Pacific Spirit Regional Park (PSRP) was established in 1989. Originally part of the University Endowment Lands (UEL), the park was created as a natural forest preserve adjacent to the city of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia. It is currently part of the Metro Vancouver park system, which extends from the Straight of Georgia into the Fraser Valley.
The park covers 763 hectares, consisting of a spectacular foreshore, including the popular “Wreck Beach”, and a richly dense forest. The foreshore lies along the Point Grey Peninsula, from the Burrard Inlet in the north to the Fraser River in the south. The forest separates UBC from Vancouver.
Over 50 km of forest trails are frequented by people with different interests: walkers (with or without dogs), runners, bicyclists, horse riders. There are a variety of special places along the trails; Camosun Bog, Wreck Beach, and Lily of the Valley grove, to name a few. Also, with the wide range of trails, runners can plan out individual routes to optimize their fitness and cardio goals. The foreshore is very popular with naturalists and other sun-worshipers, while dog-walkers and bikers can enjoy a whole network of forested paths throughout the park. Each of the ecosystems in the Park, including the beaches, streams, wetlands, forests and meadows, provides unique habitat for the wide variety of wildlife.
Flora and Fauna
The forest has many varieties of evergreen trees, including Cedar, Hemlock, Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce. There are also deciduous trees, like Vine Maple, Big Leaf Maple, Red Alder and Bitter Cherry. Berry bushes are abundant, too: Salal, Salmonberry, Thimbleberry, and Elderberry. Many varieties typical of rain forest plants are abundant, including, ferns, mosses, lichens and mushrooms.
Birds and small animals are commonly heard or seen along the trails: Barred Owls, Bald Eagles, Chickadees, Warblers, Wrens, Woodpeckers and sea birds. You may also see smaller mammals, like Douglas Squirrels, Voles, Mice and larger ones, like Coyote, Skunk and Raccoon. Pacific West Coast amphibians such as Salamanders, Newts, Garter Snakes, and Tree Frogs are found in the wet areas of the Park.
There are many places to enter the Park and several transportation options. Main entrances may be found at the former location of the Park Centre, on 16th Avenue, between Blanca and Wesbrook Mall, at 16th Ave. and Sasamat St., at Imperial Drive and 29th Ave., at 33rd and Camosun, on the south side of University Hill High School, along the west end of the University Golf Course, on Chancellor Blvd, between Blanca and Acadia. Reach the foreshore via the marked points along Marine Drive, west of the university.
Transport by walking, “sole power” and by bicycle is easy from the UEL/UBC area as well as the neighborhoods of Point Grey, Dunbar and Southlands. Public transit runs along four major routes with stops near park entrances: Southwest Marine Drive, 16th Avenue, Broadway/University Boulevard, and Fourth Avenue/Chancellor Boulevard. From the north, you can enter the Park from Spanish Banks on Northwest Marine Drive also accessible by bus. If you are driving, there is ample parking along 16th Ave., 29th and Imperial, Southwest Marine Drive, and the beaches at Spanish Banks.
The Foreshore and Wreck Beach
The Wreck Beach foreshore encompasses a sweep of beach around the tip of Point Grey. From Acadia Beach on the north side, with its sandy cliffs and rocky shores, to the the rich estuarine marshes to the south, the foreshore has many “personalities.” There are areas of quiet beauty, as around the environmentally-sensitive, urban salmon-bearing Booming Ground Creek within Musqueam Marsh. As a world famous naturist beach, Trail 6 host a large population of park visitors in the summer months.
The southern area has been home to river otters, deer, coyotes, skunks, and other small mammals. Human activity such as dredging and interference with fresh water springs has greatly reduced the wildlife, though river otter have begun re-establishing themselves and are a treat when glimpsed by avid nature watchers. Mated pairs of Pileated woodpeckers, eagles and barred owls can be glimpsed along this magical foreshore beside the mouth of the Fraser River.
Summer visitors to the busy western point of the beach are sometimes treated to aerial acrobatics of parent eagles training their young to hunt seagulls right over the beach and cliffs. Seagulls do not succumb peaceably to becoming eagle meals and are extremely vocal as they attempt to outwit their predators.
From the Acadia section of Wreck Beach, one has a glorious view of Howe Sound and the downtown Vancouver cityscape just 15 minutes from this wilderness-like beach. Flocks of sea ducks, cormorants, and at low tide gulls and terns fish in the shallow waters. Surf smelt spawn in this area, which in turn attracts herons, kingfishers, eagles – as well as both legal and illegal human fishermen.
There is much to say about this park; we will not attempt to put it on one page. One could say it is a region, or a geographical location. One could say it is a composite of the ecosystems and the species that move through several of these ecosystems. One could say it is a memory of experiences that any one visitor has lived. One could go back in time and see it as a history of changes. One could consider the long term relationship with the Musqueam Band who claim aboriginal title to this land. It is all of this, but there is something else – the spirit of the place itself. It inspires a resonance with the spirit of its human visitors. We grow in harmony with what we sense and what we do in this park. In some sense it is us, and we are it.