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Stanley Park Storm Damage

© John Keith 2007

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Stanley Park, the jewel of Vancouver, was heavily damaged in a major storm which struck in the early morning hours of December 15th, 2006. Winds gusting to 120 kilometres an hour smashed over 3000 trees in the park and caused extensive damage to trails and the seawall. The north western part of the park sustained the heaviest damage, and the seawall from Prospect Point, where the Lion's Gate Bridge crosses the first narrows, south to 3rd Beach was closed by landslides and fallen trees. Surging seas and breaking waves also undercut the walkway in many places. Five other smaller areas strewn around the rest of the park were struck by wind "microbursts" -- two separate areas just north of Lost Lagoon and the other three near Brockton Point and Coal Harbour. Up to 40 hectares of the 400-hectare park were affected. The seawall near Siwash Rock will remain closed to public access for the foreseeable future.

Extreme weather conditions had plagued British Columbia for the previous month. Repeated power outages left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark across the west coast of the province, and two million people in Greater Vancouver were affected by a boil-water advisory. Global warming and climate change have been blamed for unusual weather conditions worldwide.

The Vancouver Parks Board estimates the damage may end up costing over $2 million. Most of the park has been re-opened to public access, but the park will need extensive reforestation and repairs to the seawall. The park board is soliciting donations, but park board commissioner Allan De Genova said the $150,000 raised so far "is not even scratching the surface." Reforestation will cost $2000 per tree and over 3,000 trees were destroyed by the storm. In overtime pay alone during the initial clean-up phase, the parks board had to pay out $150,000. The park board, of course, had no contingency fund for storm damage of such proportions.

A staff team has been struck to assess the overall damage and come up with a plan for park repairs; a preliminary report is expected by the end of January. Many fallen trees will be removed, but others will be left as part of the natural state of a west coast temperate rainforest. Timber sales will not offset storm-damage costs very much. Most of the downed or damaged trees, like hemlock, are not marketable. However, creative ways of using the lumber have been suggested; it could be used to build commemorative structures -- perhaps at the 2010 Olympics or the new convention centre. A guitar maker has even inquired about making Stanley Park storm guitars. Most of the wood, however, will probably end up as firewood.

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Stanley Park, Vancouver Parks, Recreation, and Culture