#130: Shannon Mews Park
“It looks like someone’s big yard with a mansion at the end.”
#4 in Kerrisdale
43 West 57th Avenue
First: yes, that’s the real sign for the park.
Second: the history of the land at 57th and Granville is a small snapshot of Vancouver itself.
Farmland in South Vancouver at the beginning of the 20th century, the land was purchased by Benjamin Rogers, founder of British Columbia Sugar, one of the province’s first iconic businesses. Like many of Vancouver’s first local titans, he built a mansion reflecting his interests, in this case a Beaux-Arts house with a grand European garden.
A half-century later, the land was in the hands of Peter Wall early in his career as one of the city’s foremost developers. Council approved rezoning the land, allowing 171 apartment units on 10 acres surrounding the mansion — which the Vancouver Sun said was the “latest capitulation to developers”, with “density as high as the heart of the West End apartment jungle”.
Those apartments, designed by legendary Arthur Erickson, had become faded by the 21st century, when Wall’s company (now overseen by his son) seeked to redevelop the land again for more density. Local residents complained, saying they wanted “something that’s appropriate”, but it passed with less controversy than before.
As part of the agreement for more density, there’s now a park, one of the city’s newest, in front of the grand 25,000 square foot mansion. It has a small but quirky playground for young kids, a faux Italian garden theme that’s delightfully over the top, and all the weirdness of modern apartments jammed right next to an old historic mansion.
Yours to enjoy, in other words.
It’s a new park. But an old story.
#129: Champlain Heights Park
“Older community center.”
#7 in Killarney
3351 Maquinna Drive
From one of the most unique parks in the city to one of the most generic, Champlain Heights is another park surrounding a community centre with a playground and some all-purpose fields.
The playground is average for 2020; two small slides and a tunnel bridge, on a raised sandbox that makes it less than accessible for all.
However, a better playground with a fun dragon theme is at the bottom of the field, next to the school annex. The sharp incline down to the field provides a dramatic view of Everett Crowley Park to the south.
The city has been promising an upgrade to the playground for a while now; that it’s been delayed for more than four years while more than a dozen parks in other parts of the city have gotten an upgrade might speak to the geographical inequities of Vancouver.
#128: Barclay Heritage Square
“A bit like walking back in time.”
#6 in West End
1433 Barclay Street
Let’s talk again about heritage buildings, parks, and their intersection.
Barclay Heritage Square came about in 1980s as a compromise between the park board’s desire for a large green space in the West End, and local residents’ desire to save a number of the old mansions that used to characterize the neighbourhood in Vancouver’s early days before the wealthy moved to Shaughnessy and other locales.
The net effect is this charming collection of public heritage homes, winding walkways, a delightful gazebo and a couple of giant front lawns that double as a public park.
The only thing for children is a single small springy swing, and the green space is pretty much only fit for picnics, so your love for the park will depend a fair bit on how much you enjoy quaint homes from the 1910s.
As a place to enjoy a quiet afternoon however, it fits the bill.
#127: General Brock Park
“It’s a lovely park (4 star lovely, not 5 star lovely — gotta be honest).”
#11 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
2301 Brock Street
A large quiet field with a solid if unspectacular playground (filled with just enough slides and springy swings to keep a small child occupied), General Brock Park was named in 1975 for the War of 1812 hero, continuing Vancouver’s trend of naming things for people that had very little to do with Vancouver.
The gentle upslope to the street at the edges provides a pleasing image, the bike paths along the side of the park helps for connectivity, and a small ball hockey court is surely welcome in a part of the city where big parks are fairly lacking.
A very average park, in other words, and in a neighbourhood with so many good parks like Kensington-Cedar Cottage, actually underwhelming.
But it does have just enough subtle flourishes to provide a little extra.
#126: Upper River District Park
#6 in Killarney
3163 East Kent Avenue N
The only one of the River District parks* that could be said to be fully formed at this point, this plot of land is essentially an extra long pocket park, extending up several stairs and ramps so that it’s consistently surrounded by townhomes until it reaches the next block.
But the lot is wide enough that the park never seems cramped, there’s a small but very good playground with a treehouse theme at the top, and there’s even a little rock climbing wall as well.
It’s the type of smaller park that is becoming more common in Vancouver due to available parcels of land becoming smaller and smaller, and this one will serve the neighbourhood well for some time to come.
*There are two other parks completed in the River District, but they are private, for the benefit of condo residences, and barred off from the public, such is the age we live in.
#125: Ebisu Park
“Simple and clean.”
#5 in Marpole
8810 Olser Street
One of the parks created in Vancouver at a time when the city decided Marpole’s amenities were lacking, Ebisu has a curious split structure.
One side is a children’s play area that is not huge, but quite well done, with a lot of interesting exploration spaces along with the standard slide-and-swings getup.
The other side is a quiet garden area, more for contemplation, with a few small gardens and walking paths, along with a cluster of young pine trees.
Both of them are perfectly acceptable green spaces; that they don’t come together all that well is perhaps indicative of Marpole as a whole.
#124: Marina Square
“part of a difficult network of inexperienced spaces throughout the coal harbor neighborhood.”
#11 in Downtown
1675 Bayshore Drive
One of several developer-funded parks created during the downtown condo boom of 1990-2010, Marina Square is…well, a square. And it’s deep in the heart of Coal Harbour, which means it’s less vibrant than one might expect.
However, there’s a lovely terraced garden, with granite fountains and steps that allow for simple but fun exploration. There’s plenty of sitting areas surrounding the park, and the open space in the middle is large enough for a wide variety of non-sport needs. Can’t forget about that ocean view, either.
And finally, there’s a giant bell right outside the park that you can gong. If all that isn’t enough to elevate a simple park into something quite pleasant, we’re not sure what is.
#123: Alexandra Park
“Goose Poo or Good View. You decide.”
#5 in West End
1755 Beach Avenue
Before there were stadiums, before there were rock concerts, before there were even radios, people gathered at Alexandra Park to hear the music play.
They listened to music coming from Haywood Bandstand, that massive raised gazebo right in the middle of the park. When it was built in 1914, the park didn’t have nearly as many trees surrounding it, and the bandstand allowed musicians to play where people could listen and watch without having to be on the very crowded adjacent English Beach.
As time went on, the original grandeur of the West End faded; bandstands became less essential, and the gazebo was renamed for a securities company that helped fund its restoration in the 1980s.
It’s still a grand structure though, in a nice leafy park ideal for picnics. And in the last century, the trees surrounding the park have grown to where Alexandra is a little more walled off from English Beach, a shady little bit of serenity next to one of the busiest beaches in Canada. A drawback is the aforementioned goose poop, and the lack amenities for kids.
The bandstand is still the centrepiece though. There’s also a fountain dedicated to Joe Fortes — the Black pioneer and the city’s first lifeguard — at the edge of the park, next to Beach Avenue.
A park with plenty of history, in other words, and one that’s still not a bad place to catch a sunset today.
#122: McBride Park
“It’s an okay park but the exposed location gives it a kind of desolate feel.”
#9 in Kitsilano
3350 West 4th Avenue
The province gave these two city blocks of land along 4th Avenue to the city for park use in 1911 and it was promptly named for the sitting premier, Richard McBride, which is the sort of power move that would never happen today.
But as a park, it’s nice, though lacking in any real flow, owing mostly to the street that bisects that two parts. One side has tennis courts, washrooms and a playground; the tennis courts taking up 20% too much space to make it an interesting walk. The other side has an all-purpose field for soccer and baseball, with lush grass and tall trees blocking some of the noise from 4th.
The playground is the real highlight, specifically a spinning climbing apparatus that is fairly unique in the city. We regret that it takes multiple strong adults to create any speed, but (insert 700-word rant here about how playgrounds need more TINY BUT MODERATELY REAL SENSES OF UNPREDICTABILITY).
Anyhow it’s a good mix of stuff. Even though you can do more with a park, the things it does are good.
#121: Earles Park
“my fave local park and it’s hardly ever busy so my little one always gets a swing 😁.”
#10 in Renfrew-Collingwood
2801 East 41st Avenue
Admittedly, Earles is a fairly simple park.
It’s a large park with a multi-use field on the west side, and a playground on the east side. Between the two is a large hill, which no doubt provides excellent tobogganing 15-30 days every decade.
The playground, with a firetruck theme, is good for 3-6 year olds, and there are a good number of tall trees in the middle slope where people can escape the sun and read a good book.
If all this sounds fine but not particularly inspiring, you’re correct. It’s a solid neighbourhood park though, one that provides what a community needs, and specifically was the neighbourhood park for one of our rankers when they were growing up.
And if nostalgia tinged our score, doesn’t nostalgia tinge many of our times in a park when we’re older, as we see a hill that reminds us of a snow day and a chance to slide down a hill?