“Splash pad, playground, sand put, basketball court, large field, paths around the structure for bikes, public bathroom. This little park has it all.”
#1 in Renfrew-Collingwood
5050 Wales Street
John Norquay was premier of Manitoba in the 1880s, and visited Vancouver once during that time — if he had a greater connection to this city, it certainly hasn’t been highlighted by local organizations.
Nevertheless, that begat Norquay Street, and Norquay School, and the Norquay Ratepayers and Community Association, which in 1926 successfully lobbied the municipality of South Vancouver to name the new park at Kingsway and Wales for Norquay as well, and that’s how you get the name of a neighbourhood, not through any real thought or explicit declaration, but by the slow advancement of average ideas until there’s no real alternative.
Enough about Crosstown though.
We’re here to talk about Norquay Park, and it’s a good one, once again thanks to a well-executed renovation by the park board about a decade ago.
It’s a tale of two parks, really: the unrenovated part in the south is an unremarkable field, a couple of lightly maintained baseball diamonds but little else, the type of green space you can find anywhere in the city.
But the north area! It’s really, really good!
It’s a densely-packed area with all the amenities that would get you high scores if you were playing a “design a park” board game in the 2020s: a spray park, basketball court, playground with multiple play structures for all ages, and community garden. There’s also a washroom (which is close to essential at this stage of the ranking), and a nice paved circle with benches, good for tai chi or just relaxing. And next to the spray park is a little rain garden which families can also enjoy.
The only drawback is the relatively cramped space, and the noise coming from Kingsway. But the noise isn’t overpowering, and what might seem cramped for an adult could feel like tremendous kinetic energy for a kid. Both times we went to the park it was buzzing with kids; one person replied to us saying “my kids think Norquay … is basically Disneyland North.”
It’s an example of how a few smart renovations can make an old park feel fresh, evolving with the needs of a neighbourhood — even it’s named for a 19th century politician from another province.