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Stanley Park is not the largest urban park in North America

I have talked to many people who say and read many websites that claim Stanley Park is the largest urban park in North America. This is false, and I will prove it.

Below is a list of urban parks in North America larger than 1000 acres (the size of Stanley Park) that others have sent to me.

  • South Mountain Preserve (Phoenix AZ) – 16,283
  • Rouge Valley Park (Markham ON) – 11,600
  • Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge (New York City NY) 9,155
  • Fairmount Park (Philadelphia PA) – 8,900
  • Forest Park (Portland OR) – 5,090
  • Mission Bay Park (San Diego CA) – 4,235
  • Griffith Park (Los Angeles CA) – 4,107
  • Nose Hill Park (Calgary AB) – 2,785 acres
  • Wascana Centre (Regina SK) – 2,325
  • Rockwood Park (Saint John, NB) – 2,200 acres
  • Chapultepec Park (Mexico City) – 2,100
  • Oldman River parks system (Lethbridge AB) – 1,865
  • Rock Creek Park (Washington, DC) 1,754
  • City Park (New Orleans LA) – 1,500
  • Presidio (San Francisco CA) 1,480
  • Canyon Lakes Project (Lubbock TX) – 1,450
  • Wilderness Park in (Lincoln NE) – 1,450 acres
  • Forest Park (St. Louis MO) – 1,370
  • Bays Mountain Park (Kingsport TN) – 1,300
  • Lincoln Park (Chicago IL) 1,208
  • Great Kills (New York City NY) – 1,200
  • Balboa Park (San Diego CA) 1,158
  • Van Cortlandt Park (New York City NY) 1,146
  • Golden Gate Park (San Francisco CA) 1,013
  • Stanley Park (Vancouver BC) – 1,000

As you can see, not only is Stanley Park not the largest park in North America, it isn’t even the largest urban park in Canada. In fact, it isn’t even the largest urban park in western Canada.

BCers can, however, rest assured knowing that Stanley Park may be the largest urban park in British Columbia.

Amazing how people love to spread falsehoods without verifying their accuracy.


102 thoughts on “Stanley Park is not the largest urban park in North America”

  1. You have a point there. Maybe Stanley Park is “the largest park that will never grow and is surrounded by urban area”. I guess it might be something to be proud of.

    1. I always thought that Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg was the largest urban park in Canada. I may be wrong, but I now know that it is definately larger than Stanley Park. Assiniboine Park is 1100 acres, which is 100 acres larger than Stanley Park. Also, Assiniboine Park stands aside Assiniboine Forest, which I believe is also the largest Urban forest in Canada. That is almost twice as large as the park and gives the park much room to expand. I wonder why it is not on your list.

      1. Incorrect. Largest urban park system in north America is Edmonton River valley park system at 18,000 acres with 235 km of continuous walking/biking trails. It runs right through the middle the city separating north from south. It boast the most green space of any city in north America and is the city is almost 7 times larger than Vancouver comparable to Chicago while having half the metro population.

  2. Stanley Park isn’t very big. But Vancouver has an impressive 11% of its total area devoted to parks, the most in Canada. That’s something much better to be proud of Vancouverites. You can’t compete on size with sprawling cities with land to waste like Edmonton or Ottawa. Do you know how big Ottawa’s total area is now that it merged with the surrounding county? It’s not a fair fight.

  3. Wikipedia is where I read that Stanley Park was the 3rd biggest city owned park in North America. I live here and I have never heard
    anyone talk about this (or “spread rumours”) like you’re saying. It’s right downtown, you can literally walk from an office tower to it
    within 15 minutes and within 2 minutes of Denman st. Rush hour traffic sits through it
    on the way to and from North Van.
    It’s as urban as you can get, just like
    Central Park and Golden Gate Park. I was just in San Francisco, and no one talked to me about Presidio Park (of which I don’t know anything about); only about how Golden Gate Park is bigger than Central Park etc.
    And the guy was born and raised in SF, so it’s not like he wouldn’t know about it’s
    (Presidio) existance. It seems to me that when they are talking about the biggest “urban” parks, thay are talking about the ones literally within blocks of
    the downtown core or major urban area (which would incude ALL of Manhattan, as that little area alone is far more urban than Regina, Calgary or Edmonton will probably ever be).
    I haven’t heard of most of those parks on your list; I doubt they are used nearly as much or by as many people as any of those like Central Park or Golden Gate Park etc.
    or Golden Gate Park. These parks are used

    1. This is all very misleading because, i.e., Presidio Park that I walked through the length and breadth of it, cannot be compared to Stanley Park! Stanley Park is a real FOREST with walkways through it. Presidio Park is widely spaced and has all kinds of buildings in it. Likewise, Central Park in Manhattan is not nearly the quality of Stanley Park in a ‘forest’ way. Central Park has an awful lot of fencing and is in some ways similar to Presidio. The only city park/city forest that I know of that compares to Stanley is the Hannover Eilenriede Forest in Germany. It’s easy to quote ‘largest urban parks in the world’ but some of these are not accessible except by first driving there! I used to live in Johannesburg. There are some claims of that being the world’s largest developed urban park… Nonsense! They counted the trees in the city. A treed avenue does not make a forest! It seems that somebody should create a site for measuring the ‘WORLD’S LARGEST CITY FORESTS!!!, not PARKS or URBAN PARKS.

  4. Edwin and Percy Warner Parks are twin adjacent parks in downtown Nashville which total 2684 acres.

  5. Actually, I think, very few of the parks in your list are URBAN parks. However, I will agree with you that Stanley is not the largest URBAN park in NA or even Canada. As a tour guide, taking tourist through Stanley Park, I would proclaim it as the World’s largest URBAN park.

    But it is very beautiful and you can’t really blame Vancouverites for claiming it is the largest. After all Yankees have been claiming the US of A is the biggest, best, greatest, country in the world for years, yet everyone knows it isn’t.

    Is Stanley a natural park? Well, yes, as much as any park can be. What with the building of trails, scenic outlooks, etc. Natural in that the trees have not been planted by man. Yes, they were, at one time, logged off, but they regrew without replanting.

    Someone noted that Stanley is city owned. It isn’t. The land is owned, like all land in Canada, by Ottawa, ie; Federal Gov’t. It is rented, by the city of Vancouver for $1.00 per year.

    Also, for those of you who have visited Stanley, when you enter Stanley, along the SEAWALL, you don’t enter from the city. On the Notrh side you enter from Devonian Harbour Park and on the South from English Bay Park.

  6. I have never seen someone get upset and be emotionally affected by false information about park sizes. Is this called Park envy?

  7. Actually, Stanley Park isn’t even the largest urban park In Greater Vancouver. Pacific Spirit Regional Park near UBC at 1885 acres isn’t technically part of Vancouver (located on the University endowment lands) but it’s administered by the GVRD and it’s completely surrounded by urban areas or water (UBC, Vancouver, Richmond).

  8. Poor Forest Park getting overlooked in all of this. Well, I guess it was mentioned in the original list. Either way I am damn proud to be able to walk along city streets in NW Portland, head up a handful of blocks and be at one of many entrances to the HUGE, natural and beautiful Forest Park. I mean if you can get lost on one of the many trails of a park, that says something.

    I was in Vancouver recently and experienced Stanley Park. Yeah it was nice, yeah it had some great views, but honestly it was too trimmed, too landscape/ front yard like. I wasn’t as impressed as maybe I should have been. But yeah its pretty big.

    Now what about the smallest park in the world. Does Portland, Oregon still take the gold on that one with Mill Ends Park? It is all of 2 ft diameter with a total area of 452 square inches you know.

    just curious. oh and I love Portland. =)

  9. ummmm, is it just me or does kim really have some sort of contempt for vancouver? case in point, the pacific spirit park (ubc) park debate, where you contradict yourself blatantly. you said that it’s not surrounded by development, implying that it wouldn’t be considered an urban park. so by the same logic, stanley park would not be considered an urban park either. and for the record, pacific spirit park is most definately surrounded by urban uses (residential, some commercial, and ubc-institutional) along the majority of its perimeter. i never comment on these things, and i always hate how they devolve into “who’s is bigger” matches, but kim, your tone is just so ridiculously snooty and toxic. it’s taking me back to 3rd grade: “NO, my mom said it was NOT the biggest park, and YOU’RE WRONG, and I’M RIGHT and YOU STINK.” and so on and so forth. therefore i really don’t feel bad making this kind of comment. and i’m sure the response (if this even gets posted) will be an angry and sarcastic freak-out.

  10. I was born and raised in Vancouver (59 years old today)and I have seen most of the parks on your list as I have been in 7 provinces and 48 states. I have never “bragged” about the size of Stanley Park – only its beauty. It is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful “urban park” in NA. That is something to brag about!

  11. “erik said: I have never seen someone get upset and be emotionally affected by false information about park sizes. Is this called Park envy?”

    In my opinion the park sizes are not that important, I’d rather see a list of the most beautiful parks and Stanley Park would be in the top 10.

  12. RE: “Below is a list of urban parks in North America larger than 1000 acres (the size of Stanley Park) that others have sent to me.”

    Thank you for posting them.

  13. Again, this all depends upon your definition of “urban”. Franklin Mountains Park in El Paso, TX, while technically a state park, lies entirely within city limits and covers over 24000 acres.

  14. Just to note, British Columbia is about 26,000 square miles larger than Texas…… Just saying…

  15. Well, perhaps we need to mention Edmonton’s river valley park system. At 18,000 acres of land it’s sizable, and the most natural and undeveloped river valley of any major city in the world (land development in the valley was ceased when the valley was fully declared parkland in the early 1900′s) Add in the cities 11,000 acres of fields, and the additional Reserved parkland, and yes there are 22 different parks, BUT they are all directly connected. Each is given a different name because access points are restricted by the no development rule. All of the parks are operated by the city. The parkland does not include provincial and federal parkland which is operated on the river valley outside of city limits. The park runs for 48 uninterrupted kilometers, and over 100 if provincial and federal land is added to it.

    Stanley park may not be the largest, but I would argue that it is one of the most beautiful. Boardered on three sides by ocean, surrounded by mountains, and unlike most city parks, largely undeveloped except for trails and very restricted road access.

    Considering that Vancouver is the most expensive city in north America, and the third most in the world, cost of a home is over 1 million on average, that is one of the most valuable pieces of land in the world. Also unlike many city parks in north America it was not built on the site of a former city dump, it has always been what it is donated by Lord Stanley for the enjoyment of all. Some trees in the park are over 1000 years old. So yeah not the largest, but still something to be very proud of.

    Dont cast stones Lethbridge girl. Ive been to you city on several occasions, and there is nothing there that can hold a flame to the beauty, and majesty of Canada’s west coast. It’s why it is considered to be one of the most beautiful places on earth by people from all over the world, and why it has consistently placed I the top three most livable places on earth for the past 15 years.

    1. Read the comments above regarding’s Edmonton’s park.

      Stanley Park has not always been in the state it is now. It was clearcut at one point.

  16. Oh yeah one more interesting fact… Stanley Park is unique in that it is a part of a rare ecosystem. Namely the most northern rain forest in the world which extends from Richmond, to Squamish and the entire of Vancouver island.

  17. Kim, I am confused at your hostility towards Stanley Park and Vancouver in general. Any rational adult person knows that people can be ignorant therefore information shared regarding for example the size of an urban park could be wrong. Also we know that not everything we see on tv is correct, same goes for websites. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume the website you have retrieved your inaccurate information that has erked you so much was not a city of Vancouver website or a government of Canada website or any legitimate source. So please for the sake of us all, lose the attitude. It’s not becoming of a mother of two, and let’s be frank, it’s not very Canadian.

    1. “I am confused at your hostility towards Stanley Park and Vancouver in general.”

      Hostility?

      “I am going to go out on a limb here and assume the website you have retrieved your inaccurate information that has erked you so much was not a city of Vancouver website or a government of Canada website or any legitimate source.”

      Inaccurate in what way? Are you saying the park sizes I have listed are incorrect? If so, please feel free to point out the actual sizes.

      “It’s not becoming of a mother of two”

      In that case, it’s a good thing I am neither hostile nor a mother of two.

      1. Correction mother of four. I apologize.

        I am referring to where or who informed you that Stanley Park is the largest urban park in North America. I was born and raised in Vancouver and I would never claim Stanley Park the largest in NA. I feel blessed that I live in a beautiful province but would never boast or claim my superiority over others.

        And for the record, your tone on every comment is hostile.

        1. “Correction mother of four. I apologize.”

          Nope. I’m not a mother of four.

          “I am referring to where or who informed you that Stanley Park is the largest urban park in North America.”

          Various people. At the time I wrote the post—notice it’s nine years old now—the claim was on the Stanley Park website. Their claim now is that it is North America’s third largest urban core park.

          1. I guess I can consider myself ignorant to assume Kim was a female name. I should know better… but thanks for being so helpful as to clarify that for me.

            “Amazing how people love to spread falsehoods without verifying their accuracy.”

            Despite the age of the post I am still confused as to why the innocent misrepresentation of information caused such a flurry. The original post makes it sound like people were spreading malicious rumors. You seem to have been the only one wounded by the claim though I’m sure they have healed since then.

            I actually came across your post because I am currently living in New York temporarily and I was doing my research on urban parks and who had the largest and where Vancouver stood in the rankings. I was so struck by the tone of the article that I honestly became curious what would bring it about.

            Clearly you are still passionate about accuracy of information. Hopefully the Vancouver parks board can manage to steer clear of your critical eye.
            God Bless.

  18. As the webmaster of the website that started this whole thing, “I can’t believe how this page has grown. I can’t believe what a can of worms I opened by bragging about Vancouver’s most beautiful tourist attraction.”
    Let me add some fuel to the fire.
    Franklin Mountains Park in El Paso, TX
    “Texas has mountains?”
    That reminds me of my visit to Bear Mt. in Dawson Cr. or Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba.
    A rose by any other name……………….

  19. There is a Misconception that ALL of stanley park was clear cut. That is 100% false. Some sections were clear cut yes, but come on Kim if it had been clear cut 100% then how would you explain cedar trees there that are 500+ years old? Vancouver was not settled 500 years ago

  20. Clear cut logging was a safety measure that was brought in by the WCB (Workers Compensation Board). Neither; clear cut logging, or the WCB existed, until long after Stanley Park became a park which further logging.

  21. Did anybody notice that Kim posted his 1st comment at 3 Oct,2003? Let’s keep discussing it till 02 Oct,2013 ( if 21 Dec,2012 will not be the end of the worl like some people said) lol

  22. What happens on Oct 02, 2013?

    BTW, Lethbridge is only slightly better than Calgary. Who cares if Stanley Park is the Best or the Largest..etc..etc… The people who live there love it, and probably think it’s the best in the world, and I think it would be too if not for the Tourists, but I guess they want to see the park because someone lied to them and said it was the 3rd largest Urban Park in NA, subjective at best.

    Regardless of when the orignal post was made, poster should do your own research and not rely on others claims, I agree that Stanley is not largest even in BC, Someone mentioned Pacicific Spirit Park. Perhaps you should’ve amended your origninal post. Weird that no one commented until 4 years after the original post. Is that when Google took off? and your blogs suddenly became searchable?

  23. I thought Edmonton had the largest urban park at over 18,000 acres? Unless you are talking about developed parks

    1. you are correct Carl… and in all honesty, Edmonton is home to one of the most beautiful and natural parks I have seen in my 40-some years. The fact that I could walk for 8 hours and not see the same thing twice is amazing to me and you can find areas that are downtown that have almost no visibility of an urban skyscape.

      While I love Stanley park and sitting on the seawall for lunch, I could never live there again for all the rain and cloudcover. I do seriously miss the mountains though.

  24. The spectacular Dundas Valley Conseration Area, an UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, is entirely located within the recently-amalgamated city of Hamilton, Ontario. It has an area of 1200 hectares or close to 3000 acres. It’s about a 15 minute bike ride from the urbanized part of Hamilton, along the Hamilton-to-Brantford Rail Trail.

  25. Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg comes out slightly bigger at 1,100 acres, and though it is not in the centre of the city, it is definitely an ‘urban’ park (of which about 2/3 is natural forest).

    If Bombardier ever gave up the airport at Downsview, I’d imagine Downsview Park in Toronto would rise to at least near the top of that list.

  26. The Plaines d’Abraham here in Quebec City are 2500acres… and it’s right in the city, the city bus drives one block away…….. so why is it not mentionned on this list?

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