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The New Urban Park at Smithe and Richards Is Now Open—and It’s Glorious

Between pandemic-inspired nightly walks and new-baby power-strollering, I’ve never spent as much time pounding the pavement of my neighbourhood in my life. Which means, yeah, I’ve got some opinions about local parks.

I’m no Justin McElroy, but I keep my own mental notes on Vancouver’s best and worst green spaces. There are those that fall into the “nice view, bad amenities” category (enjoy sharing a single bench, visitors to Jean Beatty Park), those with enviably fun-looking swings (why don’t they come in adult sizes?), and those chock full o’ dogs (hello, Charleson cuties).

But when I walked past the new “urban park” at Smithe and Richards the other day, it was clear that the park paradigm as a whole was about to shift.

smithe-richards parkRenderings from Dialog Design/Vancouver Parks Board

Right now, it’s called Smithe-Richard Park, but a permanent title will be gifted to the land by the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations this summer. And after being in the works for two years, it’s finally open to the public. 

new park downtown vancouverPhoto via Vancouver Parks BoardThe space was designed by Dialog, which worked with the Parks Board to turn a former parking lot into a so-called “community porch.” It’s the first new park downtown in over a decade. Though it’s under an acre (around 35,000 square feet), they’ve squeezed a ton of programming in here.

new park at smithe and richardsPhoto via the Vancouver Parks Board

Elevated walkways and hanging nets make it sort of a 3D experience, zigzagging above a playground, ample seating and hammock.

new park at richards and smithePhoto via the Vancouver Parks BoardA big climbing structure leads to an elaborate, space-age slide; an amphitheatre looks like a pretty sweet place for outdoor concerts or events, while “sky frames” are intended to showcase a rotating collection of public artworks. (They also help hold charming string lights aloft.)

New park at smithe and richardsPhoto via the Vancouver Parks Board

Kafka’s is gearing up to open an outlet right in the park to caffeinate the weary parents supervising the trampolines. The cafe building even features a green roof, because parks gotta park!

downtown vancouver new parkPhoto via Vancouver Parks Board

As we all know from our bleary, Covid-fuelled trudges in the great outdoors, a park isn’t a park without a little bit of greenery. Luckily, despite the abundance of climbing structures and pathways, a full third of the land is dedicated to plant life, with plenty of native species (we see you, bentgrass!) and plants traditionally used by Indigenous groups as medicine.

I’m personally pumped to throw on my trusty walking shoes for a stroll-by of this gorge new public space, but I’m well aware that, like any tax-funded project, there are going to be haters. But if a five-star park is the sort of thing that makes your blood boil… maybe you should be the one talking a walk?