Stanley Park is something millions can celebrate

Almost everyone has affection for Stanley Park with their own take on what makes it special.

As city parks go, Stanley Park at just 1000 acres is far from the biggest urban park in the world. But apparently it can lay claim to fame as the world’s best park according to TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards. Central Park in New York took second place and Colorado’s Garden of the Gods was third.

That was a timely vote by millions of world travellers given the fact that this year is Stanley Park’s 125th anniversary.

Almost everyone has affection for the park with their own take on what makes it special. From the aquarium and the zoo to the playground (with the red fire truck), the little crabs under the rocks on the beaches at low tide, the sea wall, the Girl in a Wetsuit statue, the totem poles and the Teahouse, Stanley Park is embedded in the psyche of millions of British Columbians.

The park receives about eight million visitors a year, so many of them enjoying cricket, great lunches at Prospect Point, Theatre under the Stars, the miniature railway and watching mounted police, gardens of roses and rhododendrons and the Jubilee Fountain in Lost Lagoon. To celebrate its birthday, here are some cool stats and facts.

It’s official name? Stanley Park National Historic Site of Canada.

The park was named after Lord Stanley, Governor-General of Canada whose other claim to fame is that coveted cup owned by the NHL.

The land was occupied by First Nations’ people for at least 3,000 years before it became a military reserve in the mid-1800s, given to the City of Vancouver in 1886, and made a park in 1888. That was a pretty visionary move given the slash-and-burn mentality of the time.

Siwash Rock was created from volcanic activity 32 million years ago. It is a unique basaltic Sea Stack that rose from the Earth’s core. The lone Douglas fir on its peak (not the original tree which withered during the 1965 drought), has been nurtured along by park staff and survived some pretty awesome Pacific storms.

The park’s oldest man-made landmark is an 1816 naval cannon installed near Brockton Point. This is the nine o’clock gun which was first fired in 1898, a time signal for the general population and for ships in port to accurately set their chronometers. At first detonated with a pound of gunpowder, it is now blasted off by a civilized GPS atomic clock timer.

From the day the first park ranger, Henry Avison, captured an orphaned black bear cub and chained it to a stump in 1888, the park had a zoo. It closed in 1997 after Tuk, the 36-year-old polar bear, died.

Construction of the sea wall took from 1917 to 1980. That’s 63 years. Good job the Port Mann Bridge didn’t take that long.

Jubilee Fountain in Lost Lagoon was bought from the City of Chicago after its 1934 World Fair.

The Vancouver Aquarium captured its first killer whale in 1964.

The Hollow Tree is the remnant of a massive cedar that took root around the 11th century. That’s about the time William the Conqueror penned the idea of the Domesday Book and a medieval take on municipal taxes. The tree once stood around 72 metres (240 feet) and had its top either blasted off by lightning or lost during Hurricane Frieda in 1962.

Speaking of winds, the 2006 windstorm damaged 3,000 trees and affected 40 per cent of the park’s forest. Today the oldest trees in the park are about 600 years and the forest, meadows, Beaver lake and beaches provide home to hundreds of animal and plant species enjoyed year-round by millions of visitors.

Such cool stuff for an iconic and historic park.

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