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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Number One City Park in the World

With its four very distinct seasons, Vancouver's Stanley Park is
almost like four parks in one, it's many different features
enjoyed by many different types of people for many different
reasons the whole year around.
Several months ago I began this series featuring the Top Ten City Parks in the World (according to the reviewers at TripAdvisor, of which I am one). Last month I revealed the number two park, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This month, in wrapping up this series, the winner is (drum roll please), the number one city park in the world, is Stanley Park, British Columbia, Canada. Surprised? The people of Vancouver certainly were back in June, 2014, when the listing was first announced, especially given the fact that the second through fifth spots went to parks in U.S. cities. Apparently insofar as the reviewers at TripAdvisor are concerned, uniqueness counts for a lot. Stanley Park is not the largest of them all (third largest, actually). Some might argue convincingly that its not the most beautiful. Nor is it the most popular at "only" eight-million visitors each year. New York's Central park has almost five times that many.
Stanley Park has all the usual lawns and flowerbeds of other such urban respites, but also two beaches and two forests, one
made up of totem poles.
Lions Gate Bridge, leading
from the park to North
Vancouver, dates from
I'm only guessing, but I think what elevates Stanley Park to the top of such a self-important list is the number of distinctive items it features that are not a part of any other city park in the world. What other park on the list has its own suspension bridge, it's own "little mermaid" (which is actually a bronze girl in a wetsuit), it's own forest of Giant Red Cedars, some as tall as 250 feet, and several hundreds of years old? Like several other city parks on TripAdvisor's list, Stanley Park is so large as to not actually fit in the middle of the city, as does Central Park in New York, but lies on the outskirts, though still within easy walking (or jogging) distance from the center of the city. Unlike most such parks, however, Stanley park is also unique in that it evolved over more than a century rather than rising as a whole from some landscape architect's drawing board.
Beaches, lakes, lagoons, bridges, and half a million trees, Stanley
Park has features other city parks can only dream to speak.
At just over one-thousand acres, Stanley Park occupies its own peninsula jutting out into Vancouver's massive, island-strewn harbor. The park area was one of the first areas to be explored in the city. The land was originally used by prehistoric natives for thousands of years before British Columbia was colonized during the 1858 Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. For many years thereafter, the future park, with its abundant resources, would also be home to early settlers. The land was turned into Vancouver's first park when the city incorporated in 1886. It was named after Lord Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, a British politician who had recently been appointed Governor General.
The Stanley Park Rowing Club and Marina dates from the 1930s.
Unlike most city parks there is little that is "new under the sun" in Stanley Park. Most of the manmade structures seen today were built between 1911 and 1937 under then park superintendent, W.S. Rawlings. Only a few additional attractions, such as a polar bear exhibit, aquarium, and miniature train, were added in the Post-World War II period. For the most part, the park remains as densely forested as it was in the late 1800s, with about a half million trees. Thousands of trees were lost after three major windstorms hit the park over the past 100 years (the last in 2006). Virtually all the trees destroyed have since been replanted. Even one of the newer features of the park, the Vancouver Seawall, is nearly a century old. It draws thousands of residents and visitors to the park every day. The park also features forest trails, beaches, lakes, children's play areas, and an Aquarium, among many other attractions.
Though largely left as nature intended, some of Stanley Park's trails have been modified to accommodate human guests of the park's amazing diversity of wildlife. (Yes, it's a photo, not a painting.)
Stanley Park is conveniently located on the west side of the downtown area. The park is surrounded by the harbor and is home to huge red cedar and Douglas fir trees. A seawall, which rings the park has an extensive walking, jogging, and biking path with designated lanes for each. From the seawall, there are many impressive views of the city and mountains. A scenic drive also winds through Stanley Park with numerous pullouts. If you visit, don't miss sculptor, Elek Imredy's 1972 Girl in Wetsuit (below) located along the north side of the park. And don't call her "The Little Mermaid."
Girl in Wetsuit, 1972, Elek Imredy, During high tides, she gets
her fins wet. at other times the seagulls keep the rest of
her quite moist.
 Yes, there's "Art in the Park" too...

The Stanley Park Light House
at Brockton Point

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