The City of Nanaimo has been blessed by Nature with a fantastic natural harbor and an abundance of wilderness resources found literally at the city’s doorstep. But Nanaimo is also fortunate that city planners, pioneering city councils and other philanthropic individuals saw to it that the city was always bedecked in an emerald necklace of parks dotted all across the community.
From the expanse of Westwood Lake Park with its namesake lake and its winding and rustic trail system, to the compact Pioneer Cemetery Park on Wallace Street, a serene tribute to those who first carved the community out of the unbroken wilderness. In fact there are more than 140 designated city parks and walking trails around Nanaimo, a wealth of quiet and well maintained getaways from the bustle of everyday life. One of the largest and best loved is Bowen Park.
One could almost describe Bowen Park as Nanaimo’s green heart as it is strategically located just off the city center. Encompassing 36 hectares (nearly 89 acres) the bulk of Bowen Park has deliberately been kept undeveloped. The park is noted for its rugged series of interpretive trails meander along the Millstone River, with the park’s pair of picnic shelters near the river bank being popular family picnic and recreation spots for generations.
Taking a leisurely stroll along the river leads hikers to a scenic waterfall and fish ladder. Further along visitors will find the expansive duck pond and its resident water fowl while the Park’s amazing rhododendron grove with its more than 350 different species has long been a popular place for photographers and horticultural enthusiasts for decades.
Other amenities at the park include an outdoor swimming pool (summer only), sports fields, curling club, outdoor lacrosse box, disc golf (discs can be borrowed at the park registration counter), tennis courts, horseshoe pitches, sand volleyball courts, two playgrounds, lawn bowling green and even an outdoor amphitheatre available for weddings and other private events.
The park was donated to the City of Nanaimo in 1918 by the Western Fuel Company of San Francisco under the condition the land would only be used for park purposes. Official land title registration for the property took place in 1931.
The Western Fuel Company had previously purchased the New Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company which was the corporate successor to the Hudson’s Bay Company, the entity that had originally cleared land on the site of the present city. The Western Fuel Company itself was in turn bought out in 1928 by Canadian Colliers Ltd., the corporate holdings of the Dunsmuir family.
Today the park can be accessed off of Bowen Road and along Wall Street with the Bowen Administration Office being located at 500 Bowen Road. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Bowen Park is a lush retreat from the stress of modern life and is a tribute to earlier generations who had to foresight to preserve so much of the city in its original state.