DECA’s Veteran Drivers, Scene 8

Alison McMurray was a community activist long before DECA was born.

If your kids romp around the play structures of East Lynn Park, you have her to thank. She started lobbying for new park equipment when her kids were little. By the time she cut the ribbon, they were tweens and no longer interested in swinging or sliding.

The woman is patient, persuasive and persistent. I think of her as the Queen of East Lynn Park.

She helped found DECA. A year later, one of the members brought up the idea of starting a farmers market, she jumped on it. The next thing we knew, we were meeting city engineering staff in the snow drifts, attending meetings at city hall with two dozen bureaucrats, and knocking on neighbor’s doors asking for support. It was Alison who pushed, cajoled and charmed everyone into giving us the go-ahead.

Seven years later, Alison is still at the market most weeks, opening the shed, helping farmers set up and serving their dinners brought by generous volunteer cooks.

She is a neighborhood jewel.

She does all this, by the way, while running Ceili Cottage with her husband, Pat McMurray. If you haven’t been there for oysters and beer, you are robbing yourself.

Here is ALISON MCMURRAY, in her own words.

Alison McMurray at the East Lynn Farmers' Market 7 years ago, a couple months after it first opened, with Catherine Porter's son, Noah. (He's 7 now, by the way.)
Alison McMurray at the East Lynn Farmers’ Market 7 years ago, a couple months after it first opened, with Catherine Porter’s son, Noah. (The spit up on her shoulder is his. He’s now a giant, by the way.)

My name is… Alison McMurray and I am 47-years-old.

One thing people don’t know about me is… I am part of an Irish Dance Ceili team and we placed 1st in our 8-hand dance at the Eastern Canadian Irish Dance Championships last year.

I moved to Danforth East… when my husband and I were first looking for a house in 1994. He is from the east end of Toronto but I was raised in Kitchener-Waterloo.

One change I’ve seen over the years is… the number of babies!!!   Just one visit to the Farmers’ market and you can see the baby boom that’s taken over. When I moved to the area, all my neighbours were retired and now most are young families. My advice to new neighbours is get to know your neighbours as they are the ones who can help in a crisis be it an ice storm, break in (my house was ransacked last year) or tragedy. I have fantastic neighbours who are my best friends and it makes for a safer community.

The thing I love most about Danforth East is… the sense of belonging and pride of place that the community has.   Coming from Kitchener which was then a small town, I never thought I would find the same tight knit community I grew up in, but I definitely have.

One of my pet peeves is off-leash dogs. A hot topic for some reason but to me in a city where we all have to share, having dogs off leash is not sharing. Having respect for those around you and allowing the parks and ravines to be enjoyed by everyone is a no brainer to me.

My neighbourhood secret is… really the Williamson ravine that my house backs onto. It’s a beautiful and tranquil setting in the middle of a busy city and part of the larger ravine syste, complete with an underground stream. There is a park group I helped start that is looking to naturalize the ravine even further.

The places I go in DECA’s stomping grounds… are not new to most people but I can’t live without a pedicure from Jenny at Metro Nails and a visit at my friend Ruth’s store, Wag on the Danforth.

The thing I’ve done as a DECA board member that I’m most proud of is… to be one of the original founding members of DECA still on the board.   The Farmerlicious Femmes and I started the Farmers’ market which is something I missed from my childhood in Kitchener where I grew up surrounded by fabulous produce and meats from local Mennonite farmers.

This year I hope to… do even more in my favourite park, East Lynn park, with the farmers’ market and finally finish phase 2 of the park that was started over a decade ago. That will be a beautiful path system and potentially a bathroom for 2016!


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