A Brief History
Text by Pat Miller – Photos by Doug Cooper
Located on Vancouver’s east side, Hastings Park is the second largest park in the City of Vancouver, after Stanley Park. It was established in 1889 when the Province of BC granted 62 hectares (154 acres) of land to the City, most of which is currently occupied by the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) and the Hastings Park Racecourse. Four hectares (9.9 acres) of the site is occupied by the Hastings Park Sanctuary, which veteran and much-loved local naturalist Al Grass likes to call “Vancouver’s Green Jewel”.
Walking through the quiet refuge of Hastings Park Sanctuary early on a spring morning, while migrant and resident songbirds flit through the trees, red-winged blackbirds call out konk-a-ree across the water, and bald eagles soar above, it can be difficult to imagine the wetland’s former life as buildings and asphalt. The Sanctuary, just over 20 years old, is a human-made wetland. After many years of lobbying by the Hastings Sunrise community, in 1996 the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation agreed to restore public green space to Hastings Park by creating the Sanctuary, as well as a formal Italian garden, a children’s playground, and a skate park. It took approximately three years to demolish the existing infrastructure, and to design, create and commission these park features. Landscaping of the Sanctuary involved the use of a wide variety of West Coast native trees, shrubs, and understory species. The two interconnected ponds are completely reliant for water on storm and groundwater inflow, as well as surface runoff and rainwater. Since 1999, when it was officially opened, more than 145 bird species have been recorded in the Sanctuary, which is designated as a Hotspot by eBird Canada (https:// ebird.org/hotspots).
The PNE site, including the Sanctuary, is operated by the PNE on behalf of the City of Vancouver. The PNE is responsible for all site management and maintenance.
The Hastings Park Conservancy (HPC) (www.hastingspark.ca) continues to advocate for public access, natural habitat, enhanced green space, and the sustainability of Hastings Park for the enjoyment of all. It is also involved in a variety of educational and environmental activities in Hastings Park, including a monthly nature walk.
The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC keeps the Sanctuary ponds stocked twice a year with rainbow trout and promotes an urban fishing experience in Hastings Park.
The Hastings Sunrise and neighbouring communities look forward to the day that the ponds will be connected to the newly created salt marsh in New Brighton Park via a daylighted stream and greenway corridor through the PNE grounds and the racecourse, as provided for in the City’s Hastings Park – PNE Master Plan. A Hastings Park Infrastructure Strategy Update dated February 19, 2020 (https://www.pne.ca/files/uploads/2020/02/Master-Plan-Infrastructure-Update.pdf), includes a conceptual design for the creek daylighting and anticipates a timeline of 2 to 3 years for project completion (i.e., by 2023).
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