Herons in Stanley Park

Vancouver Parks Board News Release March 7 , 2011 – “For the eleventh consecutive year, herons have returned to nest in the large colony located in the trees that tower above the Park Board’s Administrative Offices and the tennis courts. Last year, the herons occupied 124 nests and produced more than 120 fledglings by the end of the season, which is sometimes as late as September, down from the previous year of 145 nests and 175 fledglings.The Pacific great blue heron is considered a blue-listed species-at-risk in British Columbia. An average bird stands about one metre tall, has a wing span of 180 cm and can live as long as 17 years. Reports of herons nesting in Stanley Park were first documented in the mid 1920s and although the herons have been regular inhabitants of the park, they have tended to migrate from one area of the park to another over the years. Predators include bald eagles, raccoons and owls.” The Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) monitors the herons throughout the nesting season and has an Adopt-a-Nest program.

Photo by Leonard Frank. City of Vancouver Archives, ca.1920. Caption: “Herons in nests at Stanley Park”. CVA 677-104

Grey Squirrels for sale, $1.66 each

Were the first grey squirrels that plague Vancouver attics today really a gift from New York in 1914?
The small Douglas squirrel is indigenous; the larger grey (and black) squirrel is not. In 1909, Vancouver Parks Board Chair Charles Tsdall wrote to various American cities in search of purchasing “grey squirrels” for Stanley Park. The City of Vancouver Archives holds numerous other letters over several years relating to this quest. There is also a receipt made out to Chas. Tsdall which reads, “2 doz grey squirrels to be shipped as soon as possible – $40”. The receipt is from Wenz & Mackensen, Naturalists, Yardley, Pennsylvania and dated January 3, 1910. They were one of many private companies of the day who were breeders, importers and dealers in live game. Dealer’s catalogues included; wild African boar, extra wild $125, a two year old polar bear $370, armadillo $6, eagle $20, Bengal tiger $1,200 and snakes at 50 cents a pound.

According to other documents at Archives, it appears there was a problem securing those 2 dozen and the search for replacements promptly continued…. update to this Post TBA….

Photo: City of Vancouver Archives, 190?. Caption: “Young boy watching a squirrel climb a tree at Stanley Park.” CVA 677-664

CPR engine #374 & the Miniature Railway


Photo: City of Vancouver Archvies, May 23, 1887. Caption: “Engine [374] of First [C.P.R. Passenger] Train [to arrive in Vancouver].” Can P6

In 1962, Typhoon Freda took down 3,000 trees in Stanley Park. Forty cars were trapped on the causeway that night and one woman died. The storm cleared an area that became home to the park’s second Miniature Railway. One of the four train engines is a replica of CPR engine #374, the first train into Vancouver on May 23, 1887. Today, the original full sized engine sits next to Yaletown’s Round House Community Centre in the Engine 374 Pavilion.

Who were the Seven Sisters?

Photo: City of Vancouver Archives ca. 1920, Caption “The Seven Sisters” St Pk P203

Vancouver Sun April 3, 1951. “FAMED GIANTS OF FOREST DOOMED. Seven Sisters of Stanley Park Must be Destroyed as Menace. The famed ‘Seven Sisters’, lofty guardians of Stanley Park’s evergreen glades, soon will end their vigil. Park’s Board officials said today that all seven are now dead and must come down. Naked of foliage, their tops broken off, the great trees are becoming a hazard, and may even blow down in the next high wind. Much of their bark has fallen to their feet and what is left hangs gnarled and dead. The trees are believed to be over 700 years old… Their name has two possible origins, he [City Archivist Major J.S. Matthews] said. They may have been named after the seven famous women known as the Sutherland Sisters, who sold hair tonic. They performed in Vancouver shop windows. Another possibility is that they were named after the seven daughters of one of Gastown’s prominent citizens, Angus C. Fraser of Jericho.”
Another possible name origin: Vancouver Province September 28, 1949: “When Stanley Park was dedicated by Lord Stanley on Oct 29, 1889, there were just seven girls between the ages of 10 and 18 in the 1,000-add population of Vancouver. One of the favorite playing spots of the seven was an area in the heart of the park dominated by seven huge evergreens. Because there was one tree for each girl, early settlers called them The Seven Sisters.

Photo: City of Vancouver Archives, ca 1900. Caption: “The seven Sutherland Sisters.” Port P684

CWACs & the Paparazzis

Photo: City of Vancouver Archives, 1945. Caption: “Canadian Women’s Army Corps members at play near second beach” (This may actually be Third Beach as Tatlow Trail exits there). Mil P219

The park has had “military reserve” status since 1859. Third Beach was used as a training centre for 300 Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC’s) during WWII, probably due in part to its isolated location protected by a thick forest. This didn’t prevent newspapers photographers in trying to snap pictures of the CWAC’s in their beach wear.
Canada was one of the last countries in the British Empire to sanction female enlistment in its military forces. Over 45,000 women volunteered during WWII, 22,000 in the CWACs worked as secretaries, clerks, canteen workers, vehicle drivers and many other non-combat military jobs. Their basic pay was 2/3rds that of service men of equal rank.

Card Playing on a Skid Road

Photo: City of Vancouver Archives, 189? Caption: “Two men playing cards in the middle of a logging road in Stanley Park” SGN 139

Many of today’s 24 km of walking trails or paths in Stanley Park once served different purposes. From the 1860’s into the 1880’s, at least five logging companies cut down trees in Stanley Park. To get their logs to the water’s edge, the loggers sometimes used existing animal paths, First Nation’s routes or built their own. They skidded their trees (hence the term “skidroad”) along wooden planks they laid horizontally across the trail. This “corduroy road” was sometimes covered in dog fish oil to help the logs move more easily.

Deer Paddock

Photo: City of Vancouver Archives, 1916?. Caption: “People viewing deer in paddock near lumbermen’s Arch, Stanley Park.” SGN 1594

In the 1850’s some of the indigenous animals roaming freely in Stanley Park included; deer, bears, lynx, cougars, wolves and elk. Elk disappeared by the 1860’s as they were hunted by Gold Rush miners as a food source. Some the smaller animals were; porcupine, snowshoe hare, skunk, beaver, weasel, muskrat and the Douglas squirrel (not the grey squirrel). Like in the Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi, where trees have been cut down and put in a tree museum, in this photo the local deer have been corralled and confined in a zoo like paddock enclosure. This paddock was built in 1905 at Whoi Whoi/Lumberman’s Arch.