#230: Minipark @ Chilco & Comox
#13 in West End
It is hard to make the case that one should “visit” any of the miniparks, but they are pleasant enough for the neighbourhood. And this one has a wide enough pathway and enough heritage homes to be interesting enough to walk through.
When they were installed, a number of people expressed hope that they would help the West End become more of a community. Whether that happened as a direct result is questionable, but the neighbourhood is now widely considered a model community (finishing second in Vancouver in CBC’s 2020 neighbourhood bracket), and certainly there aren’t people racing through Comox to get on the Lions Gate Bridge faster.
So on the whole, we’ll give the miniparks their due.
#229: Rosemont Park
“Not a good park in any way at all.”
#14 in Killarney
3101 Rosemont Drive
There are plenty of walkways next to a street in Vancouver covered in trees and giving some nice shade and a bit of atmosphere to a walk.
But none of them are a separate park — except Rosemont, which extends for a single block between Kerr and East 58th Avenue.
Why the area is a separate park seems to be somewhat of a mystery, perhaps designated as such because it links Fraserview Golf Course with Champlain Heights Park, but no matter: it’s a nice walk amongst the trees.
#228: Minipark @ Bute & Haro
#12 in West End
Shall we head back to the miniparks?
This one goes by The Beaconsfield, a 1909 structure that was “one of the first large apartment blocks to be built in the West End”, according to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, and still providing an imposing brick facade to this day.
There’s also a quirky rock structure, which provides something to look at or climb if you’re a small child, and the requisite garbage cans and streetlights.
In other words, it’s a minipark. But a slightly more interesting one.
#227: Minipark @ Broughton & Nelson
#11 in West End
We’ve covered most of the complaints that were brought against the miniparks in the 1970s and 80s, but there was a particular one reported by The Vancouver Sun in 1982. While most would identify the park as being next to the longtime home of Gordon Neighbourhood House, at the time it was the only minipark to be built facing single-family homes.
There was originally a plan for swings and climbing bars at this park — but “the committee decided to abandon plans .. after area residents protested that it would create unnecessary noise and attract too many children to the site.”
So, there’s that.
#226: Thunderbird Park
“Nothing much to explore.”
#20 in Hastings-Sunrise
3485 East 2nd Avenue
With so many parks in the city, it’s inevitable that some of them will need more TLC than others, but it’s particularly noticeable at Thunderbird Park, where exposed rust permeates through the 1980s play structure, and the noise from cars on Hastings heading to Highway 1 roars through the trees.
With a small field and a few trees, it’s certainly possible we have underrated (slightly) this park, but the lack of amenities outside the dying playstructure left us with disappointment, so here it sits. A shame, given the affordable rental apart structures that surround it.
#225: Sun Hop Park
“This is not a park…”
#9 in Riley Park
192 East 18th Avenue
What does $590,000, modern urban design principles and copious references to a city’s diverse background get you?
Sometimes, just a weirdly unsatisfying modernist park.
Sun Hop Park, named for a company that operated a block away in the 1920s, and paying homage to the Chinese green grocers of the era, is less than a decade old. It was converted from a traffic triangle next to a parking lot in 2013, at the same time the same parking lot was being converted — in the best traditions of early 21st Century Vancouver — to a mixed-use market condo.
According to Park Board Minutes at the time, open houses revealed that people wanted a place that prioritized “social gathering, seating, respite from the traffic on Main Street, green space, public art, incorporating historical context (especially the Palm dairy), a gateway to mid-Main, interactive elements, memorable experience, and expression of the community.”
That’s a lot of stuff to jam into a small triangle of land beside a busy street. Which might explain why Sun Hop is such a jumbled mess.
The dominant feature of the park is a curved red pergola, in theory looking like giant bendy straws you could have seen at the Ice Cream shop that operated on the site for 37 years.
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t look like bendy straws! In theory, greenery was going to sprout on top of the pipes, but in reality there’s one sad vine on one sad curve, giving the impression of an unfinished art project.
The “seating” is a few small and rickety tables, with small metallic chairs chained to the table in a completely uninviting manner. In the middle, there’s a mound of grass that’s too steep for people to actually picnic on. The rest of the park is a strip of concrete, with the somewhat infamous Main Street Poodle statue standing guard over everything.
The shame is that architects Hapa Collaborative created the much loved Terra Nova Playground in Richmond, and the area surrounding 18th and Main is filled with plenty of small restaurants that could make a small parklet a great place for small-scale community engagement.
That didn’t happen for Sun Hop. The area sits mostly empty, despite being new and in a high-traffic area.
If it’s a disappointing reminder that pedigree, money and consultation doesn’t automatically mean a good park, the good news is a much better example lies just a few blocks away.
#224: Quadra West Park
“Currently, the park is a simple, open lawn.”
#8 in Dunbar-Southlands
3250 Quadra Street
Answering the question “what if you had a piece of land with a beautiful view and did nothing to improve it?”, Quadra West continues our theme of underutilized pieces of land on the city’s west side.
The grass is sloped, so most games of sport are out of the question, but it provides a lovely view of Downtown and the north shore, perched as it is right on top of the ridge that serves as the unofficial demarcation of Dunbar.
But the lack of even a single bench is perplexing, and no doubt a disappointment to people who might enjoy more complex inland parks in that quadrant of the city.
#223: Cathedral Square
“Full of trash and horrid odor from water fountain area.”
#23 in Downtown
566 Richards Street
The best that can be said about Cathedral Square, as it exists in 2022, 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 water from the pool is gone. 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.
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 space. 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.
#222: Minipark @ Jervis & Burnaby
#10 in West End
There were lots of small sagas during the great 1980s West End minipark debate: some property owners complained it would cost them an extra $5 a month, people in favour of the parks accused council of constantly dragging their heels, at one point different churches got into a skirmish when a large one complained the miniparks could prevent proper fire access.
Debates around the role of parks never stop in Vancouver, their locations just move — today the Jervis and Burnaby minipark is innocuous, but it has a number of nice benches, some pleasant overhanging trees, and on a sunny day a view of English Bay.
And really, isn’t that enough?
#221: Fraser River Trail
“Remaining sections of the riverfront trail will be completed as opportunities arise.”
#10 in Marpole
9149 Hudson Street
We’re still deep in the midst of Park Board territories that aren’t fully formed parks, and this is among the most interesting — a 350-metre strip of land of Vancouver, accessible only by walking past a giant bus depot.
When you arrive, it amounts to a pleasant but somewhat-too-industrial walk to a picnic table next to the Fraser River, after which you walk back the way you came.
In the future, the idea is that it will seamlessly connect to an integrated greenway along the Fraser, instead of being part of a patchwork of corridors.
But if you’re interested in a picnic date next to a bridge, a river and about 200 buses, it’s for you.