#200: Cambridge Park
“Can’t really say only walked by lots sorry.”
#15 in Grandview-Woodland
2099 Wall Street
The westernmost of the Wall Street parks, Cambridge offers a long strip of grass with some trees in the middle. There’s also a small community garden and library in the north end. It provides decent views of the port, but the park is pitched at an angle where there are better views to be had in better parks.
Still, for a long stretch of grass where a dog can roam, Cambridge will fit the bill.
#199: Helmcken Park
“More of a shady pathway.”
#19 in Downtown
1103 Pacific Boulevard
A small walking path that connects the main Yaletown area with Pacific Boulevard, Helmcken Park serves as a reminder that generations of British Columbians have been confused by the lack of an “e” between the “m” and “c” in countless things named for John Sebastian Helmcken, one of the most influential leaders in the colonizing of British Columbia, partly because he married James Douglas’ daughter.
What’s that? Oh right, the park. It provides some benches and shade in an area of the city where it’s much appreciated, but otherwise is tremendously underutilized, including a large fountain that former city planner Brian Jackson called “an over-thought piece of junk.”
#198: Shannon Park
#9 in Oakridge
1575 West 62nd Avenue
The city describes the birch trees that surround this small park as “majestic”, which is fairly generous. But it’s another field next to a school — in this case, the Vancouver Hebrew Academy — that’s meant for baseball and soccer, and little else.
A basketball court and small playground are right beside the park, but it is fenced off and clearly meant more for school use. That being said, the park provides adequate space for people living in the 62nd Avenue and Granville area, even if one or two extra amenities would go a long way.
#197: Pigeon Park
“Be kind be fair be safe ❤”
#18 in Downtown
399 Carall Street
In 1968, in a story on Vancouver’s “skid row”, a reporter for The Province described Pigeon Park as “loaded with drunks” and “dangerous now for women and children to walk through.”
“A dreary panorama of human misery,” declared a Vancouver Sun reporter in 1970.
“Do away with it” declared reporter Harvey Oberfeld in 1972, saying that the park had “gone straight downhill” since the very day it was created by the city in 1938, saying “let’s face it, the battle for Pigeon Park has been lost.”
Well, it’s still here. So are the folks who carve out space for themselves in a little triangle of land at Carall and Hastings. After a multi-year political skirmish that saw “Pioneer Place” transferred over to the park board in the 1970s, Pigeon Park — named for the birds that frequent it — has continued to be a place where the most marginalized in the Downtown Eastside have a bit more outside space than just a sidewalk.
It is far from perfect or ideal for anyone, and many of the adjectives used in the 60s and 70s could be used today, if you were so inclined.
But it’s a well-used park by those who perhaps need it the most.
#196: Cardero Park
#17 in Downtown
1601 Bayshore Drive
A small area across from the Westin Bayshore Hotel, Cardero Park is a small strip of green space surrounded by walking and bike paths on both sides. Huzzah.
But! While the green space in the middle is too small and too much a hump to do anything on, there are plenty of benches that indent the area, giving folks an opportunity to take in the beauty of Stanley Park and the surrounding Coal Harbour visage. There’s also a small bit of the park that juts out into the middle of English Bay, creating a mini pond that provides a little more visual interest.
That’s about the extent of what you can say for Cardero. Still, it’s waterfront property in downtown Vancouver, and it’s hard to truly dislike a park that has that going for it.
#195: Choklit Park
“This site was formerly the location of the Purdy’s Chocolate factory, hence the name!”
#9 in Fairview
2400 Spruce Street
If we were ranking parks for interesting architecture and backstory, Choklit Park would be significantly higher on this list.
Leased to the Purdy chocolate company in 1970, the company created a children’s playground on the steep embankment between 7th and 6th Avenue in the Fairview neighbourhood. In exchange, Purdy’s created a driveway that helped with the loading issues for their trucks entering and exiting their headquarters, another example of the interplay between commerce and community desires that has characterized much of the city’s park development.
“That’s the way a kid would spell it,” said Purdy’s owner Charles Flavelle of the name, and it stuck around even when the land was transferred back to the city in the 1980s.
In the end, the playground was taken away, and the land was turned into a winding brutalist park, with ample trees and flowers to provide a pleasant background as you walk down the path, or stare at the slightly obstructed view of downtown.
And yet, the park loses serious marks for being designed with the abled-bodied solely in mind — there’s no way of getting down to the lower tier. And while it’s a pleasant place to sit and enjoy a view, there are literally hundreds of places in the city where that’s the case. It’s part of the reason why Vancouver is Vancouver(™).
It’s an interesting place, with an interesting backstory, and such places enrich the heritage of a city, even when they’re not much of a park on their own.
#194: Valdez Park
“Unmemorable if not unnoticeable.”
#7 in Dunbar-Southlands
3210 West 22nd Avenue
On the west side of the city, this is the only official off-leash dog park between Jericho Beach, Kits Beach, and King Edward, which might explain why Valdez Park is so busy with dogs all the time.
As such, it Serves Its Purpose, which is a continuing theme of some of these lesser parks in Vancouver’s arsenal. But the off-leash area comprises the entire park (unlike most parks, where it would only occupy a section), meaning it’s not really hospitable to non-dog owners hoping for a quiet walk or picnic. And the lack of amenities or interesting design elements also limit its versatility.
But at the end of the day, dogs need parks too.
#193: Park Site at Renfrew
“There is a couple benches and a water fountain.”
#16 in Hastings-Sunrise
2899 Wall Street
Sometimes called “Avant Park” for the townhome development to the east of it, this park site is the most eastern of the ones dotting Wall Street, and the most modern-looking, owning likely to community amenity dollars from those Avant properties.
There’s a little path that surrounds the park, and a couple of benches and a water fountain, but it’s too small to do anything and the view of the port is much the same as you’ll see in other parks.
Hard to fault a pleasant view though.
#192: Creekway Park
#15 in Hastings-Sunrise
2901 East Hastings Street
Have you been in the far northeast of the city and wanted to walk directly between Hastings Park and New Brighton Park?
You probably haven’t, given the mishmash of highways and busy roads that dot the area. But if you DID, you’d find the interesting Creekway Park, the result of a creek restoration done by the park board last decade.
It provides an interesting walk through bushes and marshy plants, although the creek itself was mighty dry when we explored this area in the summer of 2020. Regardless, the unique pedestrian and cycling path is helpful, and is certainly an upgrade over the gravel parking lot that used to sit there.
191: Cathedral Square
“Full of trash and horrid odor from water fountain area.”
#18 in Downtown
566 Richards Street
The best that can be said about Cathedral Square, as it exists in 2023, is that it has good bones.
Home to the first underground substation in North America, this park in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown, across the street from the Holy Rosary Cathedral, displays the Expo-style architecture from its 1986 opening, with a light blue colour scheme for the stage and the stark brutalist pillars that were a hallmark of the city’s building style for decades.
There’s some grassy areas, and a small pool area. Squint deeply enough, and you can imagine it as a performing arts space and a vibrant area where office workers get lunch, food trucks come and go, and people of all walks of life enjoy at all hours.
But right now, the grounds are often littered with garbage. The canopy over the stage that once allowed for all-seasons performances or refuge from the rain is long gone. After two years where the park board didn’t fill the water in a pool where the pool is the dominant feature, it returned, making the park a fair bit more hospitable, but it’s still a place with so much missed opportunity.
Some Downtown parks (or areas of parks) get used regularly by homeless people, as a place where they have public space, and while you can have an argument about the social implications (as people in this city often do!), it at least provides for a well-used plot of land. But Cathedral Square isn’t really in that area, and so it just sits mostly vacant.
A 2018 study commissioned by the City of Vancouver said it “is in deteriorating condition” but was “one of the few public plazas with a more intimate scale” and had “the potential” to improve.