It was amazing how the pandemic could change how I see the environment around me. Before Vancouver was sent into stay home mode, I was spending most of my time at school and work. On those rare free days, I either spent them at home recovering (from the physical and mental fatigue of juggling school and work) or running errands at the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart or Safeway.
2 weeks after the city went into stay home mode, cabin fever began to creep in. After scouring through the web on the Do’s and Don’ts of going out during this period, I started taking walks around the neighbourhood. After all, it wasn’t wrong to be found walking on sidewalks, assuming we were out running essential errands. I began to see more of the neighbourhood. Houses that fleeted past me on my daily commute became works of art that I slowed down to admire. Parks that just flew past the window as I sat on the bus became landmarks that I sought out one after another.
It was on one of those walks that I discovered New Brighton Park. In fact, it was not even on my itinerary on that day.
As part of my daily walks, I ventured into Empire Fields in the vast compounds that was generally labelled as “PNE” – Pacific National Exhibition. After resting at the spectator stand, I decided to explore the section of the stadium. I saw a sign pointing to a certain “New Brighton Park” and decided to take a look. Unbeknownst to me, it was a start of a peculiar journey to a hidden haven!
Walking to New Brighton Park from Empire Fields at PNE
From the bicycle park at the corner of the stadium, a path led to what I thought was deeper into PNE. After skirting around the edges of PNE, I came to a junction. Across the road was a tunnel under the highway ramp that looked dark and ominous. We were still in the early stages of stay home and there weren’t many people around. I began to wonder if I should take the risk and cross the tunnel alone, in a desolated corner of PNE.
As it turned out, the end of the tunnel offered a clear view of the North Shore mountains peering over the top of the trees. Things began to look optimistic from there. I took a path into what looked like a park connector, and began to wonder if I had already reached New Brighton Park.
The park ran parallel to the railway track. As I walked east, I found a path that branched off and downwards, leading to another tunnel underneath the tracks. THAT tunnel looked even more dodgy than the previous one. I thought since I had already taken a leap of faith by venturing into unknown, deserted parts of the city alone, going through the tunnel wasn’t going to make much of a difference!
I believe I was one of the first / few people who crossed the tunnel, as the air was stale and fallen leaves were strewn across the ground. And not to mention… the graffiti on the walls.
When I exited from the other end, I realised I was finally at the New Brighton Park! I was staring into the facade of an old 50s one-storey building that was the changing room for the swimming pool in the park. A path from the side of the building would lead me into the park itself.
Open Space By The River
Unlike the other parks that I had checked in throughout the stay home period, New Brighton Park stood out as it was a park by the Burrard Inlet (or river, as I would casually refer it as). Between the swimming pool and the river was a wide expanse of field.
The park was bustling compared to what I encountered on my way here. Picnic mats dotted the field and people were spread out chatting, reading or playing games. There was even a couple of dudes who brought benches and weights to do presses in the open!
One side of the field stood tall industrial buildings that I suppose were the facilities to transfer goods between the rail to ships. Beyond that, the metal structure of the Second Narrows Bridge loomed in the background. It stretched all the way into the greens across the river that was North Vancouver.
As I got closer to the river, the North Shore Mountains started to grew in height. The port buildings and houses at the foot of the mountains were puny compared to the grandiose that rose to the skies.
The air at the park was fresher and unlike being at the seaside, the wind was gentle. Even better, there were benches along the footpath that ran along the bank, facing towards the river. It was really therapeutic to just sit there, enjoy the views from water to mountain and sky, while feeling the breeze brushing against my face.
On the far end, wooden fences cordoned off an area for dogs to run around freely. Again, watching those canines sprint around, tongues hanging out was weirdly therapeutic!
The walk from my house to New Brighton Park actually took me only 30 minutes, yet it felt like I had entered another world. The tunnels might have done some psychology tricks on me.
New Brighton Park in Summer
I subsequently returned to New Brighton Park 3 months later, deep into Summer. There were more people there, due to opening up of the city from stay home instructions, and perhaps also to avoid the other parks and beaches that were simply too crowded.
The road between PNE and New Brighton Park wasn’t too deserted too, as I would brush shoulders with joggers, cyclists and walkers like me.
My summer visit happened on a day where the clouds formed beautiful streaks of white across the blue canvas of the sky. Here are some of the pictures I took in that visit. The colours were definitely more varied for easier editing!
If you are ever in Vancouver and looking for a less touristy experience, pop by New Brighton Park. It will be worth the walk!
Till then, stay wanderlust!