Vancouver’s Outdoor Playgrounds

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Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

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Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

This place looks interesting… And perfect for a beary adventure…

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

Vancouver is a city meant to be experienced outdoors. Thanks to its temperate climate and abundance of rain, the city has an abundance of lush outdoor spaces, the largest among them being Stanley Park. The park was named after Lord Stanley, Canada’s sixth governor-general.

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

Ideally situated on a peninsula at the northwestern edge of downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park is the largest city park in Canada. Much of the park’s design was based on the planning principles of Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer behind New York’s Central Park and the landscaping for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Stanley Park is home to some of the city’s favorite attractions. You could easily spend more than a day here and still not see everything this urban oasis has to offer.

Stanley Park Seawall View
Stanley Park Seawall View

The Stanley Park seawall was originally conceived as a precaution to erosion in the early 1920s. Today you can cycle, walk or jog along the seawall that hugs Vancouver’s waterfront, the most popular recreational facility in Vancouver. The seawall continues outside of Stanley Park on both sides of the peninsula. The complete distance of the seawall from Canada Place to the Maritime Museum (in Vanier Park) is approximately 32km.

Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park
Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park
Vancouver skyline and marina  from Stanley Park
Vancouver skyline and marina from Stanley Park

Along the seawall in Stanley Park are several points of interest.

Deadman’s Island and HMCS Discovery  Naval Reserve
Deadman’s Island and HMCS Discovery Naval Reserve

This small five-acre island is a military base, annexed by the federal government in 1942 for use by the navy. The island’s name comes from the Squamish people who called it “MemlooseSiwash-il-la-hie” which means “island of dead men”. The island’s primary function seemed to have been a graveyard, as evidenced by human remains found in cedar boxes in the branches of trees. The island was also used as a burial ground for smallpox victims in 1888. There is no public access to the island.

Nine O’Clock Gun
Nine O’Clock Gun

The 1816 naval cannon near Brockton Point is the oldest manmade landmark in the park. The Nine O’Clock Gun, as it is known today, was fired for the first time in 1898, a tradition that has continued for more than 100 years. The cannon was originally detonated with a stick of dynamite, but is now activated automatically with an electronic trigger. You can hear the gun every evening at precisely 9:00pm. Originally, it was fired to remind local fishermen of fishing time limits, but now it sounds every evening at 9pm as a time signal and a tradition.

Stanley Park first nations totem poles
Stanley Park first nations totem poles

Totem poles are unique to the natives of the Northwest coast of North America, and tell eloquent stories about their family hierarchies. The totem poles are the most visited spot in the park, and the most popular tourist attraction in British Columbia.

The collection started at Lumberman’s Arch in the 1920s, when the Park Board bought four totems from Vancouver Island’s Alert Bay. More purchased totems came from Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and the BC central coast Rivers Inlet, to celebrate the 1936 Golden Jubilee. In the mid 1960s, the totem poles were moved to the attractive and accessible Brockton Point to allow the construction of an overhead road at Lumberman’s Arch.

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

Many of the totem poles have been replaced with replicas, with the originals now kept in museums for preservation. The ninth and most recent totem pole, carved by Robert Yelton of the Squamish Nation, was added to Brockton Point in 2009.

Brockton  Point Lighthouse
Brockton Point Lighthouse

A number of ship collisions in the waters around the point led to the construction of a lighthouse and signaling station at Brockton Point. For a time, Brockton Point had a lighthouse keeper, who served for 25 years starting in 1855 and is credited for having saved 16 people from drowning. The present day lighthouse tower with an automatic light was built in 1914. It was designed by Thomas Hayton Mawson, who also constructed the lifeboat house located below the point and designed some of the landscape for Coal Harbour and Stanley Park.

The Girl in the Wetsuit
The Girl in the Wetsuit

The Girl in the Wetsuit is a life-size bronze sculpture by Elek Imredy depicting a friend of his, Debra Harrington, in a wetsuit with flippers on her feet and a mask on her forehead. The figure was unveiled in 1972.

Although some believe it was a replica of Copenhagen’s The Little Mermaid, the creator stated:

I didn’t believe we should have a copy of the mermaid. She is rightfully a symbol of Copenhagen… I proposed to have a life-size scuba diver seated there. At that time scuba diving was getting quite popular here in Vancouver and, just as important, I didn’t know of any similar sculpture anywhere in the world. It was a new idea… There was tremendous opposition and great controversy. I still don’t know why…

Siwash Rock
Siwash Rock

Legend has it that Siwash Rock is actually a young Indian chief who was turned to stone by four supernatural giants. The original fir tree atop Siwash Rock died in the dry summer of 1965, and through the persistent efforts of park staff, a replacement finally took root in 1968.

Empress of Japan figurehead
Empress of Japan figurehead

RMS Empress Of Japan was a ship built in 1891 in England for the Canadian shipping company, Canadian Pacific Steamships. The ship was used as a container ship between the west coast of Canada and the Far East. She would carry cargo such as tea and silk but also regularly carried passengers and was utilized in the mail service. During World War I she was refitted as an Armed Auxiliary Cruiser and saw active duty in Hong Kong. In 1916 she was returned to company service and in 1922 she arrived in Vancouver for the last time after making her 315th crossing, thus ending her career. The ornate dragon’s head was restored in 1928 to honour the original Empress of Japan.

In 1909, the City of New York presented Vancouver with a gift of eight pairs of grey squirrels for Stanley Park. Now the park is full of them! Hee, hee!

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

The Vancouver Aquarium, officially the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, is nestled within the park and is Canada’s largest aquarium. It is home to more than 70,000 creatures including dolphins, sea otters, anacondas, three-toed sloths, eels and more.

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

Otter
Otter
Penguins
Penguins
Nyac was a long-time resident of Vancouver Aquarium and one of the last surviving sea otters from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, She died on September 23, 2008. During her 20 years of life, she won the hearts of the visitors, members, volunteers and staff of the Aquarium as they learned about sea otters and the issues that face them in our waters.
Nyac was a long-time resident of Vancouver Aquarium and one of the last surviving sea otters from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. She died on September 23, 2008. During her 20 years of life, she won the hearts of the visitors, members, volunteers and staff of the Aquarium as they learned about sea otters and the issues that face them in our waters.

Much of the park remains as densely forested as it was in the late 1800s, with about a half million trees, some of which stand as tall as 76 metres and are up to hundreds of years old. Some of those trees are cherry blossom trees!

Cherry blossom trees in Stanley Park
Cherry blossom trees in Stanley Park
Lost Lagoon
Lost Lagoon

Lost Lagoon is a man-made lake near the park’s entrance that features plenty of wildlife and a 1.75-kilometre trail around the perimeter. Jubilee Fountain was built in the middle of Lost Lagoon as a part of Vancouver’s Golden Jubilee anniversary celebrations in 1936.

Lost Lagoon Jubilee Fountain
Lost Lagoon Jubilee Fountain

Beaver Lake, which was once home to a beaver colony, is the lone natural, freshwater lake in the park. Herons and trumpeter swans are commonplace, and in summer colorful water lilies take prominence.

Beaver Lake
Beaver Lake

Towering over North Vancouver, Grouse Mountain has been a popular outdoor getaway for years, especially since the views from the summit span the entire city on a clear day.

Vancouver skyline from Grouse Mountain
Vancouver skyline from Grouse Mountain

Originally used only for skiing, Grouse now offers year-round activities, including the Grouse Grind, a nearly 2-mile trail often referred to by residents as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”.

The top of Grouse Mountain is the location of over a dozen intricate wood carvings displaying Canadian themes such as loggers and birds such as owls which are strewn along the mountain top trails. In the winter these are usually buried under the snow so they are only visible in spring, summer and fall.

The collection of 31 wood sculptures has been named “Tribute To The Forest” by the sculptor, Glenn Greensides. The collection symbolizes the feeling of being within an old growth forest.

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

The wood sculptures have been created from some of the most remarkable dead standing trees to be found in the province of British Columbia. The first log Glenn found for his Grouse Mountain project was a 1200 year old tree that was found lying on the ground for 25 years in the Coquitlum water shed north-east of Vancouver. The tree was cut into six pieces and transported to Grouse Mountain. Below is a diagram to show how the tree was cut and the carvings created from each piece.

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

Vancouver Outdoor Playgrounds

Vancouver Outdoor Playground

The “Tribute To The Forest” project took 8 years and 30 logs to complete.

You can get to the top via the Mother Nature’s Stairmaster (Grouse Grind). The Grouse Grind was designed to be an upward hike only as the trail is so steep and narrow that downhill travel is not permitted by Metro Vancouver. The primary reason for this is safety – yours and the trails. Descending the trail will cause considerable damage to it and possibly to yourself. So you get back down via the skyride. Or you can take the skyride both ways.

Grouse Mountain Skyride
Grouse Mountain Skyride
Searching for bears on Grouse Mountain :smile:
Searching for bears on Grouse Mountain 🙂

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