Oct 5, 2015

Exploring Vancouver - Day 4 - Sunset Beach

Unlike previous days in Vancouver, we didn't head out on our day's exploration until the afternoon. We walked clear across Vancouver, from Downtown to Sunset Beach. It was the classic uphill there and back! And it was a HOT day. Getting to the beach, kicking off our shoes, and wading in the cool water was refreshing.

We walked on Thurlow passing the almost 3 acre Nelson Park. We spent some time admiring Arts & Crafts houses in the neighborhood.

On and off Thurlow we saw several examples of traffic calming gardens such as the one above. As part of its Green Streets program, the City pays for the first planting. Volunteers maintain the gardens and provide additional plants.

Thurlow is a residential street. We wanted to take a more dynamic route home, so we chose to return to the hotel via Burrard Street. I'm glad we did. We discovered the very large and verdant Davie Street Community Garden at the corner of Burrard and Davie, one of the West End's major intersections. The garden is on the site of a former Shell gas station. According to an article in The Georgia Straight, the property owner receives an annual tax break of $240,000 while the site is being used for non-commercial purposes.

We thought Day 4 would be the last time we spent in Vancouver on this trip but we returned to spend time on Granville Island after two days in Whistler. Stay tuned for our lake and mountain adventures in Whistler!

P.S. If you would like to read about how I spent my morning on Day 4 in Vancouver, read my review of afternoon tea at The Urban Tea Merchant.

Sep 30, 2015

What Washington Square Park Looked Like in 1609 (and today)

Image: Washington Square Park, 1609 (screen capture of Welikia map)

Wow! Look at Washington Square Park in 1609. Do you the think the sinewy line running into the "park" from the north is Minetta? I do. Look closely at the southwest corner of the site. The curvy line continues towards the Hudson though under tree cover.

This map is from the Welikia Project. What is Welikia?
We’re going beyond Mannahatta, launching the Welikia Project to encompass all of New York City, including the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and surrounding waters. Welikia Hear Welikia pronounced means “my good home” in Lenape, the original Native American language of the region.
The Welikia map has A LOT of information about wildlife that inhabited the site (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and plants), landscape features, and how the Lenape used the site in 1609. It's worthwhile to explore the map.

Here are a few details. Meadow vole and two species of mouse were the most likely mammals to live in the "park". Thirty species of birds were reasonably likely to be found on the site including common species from today: red-tailed hawk, blue jay, and American robin. Have you ever seen a snapping turtle, eastern painted turtle, redback salamander, bullfrog, or green frog in Washington Square Park? These reptiles and amphibians were more likely than others to inhabit the "park". The 47,212 square meter block area was likely populated with species from an oak-tulip forest. How would one identify an oak-tulip forest? The New York Natural Heritage Program provides the following clues.

Image: A young tulip tree in Washington Square Park (photo by Hubert J. Steed)

An oak-tulip tree forest would be a closed canopy comprised mostly of trees (greater than 80%), followed by shrubs 2-5 meters in height, and shrubs less than 2 meters and herbs, then vines and non-vascular plants. The canopy would be dominated by tulip trees and oak species (white, red, chestnut, and black). Other species would be red and sugar maple, sweet birch, American beech, and white ash. The sub canopy would include flowering dogwood, American witch-hazel, spicebush, and sassafras, with understory species of lowbush blueberry and maple leaf viburnum.

Image: Washington Square Park, today (screen capture of Welikia map)

Here's Washington Square Park and its surroundings now. What a big difference 406 years make!

For a live experience of the trees of Washington Square Park, use the WSP Eco Map at wspecomap.org!

Sep 29, 2015

Exploring Vancouver - Day 3 - Stanley Park and Chinatown

We filled our third day with two major tourist spots in Vancouver -- Stanley Park and Chinatown. The Aquarium is in Stanley Park so technically we had already visited the park but we wanted to see more of it. After all, I'm an urban forester! Here's a description of the park on the City of Vancouver website:
Explore the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoy scenic views of water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park's famous Seawall. Discover kilometres of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, great eats, natural, cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures. The park offers a wide range of unforgettable experiences for all ages and interests, including Canada’s largest aquarium.

August 10th was another overcast day and this one brought with it, rain. Thankfully the rain was light so we did not turn back. We walked along the lake, picking and eating blackberries and dodging Canada geese and their poop.

At the end of our stroll was Second Beach, and the tide was low.

We forwent time on the sand to explore the exposed tide pools. In contrast to our misty walk, the sun played peekaboo on the beach so we alternated between feeling cool and hot. The mercurial weather and all our explorations made us very hungry. We ate lunch at the concession. There weren't many fresh fruit options at the concession but fortunately, there was a berry stand set up nearby. We like BC cherries!

We tired after a full morning of walking. We weren't near a bus stop, and none of the taxis going past the beach on Stanley Park Drive were for hire, so we walked out to Beach Drive. The taxi driver's route took us through the main part of the West End. We had only seen the border it shares with Downtown. We napped at the hotel before setting off to see Chinatown.

I have a confession: I wanted to go to Chinatown to visit a specific tea shop. We didn't make it to The Chinese Tea Shop but we played at Andy Livingstone Park and watched large koi swim lazily at The Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park and the Classical Chinese Garden. Notice the dry and patch grass on the hill? The grassy areas in the parks in Vancouver were in poor shape during our visit. Also, all the water features were turned off. The city was in a drought and had instituted "Stage 3" water restrictions. Despite these conditions, we laughed rolling down the hill.

Catch up on our Exploring Vancouver series. And stay tuned for Day 4 on Sunset Beach!

Sep 28, 2015

Major Infrastructure Projects for Washington Square Park, Projected Timeline Summer 2015 - 2018

Two major infrastructure projects in and around Washington Square Park will begin soon, and last for up to 3 years. One is a three year water main replacement project.
Please be advised that on or around September 21st, 2015, The New York City Department of Design and Construction (NYCDDC) will begin an approximately three year water main connection project at Washington Square Park, weather and field conditions permitting. The purpose of this project is to replace water main connections at Washington Square Park. It will also involve catch basins, chute connections, Con-Edison gas work, curbs and sidewalk restoration, concrete base/asphalt roadway restoration and traffic work. It will also include amenities such as traffic and street lighting.
The liaison for the water main project is Bridget Klebaur, Community Construction Liaison, WashingtonSqPkCCL@gmail.com (Project ID MED608).

The other infrastructure upgrade, replacement of the park's perimeter sidewalks, is the final phase of the WSP Reconstruction project. Sidewalk replacement will begin at the western side of the park (McDougal Place). The projected completion date is August 2016. The project liaison is Steve Simon, steve.simon@parks.nyc.gov. Track the progress of this project.

Another source of information about both projects is the Non-NYU Projects Construction Page.

Sep 21, 2015

Exploring Vancouver - Day 2 - Vancouver Aquarium and Olympic Village

The Vancouver Aquarium was a treat! We are land and sea lovers (though two of us get queasy on boats) so it was a pleasure to stroll Stanley Park before and after seeing the sea life at the aquarium.

One of the highlights was the small jellies. It was mesmerizing to watch them propel their bodies, which are composed of mostly of water (96%), through the water. We made our visit at mid-morning to avoid crowds and we were rewarded with lots of hang time at all the tanks.

Can you tell that this octopus was fascinating?!

I like that the aquarium offers lots of ways to learn about the marine environment, both local (British Columbia) and far away. The aquarium has exhibits and galleries, shows, and activities, and staffed pop-up experiential displays. You can visit the aquarium in person or online via live cams and videos.  The Strait of Georgia exhibit in the Pacific Canada Pavilion was one of my favorites interior areas of the aquarium.

We didn't attend a live-animal show but we spent time watching the sea otters, penguins, and the ethereal beluga whales. (Find the beluga cam here.) It was synoptic to watch this large, milky-white creature move gracefully through the water.

After the Aquarium we returned to our hotel to eat and to rest before our afternoon excursion to the Olympic Village. Actually, we went to see the Food Cart Fest. I am a tea drinker and wanted to visit the Amoda Tea cart at the festival. There we ate popsicles and drank iced matcha lemonades. The lines for the hot food carts were too long for our crew. After refreshing ourselves, we wandered over to the small man-made island in False Creek. Dogs are not allowed on the island as it was created to serve as a wildlife sanctuary. We spent time on the pebble beach watching a couple on the mainland fly a drone and throwing sand and pebbles into the creek.

Between this end of False Creek and the Olympic Village SkyTrain station, we passed, obviously, the 2010 Olympic Village and the Telus Science World. We didn't explore either but we really liked a couple of the urban design feature of the Village such as the steps down to the water and the swivel seating on the boardwalk.

We were also fascinated by the audio-kinetic sculpture, Tower of Bauble, on the science museum's plaza. You can watch and listen to the sculpture here. We will have to return to Vancouver to give this museum its due. Read Day 1 here. And stay tuned for Day 3.

Sep 17, 2015

Exploring Vancouver - Day 1 - Vancouver Harbor

We made a work and play trip to Vancouver this summer. And we had a great time. We also visited Whistler. One of us needed a brand new passport. Congratulations on your first international trip, Little Sea! We flew from New York to Vancouver on a red eye. Luckily we all went back to sleep until a reasonable time in the morning. We started our stay in Vancouver with a low-key exploration of the Vancouver Harbor shoreline. This part of the city is all sky and water and mountains.

We saw lots of man-made signs of the nature of the city.

We played at Coal Harbor Park which you can think of as a green roof since it sits atop the Coal Harbor Community Centre. This is a new park; it was built in 2000. The total cost of the park, $1.5 million, was borne by Marathon Development Inc. and was a portion of the company's "community amenity contribution."

From Coal Habor we walked upland of the Seawall, admiring another wall. The Vancouver Seawall is "the world's longest uninterrupted waterfront path" at 28 km (approx. 17.4 miles)! Check out a map of the Seawall.

See that mass of green off to right in the photo above? That is the Vancouver Convention Centre, the site of another green roof. We spent most of our time watching the seaplanes, though. We ate lunch near the convention center followed by a nap at the hotel.
Want to learn more about the convention center's green roof? Watch Vancouver's 6 Acre Green Living Roof.

After nap, we headed out again, this time heading east through Gastown. We doubled back along the water to spend time at the beach in CRAB ("Create A Real Available Beach") Park. It was, I think, an off the beaten path first day. We started Day 2 at the Vancouver Aquarium. Stay tuned!

Sep 2, 2015

Washington Square Park Eco Projects Back to School Instagram Contest

WSP Eco Projects will host an Instagram contest with a different theme each month, September through December 2015.

The inaugural theme is "Back to School".

To enter:
- Photograph "back to school" activities you see in the park.
- Tag your photos with #wspecoprojects and #backtoschoolcontest.
- Follow @wspecoprojects.

Please tag your Washington Square Park, NYC tree-loving friends and followers! Thank you and good luck!

- The Back to School Contest is open until September 30 at 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
- The prize is a copy of New York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area by Edward S. Barnard (courtesy of Columbia University Press).
- The contest is open to residents of the continental USA only.
- The winner must respond within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.
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