#140: Victory Square
“kind of an iconic spot in Vancouver.”
#12 in Downtown
200 West Hastings Street
Let’s start by acknowledging that as a park, or even a public space, Victory Square is somewhat limited.
It’s essentially another one of Vancouver’s extended triangle traffic medians, except this one is on a giant hill and is about half-grass, half-cement. This makes group hangs hard, it makes chilling there for more than thirty minutes hard, it makes the park somewhat underutilized the 364 days a year it isn’t the centrepiece for Remembrance Day.
But that’s secondary to the reason Victory Square matters, which is as a public plaza to remember and honour those that served. And in that measure, Victory Square acquits itself well.
The geography of the park all angles down to the giant cenotaph, the stone helmets sitting on top of the lights arcing around it are understated but beautiful, and the heritage buildings that surround the block — including the Dominion Building, once Vancouver’s tallest structure — give an appropriate sense of grandeur and historical ambiance to the square.
There are other symbolic and historical details, if you want to appreciate them — like the fact the square sits at the original business and political centre of the city, that it was home to one of the first “green space or towers?” debates in Vancouver’s history when there was discussion of what should replace the court house that originally sat there, that it has arguably the transition point to the Downtown Eastside for decades now. And there are other small physical details to appreciate — like the mosaic art, the ample areas to sit, or the fact it has one of the few public washrooms facilities in the area.
So no, not a great park. But an important park, and one that provides for a lot of different people in a lot of important ways.
#139: Granville Loop Park
“It’s nice and pretty but the location was not the bestest.”
#7 in Fairview
1435 West 5th Avenue
A mix of elements that don’t quite come together, Granville Loop is on the south end of the Granville Bridge, meaning there’s a constant blaring of noise from cars and buses passing by at high speeds.
There’s a couple tennis courts, an adequate park for small children, and a brutalism-inspired water structure that in non-pandemic times is fun for kids and adults alike to walk through.
Interestingly, the west side of the park connected to the rest by a quasi-tunnel is not technically a park; which has led to fears from residents that it could be developed in the future. For now though, the entire area functions more as a small green space for the nearby apartments and townhomes than a true park, but works well enough for that purpose.
#138: Strathcona Linear Park
“Rename this park, now.”
#4 in Strathcona
787 Prior Street
A neat little use of public space, this was created in the 1970s after a protracted squabble between council and the park board over transferring over 11 vacant lots between Strathcona and MacLean Park into parkland.
Today it functions much like the West End miniparks: a way to control traffic while giving nearby residents a place to walk or sit.
It’s a little bigger and there’s a lot more variety though — there’s a little paved for ball hockey at one point, a sunken lawn in another place, gardens in another space, two rows of trees in another area. All in all, it’s an innovative use of space that’s well-used, one that makes you wish there were similar corridors in the city.
#137: Gladstone-Riverside Park
“Great place to for a walk by the River but not much in the way of amenities.”
#6 in Vancouver-Fraserview
2500 East Kent Street
Strangely, the green waterfront pathway next to the railway along the Fraser River in the southeast corner of the city is divided into two separate parks. And while Riverside Park gets gazebos and elaborate playgrounds and lots of other amenities, Gladstone-Riverside gets…a tiny play structure for 3-6 year olds. And that’s about it.
But! There’s still plenty of nice views of the Fraser River, including a couple of wooden decks you can walk out on, giving a particular watery postcard image most don’t experience in Vancouver. The flat path is mostly boring, but being next to the railway, ocean and houses makes for some neat visuals.
Just go in knowing it’s more of a simple walking trail and less of a full park, and you’ll have a good time.
#136: Sutcliffe Park
“Well maintained flower beds.”
#6 in Fairview
1318 Cartwright Street
A co-worker from Alberta once said that “Vancouver is a city entirely designed to maximize its views” and Sutcliffe Park is a good example of that — there’s not much to this park other than the views of Granville Island, Downtown, and south False Creek, but man, they’re good views.
Otherwise, this is a weirdly disjointed area directly south of Granville Island, with some nice plants and few pieces of art (including a modern totem pole and an old dragline bucket), but not much to do before it transitions to either the island itself or the more narrow bike and pedestrian path.
When you’re surrounded by pleasant grass and oceans views near the heart of the city though, it’s difficult to find too much fault.
#135: Ross Park
“I love my little neighborhood park.”
#5 in Sunset
7402 Ross Street
Ross is essentially a “starter pack” of Vancouver parks: there’s a multi-purpose field to play soccer or baseball, a field house with a washroom, a wading pool that gets turned on less and less every year (and was completely shuttered in 2020 due to the pandemic, like a lot of them), and a playground that for most is perfectly acceptable but not particularly accessible, with a nice wooden theme and two different slides.
The one thing that lifts Ross up, and is common among Sunset parks yet rare in other places, is a decently large covered picnic area.
There were even a few informal chairs when we visited, a nice example of how a community can add things to parks, and the importance of covered public spaces in the current environment.
#134: Kerrisdale Centennial Park
“Nice little park. Flowers and green space.”
#5 in Kerrisdale
5898 Yew Street
While most parks surrounding community centres are large and a mishmash of different amenities, the ambitions for Kerrisdale are decidedly modest: a little garden with a sitting area, and a fun playground with two different structures (one for the 4-7 set, one for slightly older kids) that both have slides and climbing structures.
The sitting area in particular is unique — a small cement triangle with hedges on two sides to block the noise, and a small row of hedges along the hypotenuse, allowing the trees and garden to be easily viewed.
#133: Marpole Park
“The grass is more like sharp moss.”
#6 in Marpole
1410 West 72nd Avenue
Marpole is underwhelming, and so are its parks.
That’s the account, at least, of the City of Vancouver when it did a community plan in 2012, attempting to address 30 years of inattention and traffic from the Oak and Arthur Laing bridges balkanizing much of the neighbourhood.
“I don’t think it’s as thriving as people would like it to be,” said city planner Matt Shillito to The Vancouver Sun, adding that Marpole’s parks “are in quite poor condition.”
Marpole is one of those parks that seemingly hasn’t gotten an upgrade in decades. Surrounded on all sides by low-rise apartments, it has a nice neighbourhood vibe, and there’s a monument on one side to the large midden that’s central to the Indgenous history of the area.
At the same time, the playground is old (though charming!), with a rusty slide that has seen better days. The field, as one Google reviewer said, “is more like sharp moss” than actual grass. And it’s the type of central neighbourhood park that screams for a washroom facility.
Still, like most of Marpole, there’s good bones here. One can hope for the same revitalization of the park that the city hopes for the neighbourhood writ large.
#132: Nanaimo Park
#5 in Victoria-Fraserview
2390 East 46th Avenue
Any discussion of Nanaimo Park has to begin with its playground: one of the newer ones in the city, it is excellent for kids around 5-9 or so — lots of variety, lots of different structures (including a climbing apparatus and a modern teeter-totter), even a little beach pit as well. It’s very good!
The city is in the midst of a decade-long spree of building 20 or so new playgrounds, and while one can lament how long the upgrades took, many of them are top notch and give play opportunities for different ages and abilities much better than previous generations.
The rest of the park is a giant collection of baseball fields, with a small incline with trees in the middle, along with a washroom. Your mileage may vary.
#131: Langara Golf Course
#4 in Oakridge
6706 Alberta Street
Over the years the boundaries of this course have changed and shrunk to accommodate the building of Langara College and a townhouse development, and today Langara still faces the most proposals by members of the public to be repurposed, owing to its central location in the city and proximity to the the Cambie & 49th Avenue SkyTrain station.
The course itself is a nice parkland route, its wide fairways and short yardages making it very playable for the average golfer, but multi-level greens giving enough of a challenge for experts. There’s an ample variety of plants and birds, and the jogging path that surrounds the course is nice and gentle.
Whether that’s enough to keep it Vancouver’s oldest public golf course in the decades ahead will be up to the whims of politics. For now, it’s a course the proprietor of this website enjoys, mostly because he can sometimes break 80 here.