#150: May & Lorne Brown Park
“Quiet place with long table.”
#14 in Downtown
801 Beach Avenue
In one of the quieter areas of downtown, in that space between the Granville and Burrard bridges — not quite the central business district or Yaletown but not quite the West End, what is that called? Somebody should probably decide? I mean that somebody is probably me but anyway — sits this park, named for a husband and wife who were both park board commissioners.
The undisputed highlight of the park is a hilariously long table befit for a medieval castle, with marble in the middle and a backing for the chair eight feet high. The slope up to the top of the park intersects with stairs and some trees, giving a subtle design that works well.
Across the street there’s the Long Table Distillery, so named for the table in the park, where you can order boozy slushies to go, and do what you want with them as the intelligent consenting adult you are.
#149: Pop-Up Park at 5th and Pine
“I call it Bee Park.”
#8 in Fairview
1696 West 5th Avenue
Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things, as this pop-up park can attest to in a positive way.
To make a long story short, the Park Board’s long-term plan for this entire park at the edge of Kitsilano is converting it to a full-scale park that essentially doubles as a terminus for the Arbutus Greenway.
That has taken time and money, only getting through the layers of city bureaucracy for approval in 2021, with no timeline yet for the conversion to a giant park. In the interim, there are two pop-up parks on each side of the block.
This is the more simple of the two, but it’s still a perfectly pleasant place to hang out, with a number of large benches to sit on. Surrounding them is the well-developed theme of a “pollinator park”, with plenty of flowers, plants and murals that promote healthy bee-living.
It’s fun. Low-key. A good example of how a small plot of concrete can be turned into a decent gathering space, for however long it lasts.
And it really should be formally named “bee park.”
#148: Margaret Pigott Park
“Great view – ocean and mountains. 10/10 bench would sit again.”
#11 in Kitsilano
2743 Point Grey Road
More than 10 per cent of Vancouver’s parks are either West End miniparks, Wall Street pocket parks or Point Grey pocket parks, and I promise we are almost through all of them, entertaining as it may be to read once again about a small patch of land with good views and not much else.
Margaret Pigott Park, named for a longtime park advocate in the city, is one of the best. This is mostly due to the fact the park is larger than most of the pocket parks, taking up the equivalent of two houses, giving more room for people to stretch out or have a nice lunch.
But a large tree right in the middle also gives some pleasant ambiance, as do the six benches providing the sorts of views that help surrounding homes sell for 10 million dollars or more.
#147: Falaise Park
“could be much more but it seems to have been forgotten.”
#12 in Renfrew-Collingwood
3434 Falaise Avenue
It *feels* like it *should* be a grand park, but Falaise isn’t. No asterisk required.
In the centre of Vancouver’s Renfrew Heights neighbourhood — built with federal government support for veterans following World War Two — Falaise is essentially three separate parks that delivers the needed green space for the unique non-grid design of the neighbourhood.
In the east park, there’s a large multi-purpose field and two playgrounds that are fairly satisfactory for kids 5-10. In the south park, there’s a large incline with small trees and two swings at the very end. And in the north side, the heart of the park, there’s a long sloping field, with soccer and baseball fields at the bottom, a small marsh intersecting the two.
If this sounds slightly underwhelming, that’s because it is: outside of the nice view from the top of the main park and a few sports leagues, Falaise is more a melange of amenities — with a distinct lack of shade or modern flourishes — than a place to go to, with the long slope that dominates the design massively underused outside the three days of year where snow makes it fantastic for tobogganing.
While a park is always appreciated is appreciated — especially for the dogs, as nearly all parts of the park are off-leash — the design and lack of modern frills makes it hard to recommend.
#146: MacDonald Park
“could use a little TLC.”
#6 in Sunset
300 East 44th Avenue
One gives higher marks to modest parks that achieve their purpose than larger ones that don’t, which is why little MacDonald comes in here.
A simple city block park at 44th Avenue one block east of Main, MacDonald has a large tennis court and an expansive if aged playground.
But the playground’s design is good — a wooden structure with multiple slides, along with devices that let kids propel themselves from one end of the playground to the other — and the many trees give a lovely neighbourhood feel, particularly in the heat of summer.
It’s been an unassuming neighbourhood park for decades, but it comes together nicely as a simple place where people of all ages can congregate, so our complaints are minimal.
#145: Melbourne Park
“Tennis courts and basketball.”
#11 in Renfrew-Collingwood
3530 Vanness Avenue
The area around the Collingwood neighbourhood is notable for a number of reasons: not only is it one of the few places in the southeast quadrant of the city dominated by apartment complexes, but the parks in the area are all close together, yet separated for distinct purposes.
Of the three within a block of one another , Melbourne is the “basketball and tennis park”, with both courts in excellent shape. There’s a small grassy field in front of both facilities, and a walking path separating the two sides, and it all works perfectly fine in its minimal space.
(A side note for those keeping score at home — you might notice it’s only the second time in the first 100 or so parks we’ve mentioned a basketball court. The reason is simple: the city’s basketball courts are generally packed, and when lots of people are in a park, they become a more enjoyable place; a place we’re inclined to say “hey, this is meeting the needs of the community, and thus is a good park!”)
And basketball courts do that, because it’s an incredibly popular sport these days, much more so than, say, baseball or tennis, for which many Vancouver parks are geared towards.
That’s mostly a reflection of the fact Vancouver was settled in 1880, not the 1980s. Still, it’s worth noting, in the broad survey we’re attempting to display here.
#144: Devonian Harbour Park
“Not comparable to Stanley Park.”
#13 in Downtown
1929 West Georgia Street
A strange, quasi-extension of Stanley Park along the north side of Georgia, Devonian Harbour is dominated by…a parking lot, which is generally a less than ideal sign for the vibrancy of a park as a whole.
And while Devonian Harbour has an adequate off-leash dog park, an understated AIDS memorial, and two very interesting sculptures to look at (one called “Aerodynamic Forms In Space”, the other “Solo”), it serves less as its own sense of place and more as a pleasant introduction to Stanley Park.
Perhaps unsurprising, as the park came as a result of activism by the “Save the Entrance to Stanley Park Committee”, which fought to preserve the land as an extension of Stanley when the rest of Coal Harbour was being developed.
And when all is said and done, you can’t be upset at a little more public space from where one can enjoy one of the most iconic urban parks in the world.
#143: Delamont Park
“It’s a nice park. Nothing spectacular.”
#10 in Kitsilano
2091 West 7th Avenue
Likely the only park in all of Metro Vancouver named for a boys band leader (Kitislano’s Arthur Delamont), the backstory of Delamont is interesting in itself — the city purchased a number of properties in the area, hoping to build a six-lane mini-highway through the area, but when neighbourhood backlash changed their mind, the properties were turned into green space.
Aside from the backstory and the shape (essentially two small connected triangles, divided by the Arbutus Greenway as it turns right), Delamont is a fairly normal small park with a basic playground.
That’s how most of our team viewed it, but a wonderful thing about parks is they can speak to us in different ways. In this case, one of our members had wildly positive things to say about Delamont. Specifically, the way the two parts of the park are separated.
“We’ve been ranking parks on what they have, not so much what they do. I think most urban parks are for pressure relief, relief from being cooped up in the city (This is one reason I think Stanley Park is not really rankable with other city parks; they are mostly on the scale of relieving pressure in the neighbourhood, but Stanley and Queen Elizabeth are about relieving the pressure of the whole city),” he wrote.
“This low pressure environment needs separation from the city. That’s why I’m always going on about the bevels: they’re the basic way of protecting the park from the high-pressure surroundings. Delamont has those bevel buffers. But the real point of Delamont is how that pressure gets focused into the hinge.
“Either two parts would be respectable on their own as small parks. But together, with the contrast and the energy, that’s when it becomes magical. Going from one space to another. It’s a canal.
“There are other reasons Delamont’s great. Classic playground, greenway access, great bench placement, tall trees. There’s a herb garden where I picked mint I put in last night’s salad. You can see downtown and the mountains.
“But the key, and the thing I haven’t seen in other city parks, is that hinge. The narrows that speed the river before it spreads out again and slows.”
#142: 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 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 Victory 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 originally sitting there, that it has arguably been the transition point into 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.
#141: 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 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.