Yaletown’s Secret Garden: Emery Barnes Park Opens

Vancouver has plenty of big, eye-popping, mind-blowing parks, from the primordial forests of 1,000-acre Stanley Park to the manicured flower beds of VanDusen Garden.

But it’s the little parks – the unexpected green spaces in the midst of all the urban sprawl – that really set the city apart for me.  I’m talking about all those tiny, one block parks and gardens cherished by neighbourhood residents but pretty much unknown to everyone else.

In Yaletown, that secret green oasis is .39-hectare Emery Barnes Park.  Dwarfed by 20-, 30- and soon-to-be 40-storey condo towers, Emery Barnes officially opened last week: an unlikely island of green in a concrete jungle. 

It’s a gorgeous – if modest – park: one whole block of grassy lawn and bubbling fountains, leafy trees and benches for soaking up the odd rays of afternoon sun that slant through Yaletown’s crowded skyline.

Photo credit: VPL Street Walkers | Flickr

Mind-blowing?  Nope.  Worth a visit?  Absolutely.  If you’re on a lunch break or taking a stroll downtown, Emery Barnes is a welcomed green respite in the midst of the busy city.  And its history offers some fascinating insight into the evolution of one of Vancouver’s most popular neighbourhoods.

Phase one of the park was actually completed way back in 2003, back when only the most intrepid of buyers were snatching up Yaletown condos (If only I had known!).  The park, situated on the corner of Davie and Richards Streets, originally consisted of little more than a narrow stream, bubbling up into fountains along a tree-lined pathway.  It was named after former CFL great and one of B.C.’s first black legislators, Emery Barnes.

As Yaletown evolved from a gritty industrial backwater to some of Vancouver’s hottest real estate, Emery Barnes Park expanded.  By the summer of 2010, a children’s playground, big grassy lawn and off-leash dog park had been added – features eagerly used by young couples streaming into the area.

Last year, officials tore down an aging industrial building on the edge of the park, demolishing among the last vestiges of the old Yaletown.  In that space, they added shrubs and grass, benches and a curving walkway – the final piece of the Emery Barnes puzzle.

Any fans of Emery Barnes Park out there?  What makes it special?  

Want more updates on Vancouver and beyond?  Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza

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