One of the least known parks in the city is only a couple of blocks from the its very centre. When I hear people complaining about how there is a lack of green space in Victoria, one of the best examples to raise is Franklin Green. Here within view of many of the city’s new high-rises is a magical little park that sits empty most of the time but this is likely to be about to change.
I have a soft spot for Franklin Green. When I was a member of the North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA), I got to participate in the redesign of the park. Back then, in the middle of the first decade of the century, the park was even more neglected then it is today, with old playground equipment and some poorly planted bushes that made a perfect hiding spot for drug use. It was a scary place to be during the day and even more alarming at night.
The park is named (I assume…) for the second mayor of Victoria, Lumley Franklin. This assumption comes from the fact that the strip of park a block away called Harris Green is named for the first mayor of Victoria, Thomas Harris. Franklin Green is a bit of an odd shape and I am not aware of how it came to be a park space at all. Looking at the one photo that captures the area on Vintage Air Photos, it appears to be still a vacant piece of land in 1947. If anyone knows more of the history to how it came into the City’s possession, I would love to know.
When the NPNA did the redesign of the park, we were adamant that there needed to be a replacement of the playground equipment. At the time the City was wanting to remove it. The City was also considering removing what I think is one of the most important pieces in the park and that is the bench swing. It may be the only one of its kind in a park in Greater Victoria. In my opinion it adds a whimsical aspect to the park that would not be easy to replace with it gone.
The redesign added some key pieces too. One of the most prominent pieces that was added was the pickle ball court. Pickle ball, for those that don’t know, is sort of like ping-pong if you were standing on a rather large table. If you want to play you can rent rackets and balls at the squash club, at least you used to be able to. A second addition that was my suggestion, was the winding path that makes its may around the entire park. I thought this would encourage people to walk around the park more even if it was during the winter months and the grass was soggy. Taking a short slow walk around Franklin Green can be quite the mini-meditation if you need one. The final addition that we asked for, you can’t even see, on the light standards that were added to the park near the top are power plugs. At the time the NPNA was using Franklin Green for the annual neighbourhood festival and these plugs allowed us to have electricity for the music and other things. There were plans to do a music series in the park, but unfortunately in the last ten years Franklin Green had slipped out of the spotlight again.
Despite its rejuvenation in 2008/09, the park’s proximity to one of the largest street shelters has meant that the park can be a quiet hideaway for those homeless that want to camp outside yet remain close to Our Place. It has also been a daytime hangout for the street population due to again its quieter location. There have been some challenges with the sometimes conflicting user groups. Still for the most part it actually is usually not being used by anyone at all, but this has begun to change and will likely soon never be the quiet little park again.
The first recent positive change that occurred was the addition of the Taco Justice food truck at the corner of Mason and Cook. While Taco Justice does have seating right outside, it really is best to get your Belly-to-Belly Taco and sit down at the picnic table in Franklin Green. Just in the last couple of weeks a second food truck has come along to join Taco Justice, which will definitely bring even more diners to the park. The biggest change coming to the park is the development of the rental apartment building that has replaced the old St. Andrew’s School on the property to the west. While having a school next door was a positive neighbour, the school field next to the park was only occupied part of the day. The new building has put townhouses with stairs that come right down to the edge of the park. These new North Parkers are going to have Franklin Green as their front yard and that means that is will be a place that they want to feel safe. Another new addition coming to Franklin Green is a new mid-block walkway that will work its way from the southwest corner to just outside the new Save On Foods store along Pandora Avenue.
Just to the east of Franklin Green is the parking lot for Wellburn’s Grocery Store. In the last couple of months a new building has been proposed to replace it. While it is far too early to guess if that building comes to fruition, it can be assumed that at some point over the next decade or so, another set of residents will have Franklin Green as a yard.
When I went for my walk on Sunday, it was nice to see the new native plant garden that has been added by the NPNA to the eastern edge of the park. For such a small park, there are a lot of layers to it. Next time you are nearby make sure you stop in and have a walk around Franklin Green.