Boardwalk and the Beast: A Case Study in Assessing Park Health







EVSC 400


  • Tara Holland

City of Vancouver:

  • Dana McDonald

Student Team:

  • Amanda Wik
  • Christopher Chang
  • Gabi Trainor
  • Grant MacRobbie
  • Hyeju Lee


  • Climate Emergency Plan

City goal area:

  • Access to Nature


Spring 2020


Naturally Managed Areas (NMAs) are valuable to our city because they provide ecosystem services and outdoor recreation. With the inherent value of NMAs comes the need to determine their ecological health, so the Vancouver Parks Board can identify areas in good condition that require maintenance, and areas in poor condition that require restoration.

In an effort to better understand how Vancouver’s NMAs interact with the urban landscape, we created an Ecological Health Framework that is specific to the Vancouver region but also applicable to all the unique features of NMAs. Our framework includes six sections, each with their own methodologies: Vegetation, Tree Cover, Animal Habitat, Soil Quality/ Slope Stability, Water Quality, and Human Disturbance. A score of Poor, Fair or Healthy is assigned to each section, and an overall score is determined by weighing each section based on its value.

To test our framework, we applied it to a local NMA: Renfrew Ravine Park. This park is divided by a footbridge into a North and South section, which couldn’t be more different. The North (a beauty) is peaceful with a large boardwalk that passes through native plantings. The South (the Beast) in contrast is overgrown with invasive species and has only narrow trampled paths. For our case study, we assessed the South section and found the ecological health of the Beast.

Amidst the rising COVID-19 pandemic, we were only able to do the Water Quality, Vegetation and Human Disturbance sections. While we learned a lot about how to adapt our framework to be applicable for Parks Board staff, we also determined the health rating for each of these sections: Fair for Vegetation and Water Quality, and Poor for Human Disturbance. The overall Ecological Health rating for the South section was Poor, but we generated a number of recommendations to improve the health of Renfrew Ravine Park.

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