Parks of Prince George
by Jasmine Kirk
Prince George has been called “the armpit of BC” by many (most famously, by the radio station Rock 101 in Vancouver in 2010), assumedly for the delightful mill smell that settles in the bowl early on weekday mornings. An “urban dictionary” search of Prince George gives the town uglier titles, and longstanding residents of Prince George always seem to be complaining about the town. Why though, are these residents still living here? Prince George is akin to a geode – it may seem ugly and boring on the outside, but when you spend some time cracking into the center, it reveals a complicated and beautiful center. Or perhaps Prince George could be compared to warhead candies – the first impression is sour and really, really close to being horrible, but when you work your way into the sweet delicious center, it becomes worth the acid-burnt tongue when you reach the sweet syrupy center. I digress; we can all admit that Prince George is kind of crappy upon first impression. The best part about it, and perhaps the most underrated, however, is the city’s parks and green spaces, which university students (when only here for a year or four) often miss out on. For a town of 71 000 people, the city offers over 1500 hectares of park and recreational space – just make sure you keep an eye out for moose and coyote, and wear some bear bells to keep away unwanted visitors. Go check out some of these remarkable parks:
Ginter’s Meadow: Ginter’s is one of two in-town designated off-leash dog parks, but you do not need to concern yourself with a dog to enjoy the park. You can enter from two parking lots – at the end of Massey Ave or the end of Ferry Ave, and the park stretches between these streets, all the way up the hill to the university. There are two smaller hills that can be walked, and take about 20 minutes each at an easy pace, or you can go for the long haul, and hike up to UNBC – it takes about 30 minutes to get to the top. The beautiful meadow is capped with a ruined mansion, once owned by Ginter himself. Ginter’s Meadow is especially great to see in autumn, and you will love the community feeling as you stop to chat with all the dog walkers.
Forests for the World: FFTW is a spectacular trail network that runs around Cranbrook Hill. I like to start behind Blue Spruce Campsite on Hwy 16 (it is only about six kilometers to UNBC from there), but there are beginning points from behind UNBC (the road behind the daycare will take you right there), or from atop Cranbrook Hill. There are some great features to look for; if you are feeling up to a hiking scavenger hunt, see how many water towers you can find, stand atop the lookout, and find the natural rock wall with a homemade campsite on top. In the winter time, a great cross-country ski day trip can take you from UNBC to Otway (the Nordic Ski Club), and in the summer it takes about an hour to walk around Shane Lake. Yes, you can go to Shane Lake and appreciate beavers and swans in the daytime, and you are not required to stumble back to Res in the dark!
Cottonwood Island Nature Park: This is a favourite, but only for about nine months out of the year. The other three months of the year it is almost completely underwater, or covered in mud. You can get to Cottonwood from River Road – just go west on First Avenue downtown, and turn left before the bridge. There are beavers aplenty, and the view of the river is amazing. Cottonwood is very pretty in the summer, and is frequented by professional photography sessions year round. Make sure you check it out before everything melts!
LC Gunn Park: LC Gunn has a bad reputation, but it holds an amazing view of downtown Prince George. If you are in town for any fireworks events, definitely check them out from LC Gunn. Following First Ave westward, LC Gunn is the first right turn after the bridge. It has multiple viewpoints, from which you can hear activity at Fort George clearly across the Fraser. There are bike trails that go up the hill – they make for a great hike up, and the ride down will give you a super adrenaline rush.
Moore’s Meadow Nature Park: Moore’s used to be a glacier (that’s right, Prince George can get pretty damn cold). This makes it the perfect spot to go in the winter time. The meadow is at the bottom of Foothills, just before the river. Trails around the meadow make for a lovely hike, and the meadow is another designated off-leash dog area, with rolling grassy trails spotted with geocaches. Head down in the early evening on a hot day, and Moore’s might surprise you with an ethereal chilly mist that hovers just above the grass line around twilight.
Prince George can be more than just a stinky mill town, and if you head into the woods and enjoy some of these parks, you may be able to learn some of the other features of the town all on your own. There are hundreds more; for a list of smaller parks in your area, check out the “parks” page on the City of Prince George website. Hiking around town is a great way to shed some of that university burnout, and it is not uncommon to see students sitting in a city park with their heads down, getting some reading done as they enjoy the refreshing outdoors.