Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Queen Elizabeth Park – the mourning after

with 10 comments

This post is reproduced by permission of the author, Ned Jacobs, who sent it to the Livable Region Coalition email list. I thought it deserved wider circulation.

The Vancouver Parks Board decided to cut down trees which were blocking the view of downtown from the high spot in the park. This is the destination used by many tour bus operators, and was also the site of a proposed commerical development which included a viewing tower, which was not approved after public protests. Ned has also propsed a low cost, free tower which would have achieved the same result without tree rmoval or commercial development. In my estimation, this proposal was not seriously considered by the Board, who acted in unseemly haste to avoid further public discussion.


I want to thank each of you who contributed in any way—large or small—to what unfortunately was an unsuccessful effort to convince a majority on Parks Board that the loss of so many fine trees (exact number unknown) cannot justify the “restoration” of limited and ever-shrinking views of Vancouver’s skyline from the plaza opposite the Bloedel Conservatory. It was to create this corridor that the majority of condemned trees were sacrificed.

As you can clearly see, removing scores of 50-year old trees from Canada’s first Civic Arboretum has revealed the skyline of our fair city in all its world class glory! Now if only we could do something about those selfish red cedars that still insist on getting in the way of Harbourfront, BC Place Stadium, the West End, etc, etc. Thank God we can now at last see Science World (far right). This morning, a group of frustrated tourists were standing on the stone wall trying to get a better view of downtown. It’s not like we planted those cedars; after Little Mountain was logged 120 years ago they just started growing–without a permit!  You can see how overcrowded they are, and what poor form.  Besides, just like those pathetic trees that were “removed” yesterday, they are all infected with an untreatable disease–called “life.” If we leave them alone, not only will they soon completely obstruct these unparalleled views of Vancouver, some of them might fall victim to the ravages of life in four or five hundred years. Or a branch might fall on someone and the city could be sued! Better to put them out of their misery now—those cedars will be much happier as wood chips. But I suppose we’d better leave that to another board–the current crop of commissioners has already suffered far too much verbal abuse from those silly tree-huggers. Don’t they deserve a break? How about giving some of them an opportunity to make equally astute decisions on City Council next year?

Please forgive my lapse into sarcasm —these trees were my companions for many years…

Please forgive me for my inability to reproduce these pictures in the way that Ned did in his original post. I simply cannot understand how WordPress handles images to show these side by side in two columns at their original size. If you know how to do this with (not!) please let me know by email – not as a comment.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 19, 2008 at 8:00 am

Posted in Transportation

10 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.


    Since when is Queen Elizabeth Park a place to go look at the view of the city? I thought it was about nature? Why don’t they go (or get instructed to) hang out on upper Main St or Grouse Mountain or Second Narrows Bridge if they want a virtually unobstructed view?

    I’ll admit I wish the faraway tree that now blocks much of my view of Mt Baker were a little shorter.. but that is ONE tree and if I’m really desperate I can go to Brentwood Skytrain and see the whole mountain view.

    Erika Rathje

    July 20, 2008 at 11:30 pm

  2. I remember going up to QE Park in the early 1970s for the view. We would always take our out-of-town visitors up there for the view and for the gardens in the old stone quarry.

    Ron C.

    July 21, 2008 at 11:12 am

  3. One of my old UBC professors referred to the ‘Cult of the View’ in several of his lectures about Vancouver. Views do have value, but so does the urban forest.

    Not so long ago the Parks Board turned down an application for a concrete and steel tower in QE Park. It was almost 60 metres tall. I didn’t have a problem with the tower itself because it was well-designed. But I was very uncomfortable with a tower of such a scale in QEP, which is also in my neighbourhood, and the fact they would have charged admission with most of the revenue going to a private company. No doubt a large concession or small revolving restaurant would have been added later.

    Ned Jacobs also proposed a tower a while back, but made of wood with a viewing platform set at about 12 metres. He even had the design published in a piece in the Vancouver Courier. It struck me that this idea has merit, especially considering that the Park Board, to my knowledge, at the time did not say they would trash 60+ trees if the tower did not win public favour.

    Perhaps a compromise is in order. In exchange for a wooden tower made from engineered wood (e.g. large glue-laminated posts & beams and steel cross braces) equipped with an elevator and stairs and a covered viewing platform set at around 20 or 25 metres (30 m tops) at the highest point in the park, the Park Board could plant 200-300 more trees on the slopes below in addition to replacing the ones they just cut.

    That way the views are re-established, but with a more appropriate structure, AND a forest is expanded in a big way, preferably with native species. The best of both worlds.


    July 22, 2008 at 2:49 pm

  4. I think one problem with a public viewing platform is that it would require funds for ongoing maintenance and repair – especially since it would have to have an elevator.

    Ron C.

    July 22, 2008 at 3:02 pm

  5. BTW – I think that the City’s plans to cut down street trees on Granville Street (south of Robson on the Commodore Ballroom block) for the sake of design (double row of smaller street trees) is more objectionable than cutting down trees within QE Park since QE Park at least has other large trees, while the Granville strip will suffer a much more drastic change in urban environment.

    Ron C.

    July 22, 2008 at 3:06 pm

  6. I agree with Ron C. There are more important tree fights than the one in QE park.


    July 22, 2008 at 7:16 pm

  7. and ditto for Pacific Boulevard – expect all the oak trees to be ripped out and replaced with another species for the sake of design.

    Ron C.

    July 23, 2008 at 12:14 pm

  8. I agree about street trees. There is such a thing as planting the appropriate species on streets to begin with (e.g. species with medium and small sizes at maturity, not towering species that will rip the pavement on narrow sidewalks), but a certain amount of change and tree replacement or loss in fast growing cities is inevitable.

    But my point about QE Park is that a forest is a contiguouis entity, not just a line or group of trees, or something to cram between sports fields and stadiums like QE and Burnaby’s Central Park. The forest in Central Park is larger than QE’s and is in decline and needs lots of TLC and regeneration. QE never did regain even a smigeon its climax forest.

    BTW, maintenance of engineered wood isn’t that bad, especially if it’s sheltered under a covered deck. It can be designed for outdoor applications. They could also consider a smaller concrete and steel tower.


    July 23, 2008 at 12:57 pm

  9. I guess I don’t think of QE as being a naturally forested park in the same way that Central Park or Pacific Spirit are. I tend to associate QE with being an activity based park, with the pitch and putt golf course, the sunken gardens, tennis courts and the open areas, rather than forest.

    Ron C.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:11 am

  10. Speaking of important tree fights….

    “B.C. could see a return to protests and blockades in world-renowned Clayoquot Sound as a forestry company prepares to log an old-growth forest in the Hesquiat Point Creek watershed — the first time a company has begun logging in such a “pristine” valley in nearly 20 years.”


    July 24, 2008 at 12:39 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: