#160: Hillcrest Park
“The fields are always swampy.”
#6 in Riley Park
4501 Clancy Loranger Way
The Hillcrest Community Centre is probably the best in the city — the legacy of being a host venue for the 2010 Olympics means it has great curling and hockey rinks, along with an indoor and outdoor swimming area.
But in terms of a pure, public-access park, it suffers — the baseball fields are good, but the soccer fields have some drainage issues, the playground is very minuscule, the shade is non-existence and there’s a surprising lack of walking/biking path through the immense and endless fields.
We’ll admit that the Hillcrest Geyser water feature, which has been dormant during the pandemic, could give a boost up in the future…though only so high, for a park that lacks a lot of secondary features.
#159: Price Park
#13 in Renfrew-Collingwood
3650 Price Street
A new playground was recently installed at this simple by small park right off Boundary Road, and it’s inventive enough for the 4-8 year-old set, with a couple slides and climbing apparatus.
Otherwise, it’s an open grassy field that slopes up towards the road, large enough for small games but relaxed enough that a family or friend gathering is easy enough if nobody’s using it.
Our score of exactly 20/40 reflects a general “it’s fine” attitude for Price and what it tries to be — but we’re still at the point where it’s not worth going out of your way to visit.
#158: Point Grey Road Park
“You can’t give that view anything less than 5 stars/”
#12 in Kitsilano
3215 Point Grey Road
If there was ever a unnamed park in the city that screamed for a formal name, it’s the awkwardly named “Point Grey Park Site at Trutch Street”, recognizing the park is on “Trutch Street”, named for Joseph Trutch, B.C.’s first lieutenant-governor who is now widely acknowledged as the most influential provincial politician when it came to displacing and disenfranchising Indigenous people.
Now that we’ve got that rant out of the way, this park is a lot like the other Point Grey pocket parks, but with one key element — a little wooden cantilever deck that juts out into the ocean, which has been there since the earliest days of the park in the 1970s.
Not only does it give a beautiful view, if you’re prepared enough you could probably set up a unique picnic. Though you might have some competition for the spot.
#157: 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 nearby elementary school, Captain Cook is part of the somewhat interconnected parks in the Champain 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.
#156: 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.
#155: 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” doesn’t really mean anything, 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 provided an easy civic marker.
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.
#154: 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.
#153: Sahali Park
#11 in Mount Pleasant
2300 Fraser Street
A smallish park just a block north of Broadway of 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.
#152: 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 as slow-moving and developer-heavy origin story as 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 opposed by local residents.
In the end, the megamall became a rather small commercial centre, 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 one is slightly less controversial than before, but most of the outdoor amenities for the new buildings is designed to be sectioned off for the sole use of residents.
So enjoy going straight from the park right into the spooky ghost mall for all its symbolic worth while you still cane.
#151: 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 be there for the stuff around it.