New downtown Vancouver park gets First Nations "Rainbow" park name

Jun 17 2022, 9:28 pm

The brand new downtown Vancouver public park that has long been referenced by its street ordinates now has a new First Nations name.

Smithe and Richards Park is now known as sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7 in the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Squamish languages, meaning “Rainbow” park. The dedication was made during a special ceremony today.

The Vancouver Park Board worked with the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations on establishing a new name, which was selected because the park site was previously “a marsh where the sun and mist would form rainbows.” Moreover, the name is also a nod to the area’s LGBTQ history.

“The rainbow is about sharing and being together, and because of the colours that it brings together, the whole concept of that neighbourhood in the sense of its diversity of people from all the different ethnic groups. The rainbow is a bridge: a vision that comes and goes but also brings us all together,” said Larry Grant, an elder and the interim manager of language and culture for the Musqueam Indian Band.

smithe richards park april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

rainbow park vancouver april 30 2022

“Rainbow” Park at the intersection of Smithe and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver, as of April 30, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

In recent years, the Park Board has elevated reconciliation into its main governance priority, going as far as considering the “co-management” of public parks with the local First Nations in the future. It is also working with local First Nations to pilot a new consultation and naming process for public parks.

“We commend the Vancouver Park Board for working with us to name this park in both Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Snichim and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓,” said Ann Whonnock with the Squamish Nation.

“The new place name will remind people that they’re on our traditional territories and help them to learn more about our languages and cultures. We look forward to continuing working with our partners to restore more Coast Salish place names in our territories.”

To commemorate the park’s new First Nations name, the inaugural public art installation on the skyframe structures that hover high above the elevated walkway is designed by three Indigenous artists representing each First Nation.

Later this summer, a new “playground leader program” will offer free drop-in arts, cultural, and recreational programs for children, youth, and their families to celebrate and honour Indigenous cultures.

rainbow park vancouver april 30 2022

“Rainbow” Park at the intersection of Smithe and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver, as of April 30, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

Inside the Kafka cafe at Smithe-Richards urban park. (Cody Briggs)

The park is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Smithe Street and Richards Street, on an 0.8-acre lot previously used as a surface parking lot.

The park first opened to the public on April 29, 2022. The pavilion building on the Smithe Street side of the park contains public washrooms and a cafe unit with Kafka’s in the Park, which opened in early June.

Unlike most public parks in the city, this park is not the typical cookie-cutter green lawn park space, with a cost of $14.5 million — largely covered by the community amenity contribution of the nearby TELUS Garden development.

The park’s unique features have made it quite the hotspot, with children often seen clamouring over the custom-built, three-storey playground and playing in the plaza’s water feature. People of all ages have also been seen using the trampoline and hammocks installed onto the floor of the elevated pathway.

rainbow park vancouver april 30 2022

“Rainbow” Park at the intersection of Smithe and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver, as of April 30, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

rainbow park vancouver april 30 2022

“Rainbow” Park at the intersection of Smithe and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver, as of April 30, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

rainbow park vancouver april 30 2022

“Rainbow” Park at the intersection of Smithe and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver, as of April 30, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

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