Stanley Park celebrates its 125th birthday
It was 125 years ago when city officials had the foresight to ensure 1,000 acres of spectacular real estate bordering Burrard Inlet be saved as a public park. Since its official opening on Sept. 27, 1888, Stanley Park has been a favourite destination for locals, as well as a top tourist destination, attracting more than eight million tourists each year.
For anyone who has visited, it would come as no surprise to learn it was recently named among the most beautiful city parks in the world, along with New York’s Central Park, by Travel +Leisure magazine.
Here is an interactive timeline of the history of Stanley Park.
But here are a few things you might not know about the park:
1886: The first request made by Vancouver’s inaugural city council was for a lease of the 1,000 acres from the Government of Canada in order to create a city green space. At the time, the peninsula had been largely logged. Historically, Stanley Park was traditional land shared by three First Nations — the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
In the 1850s, Indigenous animals in the park included deer, bears, lynx, cougars, wolves and elk. The elk disappeared by 1860, hunted by Gold Rush miners as a source of food. Smaller animals included porcupine, skunk, beavers, hares, muskrats and the Douglas squirrel. Eastern grey squirrels, which are plentiful in the park today, are not indigenous to the park. In 1909, the Vancouver park board purchased two dozen grey squirrels for $40 from naturalists in Pennsylvania.
1911: The Stanley Park Pavilion was built this year, making it the oldest building still standing in the park. It has a restaurant — which opened in 2007 and overlooks the gardens surrounding the pavilion — that can accommodate up to 325 guests.
1917: Construction of the seawall began in 1917 to prevent erosion. It took 60 years to complete. The Stanley Park seawall runs 8.8 kilometres, but has expanded beyond the park’s boundaries to 22 kilometres, extending from Coal Harbour to Kitsilano Beach Park.
1920: Stanley Park’s Rose Garden was established, eventually expanding to include 3,500 rose plants today. There is also a rhododendron garden, with approximately 4,500 hybrid rhododendron and azalea plants. In addition to gardens, there are more than 64 kilometres of forested trails in the park’s interior, many leading to trees hundreds of years old.
1956: The Vancouver Aquarium, which opened this year, has more than 70,000 creatures, including whales, dolphins and sea otters.
1962: Approximately 3,000 trees were knocked down by Typhoon Freda, which also caused 40 cars to be trapped on the causeway the night of the storm, killing one woman. (The location of the downed trees later became home to the park’s miniature railway.)
1988: Canada declared the park a national historic site, “recognizing that the relationship between its natural environment and its cultural elements developed over time epitomizes the largest urban park in Canada.”
2006: A windstorm levelled 100 acres of forest, leading to the creation of a $10-million plan to help restore the park. 15,000 new trees were planted in the affected areas.
The Vancouver park board plans to mark the park’s 125th birthday with two days of free festival celebrations Aug. 24 and 25, featuring live performances and cultural experiences. The celebrations will also honour the park’s aboriginal history and include First Nations storytelling and on-site carving by local artists.
Heritage specialists will provide historical walking/cycling tours that will highlight various monuments, trails and ecological areas in the park.
Called Celebrate! Stanley Park, the festivities — including music and dance performances — will take place in various locations throughout the park such as Malkin Bowl, Ceperley Park, Lumbermen’s Arch, Lost Lagoon and Brockton Point.
There also will be roving performances. Performers have not yet been announced.
The city is providing $200,000 from its Innovation Fund to help support the 125th anniversary celebration for Stanley Park.
-Kim Pemberton, Vancouver Sun