#110: 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.
#109: 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.
#108: 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.
#107: 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.
#106: 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.
#105: 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.
#104: 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 happening 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, they’re now seen as an inefficient use of space, and the park board is slowly converting them to spray parks — which also docks points of Columbia’s score.
An upgrade is needed. But what’s here is plenty good for the moment.
#103: 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 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 map of Vancouver on the southwest corner.
It could certainly use some modern flourishes, but it’s also a pillar of the community.
#102: 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. Which may be why we have city blocks full of generic fields and playgrounds, with 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 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 major amenities. We just wish there were more of them, subtly dropped throughout the city.
#101: 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 from 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 perimeter 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 lost a lot of magic in pandemic days with the water 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.