#100: Trillium Park
“Most people don’t know it exist. It is with hesitation that I review it for this reason!”
#2 in Strathcona
600 National Avenue
Trillium is the rare park that evolved in spite of community desires: there was pushback against the construction of large turf fields there 15 years ago, locals preferring the laidback underdeveloped feel of the area.
But one has to assess the change as a success: the neighbourhood now has dedicated sports fields that can be used all year round, and there’s a funky ambiance to the entire park, living as it does in the shadow of the railyards and incoming new St. Paul’s Hospital.
It means there’s unique downtown views whether you’re playing soccer or enjoying the modern playground — which has a number of slides in its retro-futuristic design theme, all alien green and sleek curved metal.
One major knock is how removed Trillium feels from everything, and the noise coming from the hospital in the years ahead won’t help the ambiance. It undeniably ticks a lot of boxes though.
#99: Moberly Park
#4 in Sunset
7646 Prince Albert Street
At first glance, Moberley feels like any old Big Field Park in Vancouver with a community centre and washroom.
Observe closer though, fair child, and treasures await!
Well, maybe not treasures, but a few nice additions that can be the difference between an average and above average park.
Take the zip line, for instance: a fun addition to any park, but fairly rare compared to the many unloved and mostly empty concrete wading pools in Vancouver. Or the somewhat hidden garden between the community centre and the playground, which has large stalks of corn as part of its crop.
The fields are what they are, but slopes divide the areas well, and there are good southeast facing views. The playground is old, yet has separate areas for young and older children, and there are tennis courts as well.
It doesn’t mean Moberley is amazing. It does mean the extra effort is appreciated.
#98: Hastings Mill Park
“beautiful park! beautiful view!”
#5 in West Point Grey
1575 Alma Street
There’s not much to Hastings Mill Park — no major playground, no sports fields, no real amenities outside the playground — but when you’re a big field right on the ocean you don’t need a ton to be a nice park to hang out in.
And Hastings Mill has a big grassy feel, in good enough condition that you can easily layabout if you want to avoid bigger crowds to the beaches immediately west, but not big enough that a game of soccer will appear around you. The all-wood playground is more “interesting” than “fun”, but there’s quirky art surrounding it, and you have the heritage factor of the oldest building in the city right inside the park (the former store for Hastings Mill, moved and repurposed into a museum in the 1930s).
This is the second worst park in West Point Grey, so it’s slightly less used that others, but it would be the second best park in several other neighbourhoods.
Would that all neighbourhoods be so lucky.
#97: Collingwood Park
#7 in Renfrew-Collingwood
5275 McKinnon Street
Some parks in Vancouver scream out their era of glory more than others: consider the suburban paradise feel of Maple Grove Park, the Expo-style architecture of Cathedral Square, the world-class city of glass 90s energy of David Lam Park, the immaculate if overly precious design of Olympic-era Hinge Park.
Meanwhile, Collinwood Park screams out the 1970s: a crunchier era of Vancouver, less grand but quickly growing. There’s an old-school field house with washrooms, a very simple basketball court, and a giant slide with multiple humps and minimal railings on the side, the type that very much would not get constructed today for perfectly reasonable safety reasons.
The wading pool has seen better days, and giant slide aside, the playground could use an upgrade. And it seems one is on its way, as the city has added the park to its list of places that will get a renewal, at which point we will happily reassess.
But for now, it’s the type of big multi-use neighbourhood park that have anchored parks in this city for generations, and a fine example at that.
#96: Tisdall Park
“Best free outdoor gym I know in Vancouver.”
#1 in Oakridge
6210 Tisdall Street
A few years ago, we opined that the real dividing line in Vancouver isn’t between the west and east side, but north and south.
The take annoyed some folks on the east, presumably because they had carved out an identity based on Not Being A Kits Yuppie, but statistics around public amenities, cultural spaces, elected officials — even things like bike racks or electric vehicle stations — showed the most important geographic marker in the city wasn’t Main or Cambie, but King Edward or 41st.
And that becomes clear when you walk the city for an entire summer, looking for great parks. In particular, the area in the middle of the Vancouver between 41st and 60th Avenue — east of West Boulevard but west of Fraser — feels like the person playing SimCity got lazy, clicked and dragged a whole bunch of low-density residential, and then panicked and plugged in a giant mall at Cambie and a few scattered parks.
Among those parks, Tisdall is one of the best — a sprawling, peaceful park, with plenty of big, leafy trees. With no slopes and no views, the overall feel is decidedly not Vancouver (for whatever reason, multiple people in our group felt Montreal vibes), but the field, shady area and basic but fairly modern playground are all separated nicely, and all do what they need to. There’s also an exercise area next to the playground, with a good number of contraptions for some light cardio. We came here twice during our research; both times there were plenty of people relaxing, neither time was it particularly full.
You have to travel two kilometres in any direction to get to any sort of comparable multi-use park, and that is disappointing. That we’ve reached our first “best park of the neighbourhood” so early in our rankings is somewhat surprising. Remove the disappointment that Tisdall exemplifies for the north-south gap in the city though, and you’ll have a pleasant time.
#95: Slocan Park
“Really just an open grassy field.”
#6 in Renfrew-Collingwood
2750 East 29th Avenue
A stout multi-field park in the heart of east Vancouver, Slocan Park is right next to the 29th Avenue SkyTrain station, and is the beginning of a lovely collection of semi-integrated parks that link together, from Renfrew Ravine to Renfrew Community Park, with Beaconsfield Park just a couple blocks away after that.
Slocan is a good but not great park, especially now that it’s gotten a million-dollar upgrade of its grass fields, but suffers from a case of split vision: it’s sort of a destination for soccer, but not fully (though we do applaud the fields all being clearly separated in a way that a lot of giant Vancouver parks haven’t figured out). There are four good tennis courts, but they’re sort of lodged to the side. The playground is expansive but fairly old. And the SkyTrain station is convenient but doesn’t particularly integrate into the overall park.
Add in the relatively new washroom facilities, and it results in a park with a lot of good things for the community, but a lack of an integrated feel.
#94: Oppenheimer Park
“Feed the birds. I wish there’s more food for birds. It breaks my heart when birds are crying.”
#3 in Strathcona
400 Powell Street
Oppenheimer has plenty of history, from being the former home of the famed Asahi baseball team, to two different tent encampments in the last decade.
The most recent encampment, which lasted for two years, resulted in a multi-year shut down by the Park Board when it was over. The time was spent to spruce up what is a relatively new playground, improving the basic field that takes up 70% of the park, adding more benches, and improving the mini-community centre on site, which includes plenty of programming (including a bike repair clinic and weekly haircuts) to help a community that includes many people on the margins of society.
The end result is a park that does a lot of things, but many of them in an unwieldy way: the playground is a little sparse, the field is a little basic, and the mini-community centre feels like it could be twice as big.
In addition, Oppenheimer has become one of the worst culprits in the city of geese taking over wide swaths of the park, making the field hard to recommend for putting down a blanket and enjoying a quiet afternoon.
Overall, Oppenheimer does enough things for a wide amount of people that it’s hard to fault too much, and it certainly meets the needs for many in the community.
#93: McSpadden Park
“a nice place for dogs to run around i guess.”
#6 in Grandview-Woodland
2125 Victoria Drive
There aren’t many superlatives to throw around for McSpadden, but it’s a big public space just a half-block east of Commercial Drive and 5th Avenue, well-used by the community and home to the beginning of the Vancouver Dyke March each year.
It’s your typical field+playground+tennis court setup, but the playground has a lot of elements and is sheltered at the bottom of a little bowl, adding visual flair. The field is, well, a field, but there’s plenty of room, and the grassy slope and tree canopy from the east provides a good variety of places to hang out.
There’s a bike path around the perimeter, an average community garden, and a delightful painting of cartoon bees next to the playground.
All good things! Nothing that really screams an attraction unto itself! And yet, neighbourhoods need solid parks like these, and McSpadden achieves what it needs to.
#92: Coal Harbour Park
“This unique park was built at a cost of $1.5 million with all costs borne by Marathon Development Inc. as part of their community amenity contribution.”
#9 in Downtown
480 Broughton Street
You won’t find too many people in 2022 gushing about Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighbourhood.
The lack of commercial outlets, strangely quiet streets, and relative lack of transit mean it’s the type of place that quickly bows out in a region-wide neighbourhood bracket, for example, or becomes a punchline for empty condos.
But while it’s fair to say the 1990s dreams for the neighbourhood didn’t pan out, the park and community centre right in the middle — funded through one of those newfangled development contributions — hit the mark.
The park is located essentially on top of the community centre, creating a number of fun transitions between the building and the serviceable green space on top. It’s slightly domed, but not so much that you can’t do stuff on it. The circular path along the outside, along with the variety of mid-sized trees and plants, provides a cohesive feel. And the playground is quite good for the 4-8 year old demographic, with a number of slides and tunnel bridges to explore.
Plus, there’s a giant sign that says “PARK”. And that a fun flourish of literalism in a small park that accomplishes its goal, even if the neighbourhood as a whole doesn’t.
#91: Jones Park
“Ship climbing apparatus is slightly too small for adults. Fitting through the openings will be a tight squeeze!”
#10 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
5350 Commercial Drive
Jones Park recently completed a million-dollar renovation, with mixed results.
First, the good: the new playground is pretty fun for young children, with a giant pirate ship and a sea snail providing a nautical theme. It’s surrounded by shady trees, and there’s some new exercise equipment. The picnic tables and lounge chairs nearby for adults make it a perfectly fine place to spend an hour with the kids.
All things considered though, the playground is on the smaller end of things. And 90% of the park continues to be a big field exposed to the sun with little to do but play soccer. There was also an excellent chance to make the main entrance of the park — right next to a stretch of good food options along Victoria Drive — a really inviting area and gathering area in the southeast quadrant of the city.
Instead, it’s just a plain flat cement area with virtually no picnic tables.
It’s still a big green space with a good playground in a busy area of the city. But given the extensive work put into the upgrade, it feels like a missed opportunity.