The Stanley Park Children's Farmyard: McCardell's Lament

Post by Mike Klassen in


GlobalTV's Mike McCardell on the final days of the Stanley Park Petting Zoo

Governments have to make tough decisions sometimes. The Vancouver Park Board decided to strike down two facilities in 2009 – the Bloedel Conservatory and the Stanley Park Petting Zoo (aka Children's Farmyard).

The former facility had a rousing campaign to save it thanks to a number of passionate supporters, and lo and behold, the facility is reporting a 33% increase in business for 2010. While they're still not out of the woods, the Bloedel Conservatory is now marketing itself and attracting back patrons.

The Stanley Park Petting Zoo didn't seem to get a similar reprieve. While financial sponsors appeared, the Park Board didn't seem to think that anyone would be able to give the venue enough lift to keep it viable. Could an aggressive campaign of marketing for the Zoo at large attracted back fans of the facility? Could a membership drive perhaps worked?

Perhaps predictably the staff of the zoo, the most passionate advocates of these little animals are forbidden to talk publicly. Not many of us can afford to risk the wrath of our employers.

We won't know because the facility is now shut down. GlobalTV's Mike McCardell knows how to play the heartstrings of viewers, and his latest story linked above is more good work. We thought we'd share Mike's lament.

- post by Mike


I was under the impression proper, for-ever homes would be sought for these animals.

Not just anyone with a farm who wants to take them and for whatever reason and fate.

This is sad. These animals are being evicted from their home and everything they know. They are more 'pets', domesticated, than wild stock.

I can't believe the City can't come up with the money to run this.

Children last, bike lanes and offices renos first.

I'm with Max on this - plenty of cash for bike lanes no cash and no heart for children and animals. Is this the type of City Vancouver wants to be?

Soon Vancouver voters will have an opportunity to evict current Parks Board members. Can't be too soon.

@ bobh


The sad thing is - the irreversible damage that can/will be done between now and then.

The farm has been around and been enjoyed since 1982. This closure doesn't only effect Vancouver residents, but everyone who ever visits Stanely Park.

And ONE term with Vision and it is gone.

A sad legacy.

I visited the farmyard on its last day. It was sad but the only real downside was the presence of Chairman Jasper, Presumably he paid full ticket price rather than insisting on a discount like last year at the Bloedel.

The decision by Mr MacKinnon, Mr Robertson and Ms Woodcock to support Vision on this was a great disappointment. Claims that the structure is in poor condition are self evidently wrong, it's actually in remarkably good shape for its age. No granite countertops, of course, but animals generally seem happy enough to be warm, dry, fed and in familiar surroundings. If their final fig leaf of respectability falls away, and the animals are not dispersed properly then it will be a very shameful thing for them all.

I can't help but feel that the real reason for the closure is hinted at in an e mail I received from Mr MacKinnon, ".. the concept of the Farmyard, popular at one time no longer is relevant." Well, that is not the experience in so many other cities where urban farms provide city dwellers, particularly children, with contact with the domestic animals on which we depend, contact they would never otherwise have except shrink wrapped in the chiller cabinets of our supermarkets.

Of course there is still the Sihota "community farm" on East Hastings Street. Receiving a tax subsidy more than the sum supposedly needed in Stanley Park, but displaying nothing but a motley selection of artificially irrigated vegetables under plastic tunnels, which can only be seen through ten foot high permanently locked chain link fencing. Somehow it doesn't charm the children as much as a baby goat trying to eat their dad's shoelaces!

All very sad, and summing up to me so many of the misplaced priorities of our civic government.

Aaron Jasper in several interviews lately has mentioned perhaps the farm area would become a Bike Hub. I assume he meant an area to rent bike's.

Very sad indeed for the little educational opportunity lost.

@David Hadaway. You have reminded me of the issue we covered just over a year ago regarding the commercial space resulting in six-figure tax breaks for the Sahota landlords.

When I made inquiries with BC Assessment they were very clear. These reassessments of their property from commercial to "park" only happens if that property is available to any member of the general public. I suspect that the fencing around the property might mean that the property is not really park space anymore, and not qualifying for those huge tax breaks.

I'll make some calls to see if that is accurate.

Park board spending 150k to fix up beaver lake.

See, they do care. Helping the poor beavers. No love for animals indeed (and children! lol)

I read that they are entertaining the idea of turning this into a 'bike hub'.

Personally, I am sick to the eye teeth with everything in this city being about bikes.

And I will openly state this. Even though I support the NPA, I will be hard pressed to vote for Ian Robertson next go around.

I hope the NPA has someone else on their parks board slate/

Morning boohoo,

I'm wondering how your point equates to the topic of the petting zoo and children. Could you elaborate.

To me it seems as if you're trying to compare apples and oranges. The job of Parks Commissioners is to take care of park land..

Hi - I'm new here. Perhaps the Vision-dominated Park Board thought the zoo would be a good place to house the homeless chickens! That way they can keep the highly-paid municipal staff employed.


Previous posters were stating how the Parks Board/City has no cash or heart for children and animals, how it affects every person who visits the park, how an educational opportunity is lost, etc...

I'm pointing out how they are spending money on the park, for the animals, for the future enjoyment of all who visit the park, etc...

Max--tell that to my neighbourhood where they are currently expanding Knight Street with left turn bays, installing letdowns for wheelchairs/peds at my intersection, etc... No cycling infrastructure in sight!

This little tidbit showed up as a link in the Georgia Straight yesterday.

I found it interesting the priorities we will be voting on come next November.....

The Capital Plan is the principal funding source for major Park Board construction projects. The Plan covers a three-year period and identifies specific work projects that will improve parks and recreation services in the city of Vancouver. The Park Board is also responsible for all street trees within the municipality.

The Park Board's Capital Plan serves three basic purposes:

* To renew and enhance the existing Park Board assets (more than 200 parks and 200 buildings);
* To improve services to meet the changing leisure needs of the population (e.g. providing areas for Tai Chi and for skateboarding); and
* To expand services to meet the needs of a growing population (e.g. new parks and larger community centres).

The Park Board's Capital Plan is divided into four main categories:

* Parks
* Land acquisition for new parks
* Facilities (community centres, pools, rinks, etc.)
* Street trees

City Council approves a Draft Capital Plan that will be put to the voters on Saturday, November 19, 2011.

As part of the development of this Draft Plan, the Park Board, along with all other City Service Groups, forwards capital plan submissions to City Council for consideration. The date for Park Board approval of the submission package to be forwarded is yet to be announced.

The Park Board is currently accepting submissions from the public on project proposals that will help inform the development of the Park Board's submission to the 2012-14 Capital Plan. The deadline for submissions from the public has been extended to January 28, 2011.

Agreed David. The Children's Farmyard is not just an important, but an essential urban educational facility. I spent many happy hours there with my son in the 80's and 90's. I know 1st hand what kind of connections he made with those beautiful animals.

once the City gets its priorities back on track next year, perhaps the Farmyard deserves a 2nd look.

Thanks boohoo,

I guess for me it is sad that a petting zoo where kids can go with parents, or grandparents and pet the animals for an inexpensive outing and opportunity for conversation and interaction.... I loved taking my grandchildren there... kind of hard to pet a beaver....

Oh my, why is there no delete button!!!

There has always been an odd smell about the closure of the farmyard. Whether to do with misguided 'animal rights' agendas or other intended uses for the site it's hard to be sure. Here's how they do it elsewhere - with free admission!

I'm also going to give a plug for Newcastle, England's northernmost city and my birth place. Check out some of the other photos on the first blog, you might be surprised, and put it your visit list if you are ever in the UK!

david hadaway,

what a great petting zoo... thanks for these photo's... we really should have tried to save our petting zoo...

Perhaps you are right a second look just might be in order...

remember Vision's attempt to put a garden on the grassy slopes of English Bay? They had money for that - and had the gaul to insist that only those who were recent immigrants or had completed a 'sensitivity course' on homosexuality and cross gender lifestyles would be allowed to plant veggies.
Why is there no end of money when it is one of Vision's whacky ideas but zero for something that might actually be enjoyed by everyone?
How much did they spend on the backyard chicken bill of rights and homeless chicken shelter? How much has really been spent on the nearly vacant bike lanes?
Closing this zoo is a very very sad day for Vancouver and one more black eye for Gregor and his fellow nutters in the VISION party.

David Hadaway,

I would also like to remind you and everyone else who reads this that there is still a municipal petting zoo/children's farm (with admission by donation) supported by the City of New Westminster in Queen's Park. It is only open from Victoria Day to Labour Day, but still, it reminds me of why I love the well-managed City of New Wesminster over that of yuppy-and-crackhead-filled, partisan Vancouver!


Why can't these animals be moved there instead of being offered up to farms??

Has the Parks Board even looked at this option?


You know what I heard? They were going to take them to Quadra to sacrifice them for the cycling gods. Each goat is worth one sucessful trial bike lane, each sheep worth some good press and one duck per hundred new cyclists.

There's a long-standing one in North Vancouver as well:

I think it's a sham(e) that Vision Vancouver couldn't find the money to save this component of the Stanley Park experience.


Here is a quote from an e mail I received from Loretta Woodcock, after she explained why she 'could not in all good conscience" support retaining the farm.

"My priority became the animals being re-located to decent homes in family groups."

It is scarcely possible to believe that they might not live up to this most basic responsibility.

What the farmyard really needed was marketing and signage. I am very familiar with Stanley Park and had trouble finding it. There are signs for everything else in the Park - except the farmyard. I was told that staff recommended increasing signage countless times to the city and Park Board, yet nothing was done. In 2009 when the pending closure was first announced, there were advocates of the farmyard offering substantial money to help offset the cost of the petting zoo, but they were turned down. If you want people to visit, they need to know how to get there! Market it, and they will come.


Her statement sounds leads me to believe this was not solely a financial decision.

And not allowing employees to speak freely, is an embarrassment to all those involved in this decision. It is shameful.

I wonder if the realize how much stress they are causing these animals by evicting them from their home. I wonder how many will hit depression and or die.

It happens with dogs and cats that end up at the SPCA or shuffled to another home after being part of a family - and it will happen to these animals as well.

No worries, for mere chicken feed the city can produce and distribute a tourist map of our urban coops.

Sorry Gerry,

But from what I've read, they've cocked that up too.


Well, seeing as I'm quoting other people I may as well quote myself. This is from an e mail sent to all members of the Parks Board on 3rd January 2010.

1. How do you intend taking these animals out of their accustomed environment following closure?

2. What mortality rate are you projecting?

3. What steps are you taking to reduce this as far as possible?

4. What are your plans for the eventual dispersal of the animal collections at both the Conservatory and Farm?

You'll not be surprised to hear I got no reply! In fact it may be that the Bloedel survived in part because of the realisation of the certainty of massive mortality among its bird population upon relocation. Dead parrots are one thing in a Monty Python sketch, quite another on TV news in an election year. The assumption will be that farm animals are more robust and less telegenic. How true that is remains to be seen.

If I may add one more thing. Canada's animal welfare laws are a disgrace to a modern country. I'm not a sentimentalist and enjoy a good steak as much as anyone but educating people, particularly children, to understand our responsibility to sentient creatures, especially those we consume as food, is to my mind an essential part of a truly civilised society.

Some of the people responsible for this closure may think they have acted from honourable motives but that makes them no less responsible for bad consequences.

Stanley Park Animal Farm or how my kids loved to call it, the Petting Bunnies.
been there for 30 years. before that for about two decades was the Stanley Park Zoo (correct me if I'm wrong).
Then, in 2008 here come these self entitled Visionaries and in a matter of years took it away, from all the kids and their families. Bastards! Once destroyed it will never come back. And they know it. This punk Robertson, has the dough to redecorate his offices or built underused 'trial' bike lanes. Sure, screw the kids. Other generations will have to fight back the corrupt, incompetent politicians of their day. When my seven years old asked me where are all these animals going to go I said 'To the Animal Heaven'. That's exactly the kind of 'Heaven' I want Aaron Jasper, Gregor Robertson ,Patti Bachus (gee, I just remembered this one, they almost got our schools too!) and their entire Vancouver Vision bunch to go. DESPICABLE!

Mia, the Zoo dates back to +/-1892. It had it's origins because of Stanley Park's 1st Ranger (then became Superintendent, now General Manager), Henry Avison who had a strong affection for animals. Constriction began in the location adjacent to the Aquarium in 1912.

It suffered from it's beginning from a lack of space. When I was on the Board in the 70's we questioned it's continued existence and it was finally retired in the 90's.

I am not usually a Mike McCardell fan, but this is a lovely piece.

I used to work at the Children's Farmyard. I have known Brandi the pony since she was born and her parents before her. The donkey is named after my sister.

The zoo needed political commitment, community support and a goodly sum of money to keep it going. As has been pointed out, it was never marketed. It was always second best to the main zoo, and then the train. You could hardly notice it there even when at the train. The buildings and displays are definitely in need of refurbishment.

I have mixed feelings about it closing. With support and imagination it could have been a wonderful community resource but if it was just going to be left in the woods to fall into disrepair, then put it out of its misery.

The process has begun to find the animals homes. Some may find homes better than what they have now. Some may not.

I just know that I will be heartbroken when it ends and I will always miss my animal friends. I will treasure my memories of my time with them. May every one of them be treated with love and kindness, wherever they go.

And BTW, I commute by bicycle year round and I love the new bike lanes.

Karen, your comment is pile of the best quality manure dear! Reverse crap psychology at work. Your 'compassionate' tone is so lame and fake it can be seen from the Moon. It's because people like you, with 'mixed feelings' that this amenity was terminated. I hope that the new Biking Rental replacing Children's Farm will be able to provide you with a bike good enough to get you the hell out of this moronic city. On one your $$$ favorite bike lane, of course. BTW,FYI New Westminster Petting Zoo is admission FREE (by donation) still there for all the kids and their families to enjoy.

Wow, what a vitriolic outburst. What did I ever do to you? Some anger management might not go amiss.

Sorry darling! I've read Higgins comment...and yours. You didn't see it coming? How come? Read your post again, hon. Ta-da for now.

Well I certainly don't know what I said to warrant a load of abuse from someone who doesn't know me.

Sorry I didn't jump on the Gregor and bike lanes bashing bandwagon,but the neglect of the farmyard started long before either of them came along. In Feb. 2004 a Province newspaper appeared with a headline announcing the closure of the Children's Farmyard. Since then, if not before, the city has not wanted to put any money into the place because they didn't know what they wanted to do with it.

As I said, with some thought and imagination, it could have been a great little facility. How could it not make money in the middle of Vancouver's #1 tourist destination? But it was never promoted in any way. My main feeling as an employee was that we were hidden in the woods and forgotten. Even a few feet from the place, most people didn't even know it was there.

Maplewood Farm, run by the District of North Vancouver, had a facelift a few years ago and looks great. The staffing is organized differently there, with two full time people on year round and they are open every day of the year except Christmas. The farmyard was closed half of the year. The animals were there. Staff was there...but they were closed.

Another farm that I visited in Toronto had all kinds of involvement with the community--courses in one of the barns, outreach programs with youth, and as a result they had very strong community and political support.

There used to be a membership program when the Zoological Society were around, which promoted regular attendance by families,but when the main zoo closed down, that went. So many things could have been done to make the Children's Farmyard work. But now it is closed.

Believe me, no one could have loved that place more than me. No one could be more concerned about the animals finding good homes, because they have been like children to me. I wish things had been done differently but they weren't. It got very discouraging working in a place that I felt so passionate about but most didn't seem to care. I talked to management, union and two generations of Parks Board members to no avail. So all I can hope for now is that the animals find good homes. My heart goes with them.

Karen welcome! lol

You have to learn quickly here you either bash gregor/vision at any and all opportunities or you're a vision spy/shill scouring the internet in defense of your vision buddies.

Karen, your comments are heartfelt and informative. One of the Farmyard stakeholders is I believe, the Variety Club. They raised a good part of the cash to build the buildings. If they have not been brought into the discussion so far they should be. With your suggestions + others + Variety Club participation + a new operating model perhaps the Childrens' Farmyard could still have a future role to play.

Karen, do you think, if the playing field were levelled so it could function properly and was better managed, the Farmyard should reopen?

This is copy/ paste from facebook...PLEASE READ

Jamie Lee Hamilton
Please help if you can. I can't believe the Park Board didn't have contingency plans in place when they decided to close the petting zoo.
By: Roslyn Cassells

SORRY This is actual link...more info

by Roslyn Cassells on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 3:53pm



Please contact Peter Hamilton at Lifeforce if you can help home or foster any of the animals urgently needing homes due to the closure of the Stanley Park Petting Zoo in Vancouver, BC. Animal advocates are glad the "zoo" is closing due to numerous cruelty complaints, but have not been given enough time to locate decent homes and Peter is trying to get more time to ensure all animals are placed in homes and not sent to slaughter as has happened in the past.

The following species need your help: goats, sheep, pot-bellied pigs, miniature horse, Llama, rabbits, geese, ducks, and chickens. is Peter's email

Thank you for your help!

If this is accurate it is final proof of the idiocy of the people to whom Vision Vancouver listens. Peter Hamilton is a fanatical opponent of the children's farmyard, or "animal prison", describing its closure as a "victory for animals". Now, a little late in the day, he has apparently discovered the universal force of the law of unintended consequences.

Nonetheless, this needs to be followed up and I hope plenty of people will be bending the ears of our glorious leaders.

Thanks david hadaway for this information.

I had no idea, but being a pet owner/lover I found this distressing.

As well a valuable lesson, don't believe everything you read on Facebook...

I'm sure that everyone will be happy to know that the animals have found very good homes. I am pleased and the staff are pleased. Farmyard staff visited potential homes in the Lower Mainland and SPCAs checked on farms further afield. All is well, at least for the animals.

@Karen, thank you for that good news update!

Check out!

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