#100: Fraserview Park
#4 in Victoria-Fraserview
7595 Victoria Drive
Fraserview is the type of mid-sized park with a playground, field and a walking track surrounding a perimeter that is rarely paid attention to. Situated a half-block off a semi-busy street in southeast Vancouver, it’s not really anyone’s definition of a destination area.
But in 2011 the park was noticed by the park board, receiving a $700,000 upgrade. That brought new grass, new fitness equipment that loops around the walking trail, and a new playground that includes both a stairs-and-swing structure for smaller kids and a more ambitious climbing structure and swing set on the other side.
The net effect is a fairly decent park for the time being, particularly for kids, though we note the fitness stuff is already breaking down and the playground equipment is broken up by a couple big trees, in a way that isn’t great for parents trying to watch multiple young ones at the same time.
In an area of the city with very minimal amenities though, it will certainly do.
#99: Alice Townley Park
“Great little hidden gem in the heart of commercial drive.”
#9 in Grandview-Woodland
1775 Woodland Drive
A well-used neighbourhood park in the heart of Grandview-Woodland, Alice Townley has lots of trees and gentle hills for a relatively small space.
The playground is old but acceptable, with an old-school bendy metal slide that has hundreds of small indents, the type Calvin’s dad would say builds character.
There’s a good cycling and walking path that goes through the middle of the park, and plenty of benches and tables that allow all types of people little areas of reprieve.
None of this is incredible, as the grades would indicate, but it all works. In a small space a number of purposes are achieved for all demographics, all sloping down to a corner facing the mosaic bikeway.
Well-designed small parks with character are a relatively rare occurrence in the city, and this is a keeper.
#98: Columbia Park
“If you have a dog or just want to walk, that’s a good park.”
#2 in Oakridge
5908 Alberta Street
One can easily see a time in the none-too distant future where Columbia Park becomes an incredibly busy green space.
A block to the east of Oakridge Centre (currently being redeveloped to allow for more condos, as is the fashion of the time), Columbia is a lovely mid-sized park that isn’t too big as to seem cavernous, but isn’t too small to be cramped if there are sports games going on on the oft-used baseball and soccer fields.
A 90s playground with plenty of slides and tunnels and bridges is solid for most (albeit on a frustratingly raised sandy surface), and there’s good use of trees and slopes to separate the different parts of the park.
Unfortunately, the field house was destroyed last decade, and a separate set of slides was also removed. And the large pentagon-shaped wading pool is closed most of the year — like most wading pools in Vancouver, now seen as an inefficient use of space, which the park board is slowly changing by converting them to spray parks — also docks points of Columbia’s score.
An upgrade is needed. But what’s here is plenty good for the moment.
#97: Woodland Park
“Too many drunk hipsters but nice gardens.”
#8 in Grandview-Woodland
705 Woodland Drive
There is plenty that is good around Woodland Park, and plenty that could be good inside of it, which is why it’s disappointing to say it doesn’t meet its potential when you consider everything.
The centrepiece of the park is yet another underused wading pool, for example. Despite the number of folks using the Woodland, there’s a lack of sitting areas (unless you bring your own lawn chairs, which a fair number of people do). And it’s possible we’ve observed the caretaker of the field house show an aversion to people drinking alcohol in the park, which one imagines creates some conflicts (hypothetically!) given the four breweries within a couple blocks of Woodland, including two just across the street.
Leaving all that aside, and it’s a nice mid-sized park with a couple of fields, well-used for both playing, chilling, barbeques, or just hanging out. There’s also an old but serviceable playground, a good community garden and some decent art sprinkled throughout, including a mosaic display of Vancouver on the southwest corner.
It could certainly use some modern flourishes, but it’s also a pillar of the community.
#96: Mosaic Creek Park
“Tiny but cute little park.”
#7 in Grandview-Woodland
1475 Charles Street
On the whole, well-designed tiny parks aren’t really Vancouver’s thing.
That makes sense: small subtleties aren’t really this city’s thing, period. Vancouver prefers to smack you upside the head with the ocean and the mountains, tall glass against bright blues and greens, laughing statues and geodesic domes and knockoff Space Needles dominating the skyline. The parks with the most effort put into them are largely the ones next to the ocean, or with views of the ocean, and everything else is a nice afterthought; as though if it couldn’t be called “world class” it wasn’t worth the world-class effort: city blocks full of generic fields and playgrounds and maybe a community garden here or there.
Mosaic Creek Park isn’t that. About 40 metres long and 20 metres wide, it feels like the somewhat large backyard of your middle-class dreams that you don’t actually have because you live in Vancouver.
But it’s intricately plotted out, dominated by a beautiful mosaic art piece that wanders through the park like a lazy creek (hence the name). There’s a little rock structure that’s fun for kids to climb, multiple hangout spaces, and some nice shrubbery.
This wouldn’t have delighted us so much if there were others like it. But most of the other small parks in the city are either undersigned patches of grass intended for you to enjoy the ocean, or weird elongated traffic medians with a few trees in the middle.
Mosaic Creek is about as good as a tiny park can be with no amenities save a few benches and a fountain. We just wish there were more of them, subtly dropped throughout the city.
#95: George Wainborn Park
“It’s a nice park taken over by off leash dogs.”
#10 in Downtown
450 Beach Crescent
It’s not that George Wainborn is bad. It’s just a little underdeveloped for what should be a signature waterfront park across from Granville Island.
Another developer-funded green space (with a $5 million budget!) coming out of Yaletown’s condo-heavy transformation at the turn of the century, the park is dominated by a few architectural centrepieces. These include a series of iron light posts, a giant water feature at the high point of the park, and a walkway on the perimetre that gives it a distinctive look from above.
And yet, in spite of the impressive design that blends into the surrounding condos quite well, the park leaves us wanting. Perhaps it’s because of the very minimal play area for very young children, or the fact that the promontory loses a lot of magic in COVID days when the water is removed.
But one of the biggest problems is one of focus: it’s technically not a dog park, but many families in the area use it as such, owing to the fact there’s no nearby off-leash area for any dog-owner with an apartment between the Burrard and Cambie bridges. Since the park is 80% wide-open green space, that has become its main function, with the nearby David Lam being more conducive to hangouts or games of sport.
Still there’s plenty to like with George Wainborn — it’s hard to go too wrong with a big park right on the water. We can’t help but feel it’s better to be viewed than enjoyed, though.
#94: 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 it.
But one has to consider the change 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.
It means there’s unique downtown views whether you’re playing soccer or enjoying the modern playground — which has a number of slides and retro-futuristic design theme, all alien green and curved sleek metal.
One major knock is how removed Trillium feels from everything, and the noise coming from the new St. Paul’s Hospital in the years ahead won’t help the ambiance. It undeniably ticks a lot of boxes though.
#93: Moberly Park
#4 in Sunset
7646 Prince Albert Street
At first glance, Moberley feels like any old Big Field Park in the city 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 in the city compared to the many unloved and mostly empty concrete wading pools. 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.
#92: Hastings Mill Park
“beautiful park! beautiful view!”
#5 in West Point Grey
1575 Alma Street
There’s not much to Hastings Mill Park — no 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 the bigger grounds 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 surrounding it, and you have the heritage factor of the oldest building in the city right next to it (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, but would be the second best park in several other neighbourhoods. Would that we all be so lucky.
#91: 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.
But 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.