ORIGINAL ARTICLES

CANADIAN PLEASURE GROUNDS

G.W. COOPER April 1 1909
ORIGINAL ARTICLES

CANADIAN PLEASURE GROUNDS

G.W. COOPER April 1 1909

CANADIAN PLEASURE GROUNDS

G.W. COOPER

WHENEVER a busy man is over-worried, the doctor prescribes the country; and when any of us are depressed by care or trouble, our cure is the sight of our chosen hills. That is if we have money wherewith to fly the town; but if we have none of that valuable commodity to spare, what can we do when the thirst for the hills burns in us, or when the “spring fever” makes its annual visit? We can do the next best thing and visit the park or stop in the square and sit and drink in some sunshine and afterwards go on our way refreshed. That is if our city fathers are alive to the necessity for open air spaces for our healthful recreation. It is often objected that tramps occupy all the benches : but is it not cheaper to supply a tramp with a bench in a park than to supply him with a cell in jail? There is a conscious or unconscious sensibility, to the beauty of the natural world, which in many men becomes a passion, and to which even a tramp can respond.

In London, England, almost a hundred open spaces—many of them old

cemeteries—have been converted into children’s playgrounds and old folks resting places. \\ ho shall say that London is not better for this? “Nothing is so costly,” it has been well said, “as sickness, disease and vice ; nothing so cheap as health and virtue.” Rochester, Ñ.Y., is a bright and shining example of this with the lowest death rate and the best park system in the State of New York. It would not be a difficult matter to prove the correlation of these two facts. In addition, Rochester is known far and wide as “The City Beautiful” and “The Flower City.” This is advertising which would be cheap at almost any cost, but how cheaply it is gained in addition to the improved conditions of living, which prevail in that city. What Canadian city is there which can longer afford to neglect this sort of public improvement. bringing, as it does, not only health and enjoyment to the citizens, but renown and visitors from abroad?

The public pleasure grounds of anv community comprise all such public open spaces as are acquired or arranged for the purpose of providing favorable opportunities for healthful recreation in the open air. Among these are included boulevards, squares, landscape parks, botanic gardens and playgrounds. The semi-public pleasure grounds include railway station grounds and exhibition parks.

SOME REPRESENTATIVE CANADIAN PLEASURE GROUNDS

The city parks should be places of quiet resort for people who cannot take the time or who have not the strength to go often to the country to find refreshment. Within them should be all possible quiet, together with everything that may call to mind the happy peace of the country and make us forget the town. The ground should have some pleasant variety of surface with both wood and open ground, some water if possible and perhaps some one point front which to view the world around and outside. The city squares should provide a resting and breathing place and a touch of green in the midst of the city’s turmoil. The grounds around public buildings should be a setting for the architecture and especially when these buildings are schools, the planting

may be made of great educations, value by the labeling of the trees and shrubs. The botanic gardens are our greatest source of information as to the hardiness and usefulness of all the thousands of varieties of ornamental trees, shrubs and plants which are in use to-day. And last, but not least, the school garden and playgrounds are bringing our children into closer touch with nature and influencing them in a happy direction at the stage in their life when they are most affected by their environment.

Probably the best known of all the parks in the Dominion is Queen Victoria Park at Niagara Falls. It has in it all the elements which go to make up a beautiful landscape park. It consists of about 150 acres on the shore of the Niagara River, extending back to the bluff of the Niagara highlands and along the shore from below the P'alls to the Dufferin Islands above them. Combining, as it does, this nearly unparalelled location, together with good native planting, open lawns, facilities for outdoor sport, such as baseball and tennis and at the upper and more wild portion for bathing, fishing and camping, it has a great future before ic and with careful development should some day deserve the name of the Canadian National Park. The architecture of the power plants situated along the shores of the river is very good, and in one instance almost good enough to justify their intrusion into the park.

Montreal has 35 public parks, aggregating in all 750 acres. The present system dates back to 1876, and about $100,000 arc expended yearly. There are three large parks, Mount Royal, St. Helen’s Island and Parc LaEontaine. Mount Royal rises directly behind the city and is covered to the summit with beautiful trees. From it may be had a fine view of the valleys of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers and from the observatory, 740 feet above the river, the oldest hills known to man, the Laurentian Mountains, can be seen. The Island of St. Helen was leased to the city by the Government in 1874. If contains 128 acres and is located about one mile from the city.

Originally, a garrison under the British regime, a portion of it is still reserved for military purposes and the old fort is extremely well preserved as also an ancient wooden blockhouse on the crown of the hill. These are two good examples of the land that should be set aside and held in public trust. The one has grand scenery and vegetation and the other serves to keep green in our memory the historic events of the past.

Toronto, with its 30 parks, totalling 1,775 acres, is well supplied with open air spaces. The most central are Queen’s Park, which surrounds the Provincial Parliament Buildings, Allen Gardens and the Normal School grounds. Queen’s Park contains many fine old oaks which are in an excellent state of preservation. In the northern section of the city lie the Rosedale ravines, Reservoir Park and some fine cemeteries. To the east are Riverdale Park and the Zoo, as well as Victoria and Munro Parks. Along the lake shore to the west is the Exhibition Park, where the Canadian National Exposition is held each fall, and the valley of the Humber River. Across the bay and two miles from the city lies “The Island,” which comprises 325 acres, divided into three parts. One part is for baseball and other outdoor performances, one is laid out with wide stretches of lawn, shade trees and lagoons, along which are cottages, boat houses and pavilions, while the third portion is a favorite haunt of fishermen. This is to be recommended as illustrating an ideal division of a public open pleasure ground since the most diversified tastes may here be satisfied. Toronto spends about fifty cents per head of population per year on her parks.

One of the most useful and to some people the most interesting public parks in the whole Dominion is the Arboretum and Botanic garden at the Central Experimental Farms at Ottawa. Here, under the direction of the Dominion Department of Agriculture, an area of 65 acres of the Central Farms is devoted to a collection of trees, plants and shrubs from all parts of the world. There have been many thousand species tested and the results serve not only as a source of information to plant lovers throughout the

Dominion, but advertise abroad how great a number of plants are hardy in our climate and thus dispel many doubts as to the resources of Canada in the way óf plant life. This Arboretum is now much visited and an increasing interest is manifested in the progress of this work, not only by botanists, but by the general public.

The beginning of the famous Halifax Public Gardens was a very humble one. Originally a bog, the land was filled in a little at a time and the trees and plants were at first contributed by interested citizens from their own premises. The gardens now contain many fine specimens of native and exotic trees, plants and shrubs, and are not only a great credit to the city and the Dominion at large, but the object of a great deal of admiration both at home and abroad. Point Pleasant Park at Halifax contains 186 acres and was deeded to the city in 1870 by the Imperial Government for a term of 999 years. It contains three forts that command the entrance of the harbor, and a natural growth of pine, hemlock and spruce, and is well supplied with shrubs and deciduous trees. There is also about one acre of Scotch heather which is naturally an object of great interest to visitors. The control of this park is vested in a commission and $2,500 a year is spent on maintenance. The commons is a tract of land given to the citizens of Halifax by George the Third. It contains 235 acres, and is used as a parade ground and for cricket, football, baseball and quoits. It has many large shade trees and a wading pool for the children which also affords skating in the winter. There are also, in Halifax, five smaller parks, which, together with the Commons and the Public Gardens, are placed under the control of a distinct commission.

London is so fortunate as to possess a breathing place nearly in the heart of the city and close to the main business corner. This is Victoria Park, which contains the area of three city blocks, has many fine shade trees and is carefully laid out and tended. The Exhibition Grounds or Queen’s Park, as it is called, is owned by the city and used for two weeks in the year for the purpose of holding the Western Fair, while the rest of the year it is open to the public as an adjunct to the city parks. The race track enclosure is used for athletic contests, for which it is -well adapted, owing to a good track and large grandstand. The city also owns and controls through the water commission, about 300 acres of land situated along both banks of the Thames River. This property, which is called Springbank, is easily reached by trolley, and is therefore very accessible. It contains the pumping station for the city water supply, a pavilion, several retiring buildings and a bandstand. So admirably has Nature provided for this park that little is left to do except to open up roads and paths, judiciously thin out the woodlands and dress them down with shrubbery. If this property be held and its development placed in competent hands, it is destined some day to be

one of the finest scenic parks in the

whole Dominion. The London park area totals about 350 acres, of which Springbank contains 295 and Victoria Park 16. The grounds of the Provincial Insane Asylum, situated at London, are notable for the large number of fine trees which they contain.

In the Victoria Park at Berlin there is also another near approach to the ideal in a city park. This lies within four blocks of the heart of the town and yet contains fifty acres or more. It has running water and a lake of an acre or so in extent, as well as a picnic grove which is visited annually by hundreds of people from nearby towns. Then, too, there is also an athletic field, in a corner by itself, which is not only a source of income to the Park Commission, but a constant means of healthful outdoor exercise to the younger people of the town. Several hundred dollars are yearly turned into the park fund by the rental of this field for band concerts and the like, and hundreds of people are annually drawn to the city by the attractions oi the picnic grove. Taken all in all, it is a very paying investment to the town and an example which might profitably be followed by other municipalities.

At Winnipeg an example has been set for the rest of the Dominion which is deserving of notice. In 15 years there has been developed on the treeless prairie a large park system and boulevards have been laid cut and planted on over 100 streets. Up till 1907 something over 12,000 trees had been planted on these boulevards with a very small percentage of loss. Attention is now being turned toward playgrounds and one is being provided in the largest park. This latter is called Assiniboine and has been developed recently from 283 acres of naturally beautiful woodland and prairie along the Assiniboine River. There are ten smaller parks and squares, of less than five acres each, under the control of the Public Parks Board, as well as St. John’s and St. James’ Parks of io 1-2 and six acres respectively. A sum not exceeding one-half mill on the dollar of assessed property is expended yearly by the board and the results are gratifying, to say the least. This shows what the careful following out of plans prepared by a skilled landscape architect will produce and should be a lesson to some of the “penny wise and pound foolish’’

municipalities of the Dominion. At Regina the same wise policy was followed and the grounds around the Parliament Buildings were laid out and planted before the buildings were erected.

The City of Regina recently planted two new parks. One, called Victoria Park, is in the heart of the city and comprises the area of two city blocks, and the other, of sixty acres in extent, is called Wascana Park, and is adjoining the new Parliament grounds.

Both arc arranged artistically and planted generously. The drives from Wascana Park connect with those in the Parliament Park, so as to form a continuous landscape effect and the grounds of both slope to the shores of Wascana Lake. Edmonton is also looking forward foresightedly to a day when it will be as well favored with parks as Regina. The Alberta Government is now constructing a park around the new Government Buildings, which are located on the bank of the North Saskatchewan River, of which they command a magnificent view as well as of the surrounding country.

Vancouver has, in addition to a few small squares, only two parks, but these are very worthy of notice. The largest, calleri Stanley Park, contains 1,000 acres, and is still largely in its natural state, except for a few small areas which have been cleared for picnics and other amusements. The park occupies a peninsula lying between Coal Harbor and the Gulf of Georgia, and is nearly surrounded by these two bodies of water. From some parts of the park the Mountains of Vancou ver Island may be seen across 20 miles of water and the view from

any part of the park is beautiful, since the mountains, which rise 2,000 feet, are close at hand. There are, in this park, 11 miles of very fine drives through the natural forest of fir, cedar, alder, birch, hemlock and spruce. Along the five miles of trails and footpaths through the dense forests of the park are found some giant trees. The largest of these trees are the cedars, which have attained 66 feet in circumference. The fir trees here rise to a height of 350 feet and a circumference of 24 feet. All summer long the park is visited by hundreds of people attracted by the beauties of the' spot and the fine bathing facilities along the shores. The other large park in Vancouver is Blastings Park, which was given to the city by the Provincial Government. This consists of 160 acres fronting on Burrard Inlet, which stretches away for miles at the base of the mountains. The intention of the city is to turn this into an exhibition park.

The first impressions of a town are apt to be the most lasting and yet how often we get them from a railway coach and look out upon a poor station in a setting of cinders and board walks. Fortunately the railroads are slowly erecting stations which are in many instances in very good taste. Our Canadian railways have now begun to devote some attention to station surroundings, but great opportunities still await a transforming hand in the making over of the ugly gateways to our cities. It is now over ten years since the Canadian Pacific Railway commenced to give away to its station employes flower seeds in the spring and bulbs in the fall. These are supplemented each year by handsome liitie booklets of advice and encouragement. The men have taken a keen interest in the cultivation of flowers as is shown by the fact that this spring tens of thousands of packets of seeds will be required to

supply their requests. From St. John to Vancouver the men have written the Floral Department for seeds and booklets. No rules are made concerning the cultivation of these flowers, this work being entirely voluntary on the part of the employes. Not only do they derive enjoyment themselves but they give pleasure to the thousands of passengers on the trains. Then, too, when the improvement of the station grounds commences more attention is paid to fences and general surroundings, the good example spreads in the neighborhood and the result benefits all concerned, especially in the way of a good first impression of the community on the part of the traveling public.