Glenbrook Ravine Park is a nice little park nestled between residential complexes in New Westminster. British Columbia’s oldest public park, it’s a combination of manicured and wild. You can access the park either at its lower end off Jamieson Court, or from its upper end off Glenbrook Drive, or from the middle off Blackberry Drive. The whole trail is about one kilometre long.
The lower section of the park holds the Glenbrook Park Amenities Centre, a small pond that has ducks, fish, and turtles, and a good collection of flower beds. You can even get a little bit of learning from the old bell from the old BC Penitentiary, if you’re so inclined.
Walk uphill from there, and the best part of the park awaits. Just past the manicured park, up on the left side of the hill, there are remnants of the BC Penitentiary cemetary. Unfortunatly you can’t get there from the ravine; the access looks to be blocked off by townhouse and condo complexes (I’ll try to figure this out soon!). At the first fork, take the right path and you’ll quickly come to a daisy-filled meadow — an ideal spot to have a picnic or play bocce with the kids!
This section is the most disappointing to me, as one bank of the hill is entirely covered with invasive Himalayan blackberry — good for picking but horrible for the native plants. I hope that cleanup and restoration of this section is on NWPCR’s radar.
Take the left path from the fork and you’ll continue up through more natural forest. Look for salmonberries and skunk cabbage! This is the quietest part of the park — you’ll hardly hear the native New Westminster fauna. This is one of the best places in New Westminster to get away from the noise. Yes, you’re not truly away from it all, but there aren’t many places in New West that are this peaceful (Lower Hume Park is probably the only other). You’re not going to spend days here reconnecting with nature, but it’s a short bus-ride from downtown, so you didn’t have to spend hours in a car getting here either.
When you’re nearly to the top, on the left side there’s a stone riverbed coming down the hillside. This is where some local history took place back in 1907. Billy Miner, train robber extraordinaire, robbed a train near Kamloops in 1906 and was captured shortly after that by the Royal North-West Mounted Police. He was sentenced to 25 years in the BC Penitentiary in New Westminster.
On August 8, 1907, two boys were swimming in the creek just upstream from the stone riverbed when a man came to them from downstream. He told the boys that they didn’t see anything, asked them what they’d say if anybody asked (they said “nothing”), wished them a fine day, and continued on upstream. Minutes later the escape bell at the Pen rang out — Billy Miner had escaped.
(I first heard that story from a Jane’s Walk given by Dale Darychuk two years ago. With luck he does the Jane’s Walk again in 2016!)
The trail exits through switchbacks onto Glenbrook Drive, or earlier on up stairs to Blackberry Drive. It’s much nicer to just double back and enjoy the park all over again!