Thursday, November 11, 2010

A cool, lush evergreen oasis...

Of the many things that make Vancouver such an ideal place to live and cycle there are few that genuinely equal Stanley Park.  But —I am slightly embarrassed to admit— even though I have been a resident here for over 20 years I had hardly ever ventured further than the 9 kilometres of seawall.

The seawall can be a challenging route for a bike outing if you pick the wrong time of day —or time of year.  And that time is pretty well anytime it looks like a great day for a bike ride around the seawall because what you will find is that great minds think alike.  It gets busy... extremely busy!  You might not mind that if you're prepared to travel at 5 kilometres an hour, be jostled and thwarted by packs of wandering sightseers and tourists who, it would appear, are only just now learning to ride a bike and haven’t quite worked out the whole straight-line-stay-to-the-right thing; and be aware that your delightfully polite jingly bell is barely perceptible to the joggers and rollerbladers swaying obstructingly ahead of you, hood-up buds-in.   So I prefer to go in the early morning just before the balance of the great unwashed begin the daily crusade. Two and a half million of them a year.

Approaching Siwash Rock viewed from my bike on the seawall
A few weeks back I found myself at Prospect Point and was surprised to discover that it didn’t look at all as I remembered it.  The violent windstorm in December 2006 severely damaged more than 10% of the Stanley Park Forest, downing over 10,000 trees as well as damaging the Prospect Point escarpment and seawall below.  It took two years to fully restore the park and the point was completely refurbished.  

Looking west from the Prospect point viewing platform.
Leading up to Prospect Point are 27 kilometres of bark-mulched interior paths that run through the 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of towering cedar, fir and hemlock forest.  Resting at the bank of the sheltered Beaver Lake watching the ducks paddle around in the quiet marshy pond, I was hard pressed to believe that I was only minutes away from the frenzy and hustle of Vancouver’s downtown core.

Beaver Lake
For a bicycle outing you’ll find the trails a bit more undulating than the seawall (a gentle pseudonym for: there will be hills) although a good deal more peaceful and rewarding. Nevertheless what goes up must come down; but please take it slowly.  These trails aren’t for mountain bike completions or lycra-lout time trials.  
Pedestrian, equestrian... which side for cycling?
Here is a brief history of Stanley Park from the Park Board web site:

“In 1886, Vancouver's first City Council made a momentous decision by petitioning the Federal Government to lease 1,000 acres of a largely logged peninsula for park and recreation purposes. On September 27, 1887 Stanley Park was officially opened establishing the fledgling city's first official "greenspace". Council decided to set up an autonomous and separately elected committee to govern all park and recreation matters in Vancouver. And so the Vancouver Board of Parks & Recreation was born, the only elected body of its kind in Canada. The system now includes more than 200 parks (over 1300 hectares) but its heart remains in the cool, lush, evergreen oasis of Stanley Park, named for Lord Stanley, Governor General of Canada in 1888 when the park was officially opened.”

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