#60: Connaught Park
“This park is a great example of a successful, multi-use space.”
#5 in Kitsilano
2390 West 10th Avenue
While Oak Meadows is unlike most parks in Vancouver, Connaught is like a bunch of them: a big old flat field next to a community centre, with a playground and washroom in between. Hoo. Ray.
All neighbourhoods in the city have one of these parks, yet Connaught is among the best for a few reasons. One is the old school clubhouse operated by a rugby team, a great meandering building erected in 1925, right at the middle of the park, full of memories and character for generations of Kitsilano residents.
There are other little additions, like a good walking path that breaks up the sprawling green space, one of the rare cricket pitches in the city, stout oak trees lining the south side of the park, and a new splash pad for kids.
It may be similar to a lot of large green spaces in the city, but it all adds up to a park that feels well-used, well-loved, and enjoyed for many different reasons. And isn’t that all one can ask for?
#59: 6th and Fir Park
“Awesome little playground packed full of equipment that will appeal to kids, big or small.”
#3 in Fairview
1600 West 6th Avenue
Why does such a good park have such a boring name?
To make a long story short, the Park Board’s long-term plan for this entire city block at the edge of Kitsilano is to convert it to a full-scale green space, which will eventually double as a terminus for the Arbutus Greenway.
That will take time and significant money. In the interim, there are two pop-up parks on each side of the block.
The one on the southeast edge is very good, the type of park that makes you lament that Vancouver doesn’t have more small public spaces with a few benches, a few tables, a playground and some grass.
That’s really all 6th and Fir Park is, but it’s all very modern and all very inviting. In particular, the community gardens blend into the “main” park area in a much more organic way than most of the more walled-off ones in the city, and the playground has a few unique structures for 3-7 year olds, including a digging area and a small pentagon rope apparatus.
And while there’s not a lot for adults, there’s ample spots to sit, and the Greenway and a Mobi bike share station is 10 metres away. Plus, Beaucoup Bakery is right across the street, so there’s no risk of going hungry while watching the kids play.
Though come to think of it, those pastries might be a boon for the kids as well.
#58: Humm Park
“I never even knew this little gem was near me and I’ve lived a couple blocks away for almost a year.”
#2 in Victoria-Fraserview
7250 Humm Street
Vancouver, it’s fair to say at this point in this exercise, has lots of parks: big ones, small ones, ones next to the water, ones that are giant fields, ones that are extended traffic medians, ones next to the water, dog parks, sports parks, ones next to the water, pocket parks, water parks, ones next to the water, and also, ones next to the water.
And yet, there’s only one park in the city where there’s not a single street connected to it.
Humm was built in the 1970s in the midst of Vancouver quickly filling out the southeast section of the city. For whatever reason, the city decided here — and only here — that a park would be set in a square entirely surrounded by Vancouver’s ubiquitous alleyways.
The result is essentially a secret park: one that has existed for 40 years and has 13 reviews on Google; one that hasn’t been discussed by city council or the park board in decades; one that hasn’t been talked about in a single newspaper story, ever.
And it’s a pretty good park! Even if you were to place it off a generic street, there’s a tennis court, a basketball court, just enough grass for a barbeque, and a small but 6/10 playground, with a couple slides, swings, and most importantly (and I am not making this up) multiple educational displays about elks.
All of this is nice enough, but the fact it backs up to alleyways in all directions creates a tiny oasis, a private park for a private group of houses, except it’s all 100% public.
That there’s no public documentation as to why the park board made its unique decision here is vexing. That Humm ultimately isn’t interesting enough to visit if you don’t live in the area is, well, like a lot of parks.
But if you happen to stumble across it, be grateful for finding such a unique — and underexplained — addition to the city’s catalogue of parks.
#57: Vanier Park
“Beautiful view of the ocean and downtown Vancouver. Not many clean places to sit.”
#4 in Kitsilano
1000 Chestnut Street
It’s set up to be a great park. It should be a great park.
And yet, Vanier is a big case of squandered potential.
It doesn’t *seem* that way on first blush: after all, it’s a giant green space right on the water, to the west of Burrard Street Bridge, with multiple pieces of iconic city art, including the Gate to the Northwest Passage and the giant fountain outside the Space Centre and Vancouver Museum. A former air force base transferred to the City of Vancouver in the 1960s, there was a clear desire to make it a great public space from the beginning.
There’s a lazy walking and bike trail lacing the water, a giant pond, even a hidden dirt bike track in the small forest in the south of the park. Bard on the Beach is here every year, tourists flock to it, and it’s easily accessible by car, bike or feet. What’s not to like?
Well, the goose, for one.
Specifically, their poop.
And look, one can debate whether the government’s moratorium on killing geese has run its course or not, but objectively there is no park in Vancouver with a greater density of geese, and excrement on the grass, creating a spongy layer that renders the large grassy area unusable for most activities for most of the year.
Still, let’s be charitable, and presume the goose poop suddenly disappeared for completely ethical reasons (what a weird sentence to write!). We would still have a park without any real amenities and no playground, a park with strange design choices — consider an undeveloped marsh area with a bridge that goes nowhere, for example — and a park with no beach area.
It means Vanier Park is a wonderful place to pass through, given its expansive and spectacular views. And it’s an excellent place to attend an event, or enjoy a quick walk before or after a trip to the Space Centre.
But as a park? A place to hang out and frolic and enjoy on its own merits?
It’s above average. And given everything it has going in its favour, that’s frankly a bit disappointing.
#56: Everett Crowley Park
“Great dog park with tons of trails and cute doggos.”
#2 in Killarney
8200 Kerr Street
The story of Everett Crowley Park, 38 hectares of urban wilderness in the far southeast of the city, is well celebrated: the city’s largest landfill for decades in the middle of the 20th century, it was closed for nearly 20 years, slowly being reclaimed by nature (and losing residue methane gas) before becoming a park in 1987.
That was largely due to the persistence of local residents, many of whom volunteered in the years after to improve the park by removing invasive plants. Now, the park is a large collection of small trails, along with a duck pond, a small meadow, ample room for off-leash dogs, and a few reminders of its landfill past, including a giant tractor tire one can hypothetically jump into.
It’s a credit to Vancouver to have a place like this, so it almost feels unfair to point out that the trails are a little repetitive, or that it sometimes feels like a tree tunnel with few open spaces or real views, or that there’s nothing particularly here for kids.
It’s a good park and a wonderful atmosphere though, one that 20 years ago was in danger of being shrunk so Fraserview Golf Course could expand to accommodate a potential PGA Tour event that was being held in Surrey.
That golf tournament no longer exists. Odds are Everett Crowley will, and for a long time to come.
#55: Lillian To Park
“Small but we had so much fun there.”
#4 in Riley Park
3276 Yukon Street
In the middle of last decade, Vancouver built two mini parks a few hundred meters from each other, each intended to be a complementary space to an already-existing transportation corridor.
But while Sun Hop Park (next to Main Street) is a soulless concrete plaza next to a bank, Lilian To Park (next to the Yukon bike lane) is a well-used parklet that already feels fully part of the neighbourhood.
Created after the city bought a corner residential lot in 2013 for $1.6 million (now a verifiable steal!), Lilian To packs a lot into its space — some grassy areas, a bike repair station, a place to exchange children’s toys, some benches and giant rocks that can be used to sit on as well. If you pass by on your bike, or are just looking for a peaceful place to get out of the house, you could do much worse.
The pièce de résistance, however, is the small play structure; specifically a giant disc swing that can fit a couple of kids (or kids at heart) at once: anchored by four large planks of wood, the swing can be pushed up and around before rotating with the force of a tiny roller coaster for 30 to 40 seconds. It’s a fun little engineering marvel that can’t be found anywhere else in the city, and combined with a climbing web, will provide enough replay value for most kids.
There are drawbacks to Lilian To, as there would with any park the size of a small residential lot — you never feel fully removed from the city and it’s not the type of place you would want to hang out in for more than 30 minutes.
But in a short time, it’s arguably developed a reputation as one of the best mini parks in the city, and for good reason.
#54: Sunnyside Park
“Came at night, was very dark.”
#5 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
1100 East 17th Avenue
Fundamentally, Sunnyside is a pretty simple park: some swings and an early 90s playground, on top of a raised grassy area with plenty of trees.
So what is it doing here?
Well, there’s the clever design — most parks in the city have a sunken bevel, but being on top of a small hill gives Sunnyside a different feel. And the park is filled with trees in a way most others aren’t — it feels a bit like a wooded area in the English countryside, particularly given most of the trees are of the plain variety. A rare structure with a permanent bench and table underneath can easily be covered with a tarp, giving options for family gatherings.
But really, the highlight of the park is something not technically in it: the giant 25-foot high climbing structure that’s between the park and Charles Dickens school. There isn’t a taller climbing structure available for free in the city, fun for both larger kids and adults, and “just” tall enough with “just” enough gaps between the intricate tightropes that there’s a sense of danger.
Factor in the closed off street between the park and the school, filled with basketball courts and funky benches, and it’s an excellent example of how a few unique additions can make a neighbourhood park something special.
#53: MacLean Park
“really is the center of the community with a nice balance between play areas, seating and open field.”
#1 in Strathcona
710 Keefer Street
The prototypical Vancouver park is a couple blocks large, allowing for a bit of everything — some nature, some sports, some playgrounds — without necessarily being great at any of them.
MacLean is an argument that perhaps the city should have made their default park size a bit smaller.
A busy tree-line neighbourhood park surrounded by houses, corner stores and Strathcona charm, MacLean is the size of a small city block: this means it is big enough for a single baseball or soccer game, but not big enough that it feels like endless lawns with no definition. There’s washrooms, a large play area with multiple structures, a mid-sized climbing triangle, and a few swings.
Notably, there’s also an excellent spray park where the water shoots very high in the air, objectively a top five water park in the city, and overall a top 10 park for kids (though with the caveat that suburban cities generally have better spray parks).
More than all that, there’s an excellent sense of community — rare is the day in the summer where the park isn’t packed, or there isn’t some sort of small event taking place, including small concerts.
Part of this is likely due to Oppenheimer and Strathcona becoming homeless camps for multiple years, making MacLean the only large park within easy walking distance for the entire neighbourhood. But it’s also a product of a smartly-designed space, making what could be another pedestrian park into something a bit greater.
No doubt a city needs a few giant sports fields; but Vancouver could also do with a few more MacLeans.
#52: Nelson Park
“What’s with the gravel everywhere? Dogs don’t really like it.”
#4 in West End
1030 Bute Street
Amazingly (or maybe not, given property values), Nelson Park is the only inland park between Stanley Park and Chinatown that’s a full city block large.
That puts a lot of pressure on it to fulfill a lot of needs; little wonder The Province had a 2004 headline saying ‘Every urban issue is in this park’, and not a decade goes by where there’s not some temporary panic over the future of Nelson, and whether the park and Mole Hill neighbourhood can withstand another torrent of downtown development.
That’s warranted, because Nelson is a lovely urban park, well used with a lot of uses. The dog park is dusty but just large enough, the community gardens are designed so some of them face the sidewalk — subtly integrating the park into the neighbourhood a bit more — and there’s ample amount of benches and wide cement paths. And we’re not even including the farmers market that takes place on the adjacent street.
There’s a climbing apparatus for smaller kids, though we wish there was a bit more for them to do. There’s a bit of needless fencing separating each area as well, and we’re getting to the point in these rankings where being solid across the board only gets you so far.
Debate over Nelson will likely intensify in the next decade, courtesy the installation of a hydro substation under the park and the redevelopment of nearby St. Paul’s Hospital.
With so many West End residents who care for it though, we imagine it will be in good hands.
#51: Brewers Park
“Spectacular renewal of this park.”
#4 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
4175 Victoria Drive
An extensive renovation of Brewers means it’s essentially a different park now, with only the small soccer field on the far west side remaining from what it once was. And it’s a change for the better.
Before, the park had a playground, basketball court and tennis court After the $1.8 million renovation, it has…a playground, basketball court, and tennis court.
But they are new, with the basketball/tennis court having vibrant colours, and they’ve created plenty of opportunity for skateboarding with the new design. The new trees, picnic tables and community gardens are all solid as well.
The highlight of the renovation is the playground, particularly the very tall slide that integrates with other play structures in a quirky but fun design that has a cartoony visual aesthetic.
The bottom sport part of the park doesn’t particularly integrate with the top playground area well, and Brewers has almost too much of a “new park sheen” at the moment.
A more lived-in authentic feel will come in time though. For now, it’s still an excellent renovation, and a great park for families in the area.