A Forest in the City

Stanley Park Forest 1

After I wrote my post about Cathedral Grove, I started thinking about the forest I live next door to. I’m talking about the one in Stanley Park. (You know, the wee park Tripadvisor thinks is # 1 in the world.)

What makes Stanley Park so special is it is as much forest as it is park. I can’t think of another city with a forest in its centre that equals the area of its downtown business core. (If you know of one, please tell me. I would love to visit.)

The peninsula that is Stanley Park has been logged several times, but today it is as dense with trees as it was 150 years ago. There are about half a million of them, ranging in height up to 75 metres.

Truth is, windstorms have done more damage to the trees in Stanley Park than logging. There have been three notable storms: one in 1934, another in 1962, and the one I remember ― the windstorm of December 15, 2006. Winds of 115 kilometres per hour downed over 10,000 trees (total tree area lost was 41 hectares), with most of the damage to the western side of the peninsula, particularly around Prospect Point. I took a long walk through the park on Christmas Day 2006 with my sister and my heart sank when I saw the damage. All of the trails through the park were impassable; fallen trees lay across them like pick-up sticks. Imagine if Stanley Park had been picked up by its four corners, given a good shake, and then set down again. That is what it looked like from the ground.

From the air or the water, it looked like someone had come through the park with a scythe. Many of the trees still lie where they fell. I took this photo sometime during the winter of 2011, more than five years later.

Stanley Park Forest 2

But a few good things came out of that storm. Like a new and much safer parking lot at Prospect Point. There would have been a public outcry had the Park Board decided to cut down trees to make way for a much-needed parking lot, but once the trees were down ― well, there came an opportunity.

I benefitted from that storm, too. Because the seawall was closed for 18 months (so that it could be repaired and the cliffs above the seawall on the western edge of the park stabilized), I spent the summer of 2007 exploring the interior of the park ― something I had never bothered to do until then. Stanley Park’s seawall is so accessible ― and so beautiful ― that visitors to Vancouver (and one local blogger) rarely take the time to explore the interior trails. There are some 27 kilometres of them criss-crossing the park, most of which have their origins as skid roads used to skid out the cut logs. They all have names; one of them is called Cathedral Trail. (Which is why I started thinking of the forest in the city after writing my post about Cathedral Grove.)

A couple of years ago, Vancouver City Council enacted a smoking ban in the city’s parks. For good reason. It has been said that if a fire were to ever get out on control in Stanley Park during one of our hot, dry summers, the forest would be gone in less than an hour.

What a shame that would be.

Stanley Park Forest 3

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  1. Stanley Park Windstorm | There and Back Again - December 15, 2016

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