#160: Captain Cook Park
“Many people didn’t clean up after their dogs.”
#8 in Killarney
3398 East 54th Avenue
A collection of simple wooded trails and tennis courts next to the nearby elementary school, Captain Cook is part of the somewhat interconnected parks in the Champlain Heights neighbourhood created in the 1970s.
There are several trail options through the park that wind through the ferns and trees, but they’re all relatively similar. It’s good for a light jog, and can make a person living anywhere in the centre of the city jealous at all the nearby mini forests in this neighbourhood.
#159: Cartier Park
“Its quite simple and has a children’s playground.”
#5 in Riley Park
390 East 36th Avenue
Cartier Park is the sort of dull, unimaginative park that every city has — the type of place first mentioned in a local newspaper when it got its official name in 1928, and not mentioned again for another 17 years. There’s a small flat field passable for T-Ball or children’s soccer, a few benches, a playground and a few tall trees for shade.
However, that playground is perfectly good to bring kids to. While it’s old, there are four separate structures that will work for all ages, with the highlight being a vintage series of tire swings that can be walked on or through.
#158: Art Phillips Park
#15 in Downtown
625 Burrard Street
There’s a nice symmetry with the small park surrounding the Burrard SkyTrain station being named for Art Phillips.
For those under 40 (raises hand) or who didn’t grow up in Vancouver (raises hand), and wants a little history lesson (wait where are you all going?) Art Phillips is generally seen as the first “modern” mayor of Vancouver.
The word “modern” and what it means historically is inherently always shifting and up for debate, but there was an important “before” and “after” line in his four year tenure in the 1970s. Part of it was Phillips was a relatively young man when he became mayor, defeating a long-established political party with different views, and bringing with him a host of councillors that would have long and influential careers in the city, creating a generational change that provides an easy civic demarcation.
But the other part is the things he championed while mayor — stopping a freeway through Downtown, leading the transition of the city’s waterfront from industrial to residential, championing green space and local participation — came to be seen as defining features of the city’s ethos, the things that set it apart as it began its multi-decade run into a world-class something or other.
(yes, this is a smoothed over and politically expedient explanation, but then again so is most of popular history)
Anyway, shortly before he died in 2013, the city renamed Discovery Square into Art Phillips Park.
It’s a quiet area surrounding a SkyTrain station, which of course is a form of rapid transit fairly unique to Vancouver. The land itself was saved through a partnership with developers, another Vancouver trademark. There are two sculptures designed for the city’s centennial. And the design, a quirky series of green terraces and tables, with cherry blossoms that explode in the spring, is the sort of effortlessly beautiful look that the city sold to the world.
Today, it could be better maintained and given a bit more polish, but then again, metaphors are often a little too on the nose.
It’s a nice honour for an important person, and a good place to have lunch and consider how the city has changed.
#157: Major Matthews Park
“What you see in the photo is the entire park.”
#12 in Mount Pleasant
2627 Manitoba Street
At one time the smallest park in the city, Major Matthews Park is named for the city’s first archivist, who probably did more to preserve artifacts and documents from Vancouver’s first century after being settled than anyone else.
The park occupies a former single-family lot on Manitoba just off 11th Avenue, and has a small modern playground good for 3 to 6-year olds. There’s also a cute gazebo in the corner that can fit one or two people, and a decent sized lawn in between.
A modest park, in other words, yet one that feels cozy enough for a fair number of demographics.
#156: Sahalli Park
#11 in Mount Pleasant
2300 Fraser Street
A smallish park just a block north of Broadway and Fraser, the highlight of Sahalli is a rambling community garden on its east size, which surely gives much joy to the many dozen people that have a plot there.
Remove that, and it’s a regular park, with a moderately new and moderately challenging playground, a few tables, and a little hill.
All of which is to say we may have underrated this park slightly, coming as it did on the first day we began our research, but there’s no shame in being a Perfectly Acceptable Neighbourhood Park.
#155: Arbutus Village Park
“It was such a gem a few years ago!☹☹.”
#4 in Arbutus Ridge
4202 Valley Drive
Few parks in the city have a slow-moving and developer-heavy origin story quite like Arbutus Village Park.
A lot of the city’s early parkland came about because Vancouver designated it as such, or they purchased it when somebody died, or a person donated it to the city when they deceased. Others involve land swaps or community amenity funds, quick negotiations for a company to provide green space in exchange for getting a 20-storey condo instead of merely 14.
But the path to getting Arbutus Village Park took a while. Originally, a massive shopping complex was proposed for the King Edward and Arbutus area — this during a time when megamalls were the rage — but it opposed by local residents.
In the end, the megamall became a rather small commercial centre, but the subdivision went ahead and a $100,000 park snaking through both of them was built by developers and given to the Park Board.
Today, you can walk through it and find ample lawn space on one end, and a charming — if mostly forgotten — playground on the other, in the middle of a fun amphitheatre.
In between, the park winds through a series of townhouse developments, but also that reduced-in-scope mall. As of the summer of 2020 it was virtually empty, as a redevelopment is happening on the land.
This development is slightly less controversial than before, but most of the outdoor amenities for the new buildings are designed to be sectioned off for the sole use of residents, rather than the public as large.
So enjoy going straight from the park right into the spooky ghost mall for all its symbolic worth while you still can.
#154: McAuley Park
“A small neighbourhood triangle.”
#10 in Mount Pleasant
The smallest fully-named park in the city, McAuley is that strip of grass and tress in the triangle median between Fraser, Kingsway and East 15th Avenue, home of too many good restaurants and cafés to count and the cultural hub of the burgeoning Fraserhood area.
And if all you were to do is sit in the small park and enjoy some great food on one of the makeshift benches, that would be delightful enough. But there’s also a memorial to the Vietnamese boat people, tall flags, and tall trees to give shade on a sunny day.
A small space that packs a punch in other words, even if the only reason to really be there is for the stuff around it.
#153: Dusty Greenwell Park
“Not the funnest park to play in, but the view is great.”
#11 in Hastings-Sunrise
2799 Wall Street
Along the long stretch of tiny parks on Wall Street there is Dusty Greenwell, a long skinny walking trail with trees down the middle.
It offers a bit more space and areas to chill than the tiny parks on either side of it, albeit slightly worse views of the port and mountains.
Aside from being a helpful off-leash dog area, it’s objectively not the greatest use of such a large waterfront space.
But there’s plenty of land and plenty of opportunities to look at the water, and in a city where both are always in high demand, that’s never a bad thing.
#152: Swingview Park
“So happy to finally learn this lil park has a name.”
#11 in Grandview-Woodland
2303 Wall Street
It’s technically called “Park Site on Trinity Street”, but online it’s called “Swingview Park”, for the very simple reason that there are four swings, and they provide a view.
And what a view! Sadly, our photos from the day don’t do it justice, but you can see Lions Gate Bridge and the North Shore mountains and the Burrard Inlet, with a spectacular sunset to boot.
Add in a couple benches and a small amount of green space surrounding the swings, and it becomes the best of the Wall Street pocket parks, mostly by dint of that one amenity.
#151: Winona Park
“Just a regular park with grass and a few trees. Nothing special here.”
#7 in Marpole
7575 Columbia Street
This sprawling park just off Cambie and 59th is another example of how large parks in south Vancouver seem to be only half thought out.
There are three massive fields, each separated by a steep hill that provides clear separating and interesting visuals, along with a field house and washroom on the far east side of the middle field.
And that’s mostly it. Aside from a small sprinkling of trees, there’s no further amenities, save for a new playground.
The good news is the park board replaced one of the saddest playgrounds in the city, which consisted of a couple swings and a solitary slide. The bad news is that it’s one of the most underwhelming playgrounds Vancouver has built this decade, consisting of a couple smaller slides, a tiny climbing apparatus, and a confusing woodchip area with a play structure that requires sand to operate.
But if you need a lot of space to play a lot of outdoor sports, Winona will suffice.