#130: Laurel Landbridge
#5 in Fairview
2200 Laurel Street
Okay, not really a park so much as a short unique walking trail, Laurel Landbridge is still plenty interesting.
Connecting South False Creek with the Fairview neighbourhood to the south by way of an overpass across busy 6th Avenue, it was described as “the world’s most expensive flower pot” in The Vancouver Sun when it was built in the 1970s.
And really, it’s little more than a green walkway for 100 metres or so, but it’s a unique design, with rocks jutting out in the middle and enough of a winding path that makes it seem juuuust natural enough. The plants on either side help block out some of the noise, but are open enough to provide unique views of the corridor.
Obviously there’s not much to do except walk from one side to the other, but the novelty of it is super enjoyable.
#129: Granville Park
“Actually got married in this park. 5 stars! Ask me in a couple years though lmao.”
#4 in Fairview
3001 Fir Street
What separates a good park from an average one?
Obviously it depends a lot on who’s doing the considering, what they value, when they came to the park, and all sorts of additional caveats that render moot the entire point of this exercise.
But you’re right in the middle of a never ending ramble about one city’s park system, so here’s my answer: anything that got more than 22 points.
It became clear after a few neighbourhoods that any park folks enjoyed independently of our group hangouts — a park that could be recommended to folks living more than a couple blocks away — got at least this score. A park with a score of at least 22 means it has at least one or two very good aspects, or was solid across the board with no giant drawbacks.
Granville Park is certainly the latter: it’s a park with a fair number of amenities, but no real magical elements to it, with apologies to those fans of the expansive lawn bowling club on site. Divided by Fir Street in the middle, there are good tennis courts, a good playground for smaller kids, a good unofficial off-leash dog park, and a good long field for games of sport.
None of these elements are in the top 10 in the city, but they’re good enough that it’s a well-used park for the many people living in mid-rise apartments nearby, and really, that’s all a park needs to be.
#128: 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, which has been up during its first year of existence.
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.
It’s a new park. But an old story.
#127: 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.
#126: Barclay Heritage Square
“A bit like walking back in time.”
#6 in West End
1433 Barclay Street
Moving back to 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.
#125: General Brock Park
“It’s a lovely park (4 star lovely, not 5 star lovely — gotta be honest).”
#9 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, but with just enough subtle flourishes to provide a little extra.
#124: 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 are becoming more common in Vancouver due to the smaller parcels of land now available, 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
#123: Ebisu Park
“Simple and clean.”
#5 in Marpole
8810 Olser Street
One of the parks created in Vancouver when the city decided Marpole’s amenities were lacking, Ebisu has a curious split structure.
One side is a children’s play 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.
#122: 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. 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 foundaints 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 fogret 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.
#121: 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 the adjacent English Beach being quite so crowded.
As time went on, the original grandeur of the West End faded; bandstands became less essential, and it 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 next to Beach Avenue.
A park with plenty of history, in other words, though one that’s still not a bad place to catch a sunset today.