
As he was standing by the campfire at Campbell Rink yesterday, Dougal from the DIG IN group asked me who was paying for the free hot dogs that were grilling on the fire. I told him "Dufferin Rink cookie money" (i.e profits from the Dufferin Rink snack bar). Despite the low price of the snack bar food over at Dufferin Rink, there's still some extra to put back into the park or into other parks. I said to Dougal, "hot dogs don't cost much anyway, nor does hot chocolate powder -- it's easy to put together some snacks for Campbell Rink."
But afterwards I thought about the cost some more, and about what's involved in making hot dogs and hot chocolate over that simple campfire --
- getting campfire permission back (campfire permission was temporarily cancelled last year, after 13 successful years): 171 e-mails, 7 meetings, many phone calls. Now the campfires are run the same as before the cancellation, except with the addition of large amounts of paperwork.
- getting the extra benches: two trips between Dufferin Grove and Campbell Park, by two city staff
- getting the wood: a trip to the scrap pile at Downtown Lumber, plus a couple of trips with wheelbarrows and and cars, by a donor of firewood, plus transport with a van from Dufferin to Campbell
- going to Price Chopper to buy the hot dogs, buns, condiments, napkins: a trip by a CELOS contract person (paid for by a Trillium grant)
- going to New Canadians Lumber to buy an axe to split the kindling: a trip by me, money for the axe from CELOS
- talking to Public Health to get approval for the food prep: a phone call involving Public Health staff and Parks staff
- Equipment: pot, ladle, tripod, oven mitts, cups, etc.: paid for by cookie money (and now it can be used lots of times)
- building the fire, supervising it, training and supervising the youth who helped, cleaning everything up after: Parks and Recreation casual staff
That doesn't count the making, printing and putting up of notices, nor the transport of the skates for $2 skate rentals, nor the shoveling of snow and the setting out of mats, benches, picnic tables, etc.etc.
But it does show that the hot dogs are just the tip of the iceberg. And when you think about all those meetings, e-mails, phone calls, concerning campfire permission, those didn't come free either, except for the citizens' time. Staff time costs a lot, and when you realize that in the past 9 years, Parks, Forestry and Recreation increased its staff by 743 people (to over 4000) and its operating budget by $60 million (amount adjusted for inflation) to over $300 million, with very little population increase, that money must have gone somewhere. A fraction of it must have gone to meetings and e-mail time, to regulate hot dogs being cooked over a campfire, at Campbell Rink or any other city park.
So I take it back, Dougal, the hot dogs are not cheap nor easy. But if the hot dogs cost a lot of effort and city meeting-money, how much was it worth to see all those people in your group around the campfire in the driving snow, singing carols, drinking hot chocolate and having a hot dog?