I never realized how big a part of me Stanley Park is until I was cut off from it. Having snored my way through the hurricane-force winds that tore through the park in January, I was not prepared for the carnage the first time I was confronted with it. An eco-terrorist could not have planned this better.
Like any sane Vancouverite, I ignored the yellow caution tape barring my entrance to the trails and followed my dog down a tunnel of crooked, groaning trees.
What was the worst that could happen?
I could get lost–which is exactly what did happen. Were it not for Lees Trail, I might still be out there.
Call it divine intervention or blind luck, but of all the trails, Lees survived the storm relatively unscarred–kind of like the French Quarter after Katrina, or Orlando, Florida after Gay Day at Disneyland. It was as if years of exposure to amyl nitrate had given the trees a resistance to hurricane-force winds.
The next weekend I returned to the park to discover a massive tree trunk barring my entrance to the trails. “I could have been under that,” I thought, and decided it might be a good idea to give the park a break.
The true miracle of the storm is not how few casualties there were but that some leather daddy was not found dangling from a tree by his Prince Albert. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are as many people living in the park as there are having sex in it–or as naturalists call it: flora and fauna.
Once the shock of the destruction wore off, the fear of how the park would change settled in. I had visions of some bureaucrat smacking his lips with glee at the prospect of getting rid of the gay.
Will the restoration of Stanley Park become just another in a series of efforts to homogenize the city?
The thing that is so special about Stanley Park is that you feel like you’re in Mayberry one moment and in Middle Earth the next. That, and guys who wouldn’t run me over with their SUVs on the street suddenly find me attractive on the trails with my dog. One of the most spectacular kisses of my life happened on Lees Trail: my head is spinning just thinking about it.
Now that the trails are passable again, the joggers, squatters, and fornicators are returning in droves. The debris cleared, you can actually see the trees for the forest. Despite the scars, the park is relatively unchanged, the storm not a testament to what was lost, but how much was there to begin with.