Hidden away in the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood, nearly surrounded by houses, is one of the most beautiful parks in the city, Summit Park. What I find truly amazing about it is that so few people that I speak with about it have ever been there. And while the quiet of the place is definitely a benefit, Victorians should really have this place on their radar.
Summit Park was created by the City in 1972. The majority of the park's eleven acres is nearly pristine Garry Oak meadow. This time of year is extra special as in between the oak trees there are thousands of crocus sprouting up. The park is perched on a top of hill above Quadra Village to the south, Finlayson Street to the north, Cook Street to the east and Quadra to the west. Being in this high point, combined with the little ground cover means that the park has amazing vistas in almost every direction.
The south side of the park borders on the Smith Hill Reservoir which operated only briefly in the early part of the 20th century and has sat pretty much unused for the past 100 years. Another interesting piece of infrastructure is the Telus tower that is at the eastern end of the park ,which apart from being a recognisable landmark of Victoria, also provides a great viewing platform which lets you see the Shelbourne Valley spreading out in front of you.
The City completed a park management plan in 2011 and I have heard rumours that there may be some more work developing soon. Still since the plan was done in 2011, the City has put in new access points to Finlayson Street as well as a couple good sets of stairs to the rim of the reservoir. There has also been pathway improvements through most of the park and around the perimeter reservoir.
While of course, drinking in public is completely illegal, I can't think of better place to have a real city park picnic with a bottle of wine. In the summer, the grass up here dries and the sun is blocked by the hundreds of trees, due to the height of the hilltop there is almost always a breeze. This truly is a complete escape from the city and it is so close to us.
Still as always, I do think we have an untapped opportunity in Summit Park, though many are going to think I am terrible for saying it. The reservoir which sits there unused is such an amazing opportunity for the city. The 2011 management plan, as well as a few other blog pieces I have read on the park, talk about taking over that piece (It is currently owned by the CRD) and returning it a more natural state, perhaps keeping some of the water as a feature. While that is certainly an option, I think that the City has far greater opportunities with the space.
Imagine a hilltop restaurant or pavilion like Brooklyn's Boathouse in Prospect Park. It would be an amazing venue for art shows, weddings and other celebrations. With some creative landscaping and safety provisions, the reservoir could be used for rowboat rentals. Another possibility would be to partition part of it off and build an outdoor swimming pool, something Victorians have long wanted for the summer. Of course locals will say that parking would be a challenge but going back to the Boathouse example, it operates just fine with no parking nearby.
It is unlikely that anything will happen here anytime soon, even the CRD seems to want to hold on to the site just in case they need it in the future. In the absence of anything happening the to the reservoir, the park remains a wonderful place to visit.
The easiest ways to access the park are at the eastern end of Summit Avenue, off of Quadra or at the northern end of The Rise off of Cook Street.
Let me know your ideas for what to do with the reservoir.