About the Project

The Stanley Park Project is a blog-style collection of nature facts, resources, and relevant tangents inspired by my walks through Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

The project is also an educational experiment. For the next year (Spring 2013 to Spring 2014), I plan to improve my very rudimentary knowledge of Pacific Northwest ecology by using Stanley Park as a classroom. Because I’m a restless student (hence all the walking!), I’d like to take an open, interdisciplinary approach to my studies, and to explore a multitude of views from which ecology can be understood. This won’t be all science, folks! 

I began taking weekly walks through Stanley Park after realizing how little I know about nature. Naming trees, identifying plants and berries, and trying to keep the types of birds straight are all things that I find challenging and foreign – even though the species that I’m gazing at are all native to my region. Though I’m a little embarrassed by my lack of eco-savvy, I am also excited to bring inquisitiveness and wonder – the same feelings that I would pack along with me on a foreign trip – to a local park.

I’ve subtitled the project “Open Learning in the Urban Forest”. I define “open learning” as learning that is accessible and open in its scope. To maximize accessibility, I’ve tried to learn about nature using resources that are low-cost or free (such as library books, community workshops, and through observation of the forest itself) and to present my findings in a clear voice to those who are reading. I’ve also committed to keeping the subject matter relevant but open – I’ll definitely be discussing plants and trees, but I may also wish to ponder topics such as ecological arts, scientific applications of forest patterns, nature writing, and meditation. I feel that all of these topics have a place in Stanley Park.

If you are a nature newbie like me – a warm welcome to you! I hope this blog serves you well. If you are well-acquainted with the forest, I’m glad to have you on board, too.

About Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a 1000-acre city park that occupies the northern half of downtown Vancouver. On a map, it is an oddly-shaped, craggy triangle that is nearly surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. There is a Seawall that encircles the perimeter of Stanley Park. Many pedestrians, runners, cyclists, and rollerbladers flock to the Seawall to experience the sound and scent of the ocean as they’re exercising. The park has several inner trails that wind through thickets of plants, shrubs, and towering trees. The interior of the park has a wet, woody, and slightly sweet smell that is delightful to breathe in. Aside from the ocean, there are two significant bodies of water – Lost Lagoon and Beaver Lake – where ducks, seagulls, Canada geese, and even a few swans like to hang out.

I’ve chosen Stanley Park as my “classroom” for a few reasons. The first is convenience – Stanley Park is located in my city, is accessible by public transit, and has a significant amount of biodiversity within a walkable surface area. The existence of the Stanley Park Ecology Society is my second reason for choosing to learn in Stanley Park. SPES offers low-cost guided walks and other opportunities to learn about local ecology, and its values align nicely with the open learning model that I’ve set for myself. Stanley Park is also appealing for the inspiration that it has given to both the sciences and the arts. In addition to being a research, restoration, and conservation haven for those in the environmental sciences, the park is also a place of creative inspiration for photographers, writers, artists, and craftspeople, and historians. As I do not have a scientific background, the multidisciplinary interest that thrives within the park makes it an appealing and unintimidating place to begin my open learning project.

Here is an aerial picture of Stanley Park taken by Derek K. Miller in 2002. Downtown Vancouver is below and to the right of the park, and North Vancouver is across the bridge, at the top of the image.

Here is an aerial picture of Stanley Park taken by Derek K. Miller in 2002. Downtown Vancouver is below and to the right of the park, and North Vancouver is across the bridge, at the top of the image.