The Vancouver Park with the ‘Hobo Jungle’ Past

Shelter in the ‘Jungle’ at the City dump, 1931. CoV Archives, Re N3.2.

The area we now call Strathcona Park and Community Gardens was originally home to tidal flats, coniferous forest, and a stream estuary. In the 1910s, False Creek was dammed at Main Street and filled in for Great Northern Railway and Canadian National Railway use. This area of False Creek then became a combination of scrubby and swampy land with some open water. It was used as a cow pasture and city dump. For a short time during the Great Depression a so-called “Hobo Jungle” sprung up here, occupied by unemployed men (similar to “Hoovervilles” in the United States).

Homemade shelters in the ‘Jungle’ at the City dump, 1931. CoV Archives, Re N3.1

City officials destroyed the encampment in 1931 after a typhoid outbreak. The land was later employed as a military training field during World War II and as a city works yard in the 1960s before it was developed into the park we enjoy today.

When Strathcona Park ceased operations as a dumpsite, Vancouver’s garbage was diverted to the southeast corner of the city. The “Kerr Road Dump” was established in 1944 in Champlain Heights, one of the last areas of the City to be developed. Located on a parcel of land east of Fraserview Golf Course, this previously forested area was once home to a waterfall and a salmon-bearing creek that ran through a natural ravine. It was used as the City of Vancouver’s main landfill until 1966.

Images of the Kerr City Dump, 1960s. VPL, Special Collections – 41890, 44758, 47770

Though it was only in operation for 22 years, garbage accumulated up to 49 meters deep in places. Local residents lobbied hard to get the closed landfill converted into a green space. In 1987, the area was finally re-opened as a park and named for Everett Crowley, a long-time resident of the area who served as a Park Board Commissioner in the 1960s. After much conscious effort to restore the natural state of the land, 50 years later the park shows no signs of its former life as a landfill.

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