State of the Park: Report on the Ecological Integrity of Stanley Park

The Stanley Park Ecological Society (SPES) has released its 2010 State of the Park Report for the Ecological Integrity of Stanley Park. This project emerged following the 2006-07 windstorms. As the Park Board and other community stakeholders began to sort out how to respond to the freshly wind-torn landscape, they realized that there was very limited information on the ecological conditions of the peninsula.

SPES undertook this collaborative project to help fill in this knowledge gap. The report includes a bevy of scientific information about the ecology of Stanley Park, courtesy of a number of different research partners, including the Vancouver Park Board, UBC Forest Sciences Department, Parks Canada, and many others. I was pleased to have the opportunity to contribute some environmental history research to the report from my own work on Stanley Park.

Oxypoda stanleyi, a new species of beetle first discovered in Stanley Park.

The report constitutes the most comprehensive scientific study of the environment of Stanley Park and has vastly expanded our knowledge of this place. The extent of this inventorial scientific research is best illustrated by the discovery of two previously unknown species of beetles: Oxypoda stanleyi and Sonoma squashorum.

With this new knowledge, however, comes the challenge of applying the findings from this study to future park policy and planning. SPES hopes that the report will “serve as the sound basis for a future Stanley Park Master Plan and provide a step towards the long-term maintenance and restoration of the Park’s ecological health and biodiversity.” This is not the first time in the history of Stanley Park that scientific research has guided park policy, but hopefully this report provides a base of knowledge to help inform better decisions about how we can live, work, and play in this environment.

Click here to read the full report.


Urban Animal Field Research: Whale Watching in Vancouver

One of the most exciting things about environmental history research is the opportunity to do field research. It’s fun to get away from the desk and get outdoors. I did just that this afternoon when I heard that a grey whale had wandered into False Creek. After running down to the seawall we were fortunate enough to catch this video of the whale spouting beneath the Cambie Street bridge on its way back out to English Bay:

You really don’t see something like this every day in Vancouver, but as Lani Russwurm’s recent post on Past Tense Vancouver reminds us, False Creek does have a history of peculiar aquatic visitors.


Beached grey whale at Sooke in April.

As it turns out, the grey whale that visited Vancouver this afternoon may be one of many distressed whales migrating northward. Several grey whales have beached and died along the coasts of Washington and Vancouver Island in the past month. As the grey whales migrate north, many struggle to find enough food to survive the journey and occasionally wander along the shores and inlets of the Northwest Coast in search of something to eat. Most of the beached grey whales discovered this past month died of starvation. One beached whale in West Seattle was found to have been feeding on human-made garbage.

This is troubling news given the presence of the grey whale in False Creek today. Late this evening there were reports that the whale had returned. Let’s hope the whale finds a food source soon so it can complete its northern migration.

Read more about the beached grey whales here:

Great Expectations: Vancouver 2010, Vancouver ’86

“Vancouver has been profoundly changed,” according to local talk radio host and former BC cabinet minister Christy Clark. We’re just over halfway through the 2010 Winter Olympic Games here in Vancouver, British Columbia and Clark’s comments will not be the only ones proclaiming a new era for the city. In the lead up to the games, Olympics advocates, including the provincial and federal governments, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, and local real estate bureaus spent a lot of time and money trying to convince the public that hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games would bring great benefits to Vancouver and change the city. BC Premier Gordon Campbell predicted in the Vancouver Sun in January 2003 that “hosting the Olympic Games will provide lasting benefits for all British Columbians today and for generations to come,” (13 Jan 2003, p. C1). At least 63% of Vancouver electors were convinced.

As I watched the Olympic torch pass through Stanley Park on the opening day of the games last week, I wondered how Vancouver’s Olympics boosterism compared to the great expectations of the 1980s. Just a cursory glance at media coverage prior to Expo ’86 reveals very similar rhetoric with an emphasis on intangible, immeasurable economic benefits for the province. In May 1985, Expo supporter and local millionaire Jim Pattison told the New York Times “that Expo would generate nearly $3 billion in economic activity for Canada, mostly in British Columbia, and provide the equivalent of 60,000 one-year jobs.”

Historians will, no doubt, debate the significance and impact of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver for years to come. One thing we can see now is that the promotion of Vancouver through the Olympics is part of a much longer historical trend of boosterism in British Columbia.