This Week in History


Stanley Park: Where nature and culture come together

For the week of Monday September 22, 2003

on September 27, 1888, Stanley Park, which would become one of the largest city parks in the world, officially opened in Vancouver, British Columbia. Set in a scenic natural environment, this park provides a stark contrast with the adjacent bustling city.

Trail and dyke around Stanley Park
© Parks Canada

Before it became Stanley Park, this location was occupied for several centuries by various Aboriginal peoples. In 1859, it was used as a British military base as the British prepared for a possible attack by the United States. When Vancouver was incorporated as a city in 1886, municipal authorities quickly recognized the value of this large wooded area nestled between the ocean and mountains. The municipality sought ownership of this forested land from the British government in order to develop it into a park. The Vancouver municipal council gained oversight of more than 1000 acres of land for just a paltry sum. The park was subsequently created, although the inauguration ceremony was not held until September 1888. The following year, it was named Stanley Park, in honour of Frederick Arthur Stanley, the Governor General of Canada at the time. 

Stanley Park Garden
© Parks Canada

From the early 20th century, Stanley Park has been a popular destination among residents of Vancouver. Today, more than eight million visitors annually are attracted to its scenic natural beauty and wide range of activities. Several areas of the forest, with their gigantic softwood trees, and rich flora and fauna have been carefully protected in the unspoiled state. There are a variety of carefully tended recreational areas interspersed throughout Stanley Park. These are accessible by a network of forest trails and roads built along the dykes surrounding the park. In addition to a number of sports grounds and playgrounds, Stanley Park is home to a zoo, the Vancouver Aquarium, and various beaches. Stanley Park also offers cultural riches, such as exquisite themed gardens, 19th-century totem poles, several statues, and commemorative monuments.

Stanley Park is a product of the movement to create city parks in Canada that prevailed at the turn of 20th century. It constitutes the perfect example of a large city park where natural and cultural elements blend together. In 1988, the year of its centenary, Stanley Park was designated a national historic site.

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