#110: Carleton Park
“The only downfall is that there are no bathrooms currently!”
#9 in Renfrew-Collingwood
3450 Price Street
We prefer small parks that fulfill their potential over large ones that don’t, which is how the sprawling Killarney can be #111 and this quiet unobtrusive park just a few blocks north of Joyce-Collingwood station can be here.
Carleton is a simple park with a slight hill on one side and trees on the other, with a rudimentary field making up the bulk of the area.
There are a couple extra flourishes that make this a fairly good neighbourhood park — a well-paved path gives an easy thoroughfare and some simple definition to the property, and the alley on one side helps to provide a more secluded feel.
And the playground, which is fairly new, is quite good for 5-10 year olds. There’s a climbing apparatus and a couple of slides, a large swing that can fit multiple kids, a sand pit, and plenty of nearby benches for parents to safely watch from.
None of this is particularly exciting, but all of this is good, given the park’s limited ambitions.
#109: Adanac Park
“A lines flagman at a soccer tournament 3/25/2017 struck a wild crow knocking it unconscious. Is violence permitted on your property? Apparently so!”
#9 in Hastings-Sunrise
1025 Boundary Road
Adanac Park is another one of our neverending “fields+playground+washroom” parks in this fair city, with a couple things that make it somewhat noteworthy.
One is the very large community garden; the other is the large line of trees on the top of an incline separating the fields, providing more definition while creating a pseudo-secret field on the north end of the park.
The playground though is fairly straightforward and several decades old, though it does have two separate areas for younger and older kids. The lack of a tennis or basketball court is a little strange as well — and for a park of this size, more than a little disappointing.
The amount of field space is quite helpful though, for what amounts to a slightly better-than-average basic sports park.
#108: Cambie Park
“If you like a park that has a grassy field you’re in luck.”
#3 in Oakridge
500 West 54th Avenue
About one quarter of Vancouver’s parks (62, if we’re being specific), are what we called “medium mixed-use parks”: places between .4 and 3 hectares in size, and with at least a playground or an extra amenity beyond a basic field.
In other words, the backbone of the city’s system: neighbourhood parks that provide a few things, but aren’t giant tourist attractions or big destinations for soccer or baseball games.
We’ve got seven of them in a row coming up, which sort of makes sense: few of these types of parks are amazing (only three of them crack our top 20), and plenty of them are probably interchangeable, serving the needs of the community without being an attraction unto themselves.
Cambie (at 54th and, er, Cambie) is certainly one of them — there’s a perfectly acceptable community playground, a spartan playground, and gentle slopes along the edges. The impressive thing about the park is you barely hear all the noise from the street with the same name, owing to the very tall redwood trees blocking out the noise, making it the sort of park that you need to know about in order to seek out.
Could it use some upgrades? Absolutely. A lot of the parks in this area could stand for a washroom, or a more expansive playground, or a few more tables or covered areas to help provide a more community feel.
Don’t discount what they currently give though. A park like Cambie is well-used, and well-liked, if not necessarily loved.
#107: Gaston Park
“Well used park with lots of greenspace in area with large condos.”
#8 in Renfrew-Collingwood
3470 Crowley Drive
Built as part of the Collingwood Village complex of apartments and townhomes at the turn of the century, Gaston is not especially good at expectorating, but is dominated by a single baseball field, with a small ridge surrounding the park making the area seem more expansive than it actually is. The field is quite excellent and usable for folks — at least when baseball isn’t being played — and a basketball court is wedged in one corner.
The perplexing thing is the playground: a few tiny springy swings and a sad slide, all on top of somewhat lumpy rubber.
It’s not nearly good or unique enough when you consider the proximity of Aberdeen and Collingwood parks, but if you consider it as a complement to those parks, Gaston acquits itself nicely.
#106: Kaslo Park
“Great new playground”
#8 in Hastings-Sunrise
2851 East 7th Avenue
A quirky park just off Renfew and 7th, Kaslo consists of a giant hill, tennis courts and playground, in a quiet area of East Van next to a co-op.
But the playground is one of the newest in the city, and it demands to be highlighted — a steep slide and climbing wall integrate seamlessly into the park’s hill. And at the bottom, there’s a full playground that is excellent for kids 8-12, with two solid slides, and a weird crescent-shaped jungle gym. There’s also a couple springy swings and other play accessories for younger kids.
All of which is to say that if we were ranking parks solely for children, Kaslo would be around #35. But the rest of the park is fairly pedestrian (outside of the lovely view from the top of the hill), which is why we’re talking about it here.
#105: Almond Park
“Okay park not enough almonds for my taste.”
#7 in Kitsilano
3600 West 12th Avenue
Part of the reason Almond Park is so loved on the west side is because of its location: conveniently off Alma and 12th, it’s the closest mid-sized park for thousands of residents in Point Grey, Dunbar and Kitsilano.
And specifically, its location wedged right up against Alma as cars race up the hill between Broadway and 16th provides its biggest strength and weakness: the steep hillside was turned into a forested area with ample shrubs and a gentle pathway, providing a quasi-hidden exploration space that’s rare for a park of this size.
However, the noise coming from the cars is ever present. And once you’re done exploring the little forest, it’s a rather ordinary park, with a small field, tennis courts and an adequate sand/wood/yellow slide playground from the 90s.
In summation, the grievances of this ranking aired in a Canucks recap in The Athletic have been noted, but dismissed.
#104: Garden Park
“Pretty average mid-century suburban block park.”
#10 in Grandview-Woodland
1851 Garden Drive
It’s a generic park with a generic name.
That may be a tad rude, but it’s also a fair description. An assuming city block near 1st and Nanaimo, Garden Park has a small field, tennis and basketball courts, a playground and a field house all clumped together, with trees on all sides and few extra flourishes.
It is essentially the Vancouver Special of parks, both in the fact that it seems like it hasn’t been updated since 1983, and that it’s so well used and beloved that its relative specialness is rather besides the point.
Which also means that, if we’re being objective, it could use an upgrade. The playground is rather small and toddler-specific, while the soccer field could use maintenance (or perhaps there should be a designated dog park closer than 1.5km away).
Like any well-loved garden though, there’s evidence of lots of love, even in the absence of anything unique.
#103: Camosun Park
“Good jumping off point to Pacific Spirit park.”
#4 in Dunbar-Southlands
4102 West 16th Avenue
When does a school’s playground count towards a park’s rankings?
This seemingly unimportant question carries some weight when you’ve been wandering around the public spaces of Vancouver for weeks, and beginning noticing just how many parks are right next to schools, with very little delineation as to when one ends and the other begins.
Our general rule of thumb was that, whatever the technical boundaries of a park and school, if the playground was easily accessible to the public and generally blended into the common park area, it counted.
Now with that boring explanation out of the way, let us consider Camosun. Being next to an elementary school, there’s a Big Sports Field and a playground, with a fun climbing pyramid and another more modern play structure as well.
There’s an old gravel track on the west side, in a gentle bowl shape with the trees of Pacific Spirit Park looming in the background, giving a feeling of old Vancouver. And the easy accessibility to nearby trails from the park is a definite bonus.
One note of caution is the unique ownership structure of the site (owned by the province, leased to the park and school board), which means future upgrades are a big question mark. For the moment though, it does what it needs to, and quite pleasantly at that.
#102: 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 equipment is already breaking down and the playground equipment is separated 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.
#101: 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 going 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.