#230: Minipark @ Nicola & Pendrell
#15 in West End
A second group of miniparks were implemented in the West End in 1980, following the first ones west of Denman in the 1970s, including this one.
At the time, objections included that they would increase crime, and be a “bandaid solution” to traffic problems. There was a drinking fountain at this park, but it was removed “after neighbours complained it had become a gathering place for prostitutes and transients,” according to the Vancouver Sun.
That political controversy decades past, the minipark is one of the more cramped and less interesting ones in the West End, though it does pass by the Beaufort Mansions and its delight Tudor architecture from the 1930s.
#229: Minipark @ Cardero & Burnaby
“Not a good park in any way at all.”
#14 in West End
The plus of this minipark is the buildings don’t infringe on the path quite as dramatically, giving a little more sunlight and a little more room for benches.
But let’s go back to some of the stories about these miniparks being created, because they’re fun. For example, there was one councillor at the time who said miniparks were a bad idea because “there are old ladies and old men wandering around in the West End who will get lost because of the miniparks.”
That, as far as we can tell, did not happen.
#228: 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, this one again with 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.
#227: 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 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 designed as such because it links Fraserview Golf Course with Champlain Heights Park, but no matter: it’s a nice walk amongst the trees. High-ambition parks that fail are more worthy of criticism than low-ambition ones that amble on by.
#226: 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.
#225: 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, now the longtime home of Gordon Neighbourhood House — that 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.
#224: Thunderbird Park
“Nothing much to explore.”
#20 in Hastings-Sunrise
3485 East 2nd Avenue
- Small, rusty playground
- Small field
- Small forest
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.
#223: Sun Hop Park
“This is not a park…”
#9 in Riley Park
192 East 18th Avenue
- Small hill to run around?
- Tiny table and chairs
- Dog Statue to look at
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, and in theory greenery was going to sprout on top, 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 overtop 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.
#222: 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.
#221: 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 2020, is that it has good bones.
Home to the first underground substation in North America, this park in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown and across the street from the Holy Rosary Cathedral drops with the Expo-style architecture of its 1986 opening, from the light blue colour scheme for the stage to the start brutalist pillars that was 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.