Removing Invasive Plants from Stanley Park

   Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Home   English Ivy   Blackberry  Lamium, Periwinkle, Laurel, Bindweed   Knotweed   Obstruction   

Self-Directed Volunteers Are Needed To Remove Invasive Plants From Stanley Park

Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, has most all the normal park amenities. But I love the large areas of relatively untouched western forests. The ever-changing seasons, plants and animals distract your mind from normal city-life worries. There is a set of regular users you soon recognize. The cool of its shade provides relief from summer heat. The gravel paths are soft on your joints. There are challenging hills to make you sweat and easy routes down. The trail system is so extensive that you can run for an hour without repeating any sections.

Stanley Park Invasive Plants - map of my responsibility for clearing of invasive plants

The 'wild-west park' I talk about in the rest of this website covers the area between the causeway and trail just inside the ring-road. Coloured orange in the map above. This is the area of western forest that is possible to clear of invasive. Although the wild sections of Stanley Park cannot be called pristine wilderness, they are very representative of western forests. They are as close to 'nature' as many park visitors will regularly get. This 'natural' habitat has been degraded by invasive plants.

Self-directed volunteers are needed to do the hard physical work of removing the invasive plants ... and the easy upkeep in subsequent years. My body is breaking down in more and more places as I age, so others must continue my work. There is no organized group whose objective is the effective clearing of invasives. Officially, SPES organizes outing, and there is no doubt that their volunteers wish to accomplish clearing. But SPES has sacrificed 'effectiveness' for 'social' and 'educational' benefits. DIY if you want to accomplish any clearing. You must be responsible for your own safety. Know the plants to be removed. Respect and protect the other bio-diversity. The following pages tell you everything I have learned about 'how-to' over the past decade.

Go Prepared

  • Long pants and sleeves. Boots or shoes with high ankles are better than low shoes for scrambling over slash.
  • Bend two pieces of cardboard and stuff them inside your socks, under your pants, to protect your shins in rough terrain.
  • Gardening gloves with strong rubber palms for gripping and pulling are essential. You will appreciated them keeping the dirt out of your nails.
  • Safety glasses are essential. Blackberry thorns are an obvious threat. Twigs poking your eye out when walking through woods might not be so obvious. Even when pulling up English Ivy, a sudden release of roots will send earth flying up.
  • X-large garbage bags hold your English Ivy plant pullings until you dump them at a compost pile. It is the small pieces left behind that will cause regrowth. The heavy-duty bag type will allow you to refill and empty many times. Any size or type of bag is adequate for removal of Lamium and Periwinkle. Any volunteer effort you see not using garbage bags is by-definition ineffective and a waste of time.
  • Basic tools are required. For English Ivy you need ... (i) Some stick, like the handle from an old pot with a hole in the end for a tether. Once you put it down it will be lost. Use it to free the soil around deep roots that don't pull up easily. (ii) A knife for cutting off tap-roots that cannot be pulled. I use a cheap Swiss Army knife that I don't mind getting rusty.
  • Tools necessary for Blackberry removal are ... (i) A hand cultivator - either 2 pronged or 3 pronged - to loosen and move aside the soil around the roots. (ii) A keyhole saw to poke into the soil and cut through any root that cannot be pulled up.
  • You do not want to walk through the woods with tools in your hand. It is guaranteed that you will trip. Your hands fly to break your fall ... right to eye level. And your grip will tighten. So you need some kind of belt on which you can holster the tools each time you walk.


  • Put DEET on exposed skin. Working in the woods exposes you to ticks. I am not aware that any have been reported in Stanley Park, but you don't want to be the first. Surprisingly mosquitos in spring have never been a problem for me.
  • Stretch before pulling. And don't work more than three hours. This can be hard work.
  • When moving through the woods keep aware of both long and short distances --- of the twigs two inches away from poking your eye, while looking for the tree ivy far into the woods.
  • You WILL fall back, hard, on your bum when Ivy roots suddenly release. Be aware of what is behind you. Angle away from hard rocks and pointy sticks.

Union Relations

Historically the relationship between volunteers and union employees was not discussed or clarified. The only document was an October 1998 "Volunteer Policy of Vancouver Parks Board". In 2018 there was another attempt to define a severely limited role for what they now call Park Stewards. During the a Parks Board Meeting of May 14, 2018 starting at minute 29 there was some added details.

  • Management feels they need the Union's permission before allowing volunteer work.
  • The frequency of volunteer work is a material factor for that permission.
  • Volunteer work cannot take away union work.
  • Since none of the union staff in Stanley Park are tasked with clearing invasives, they don't complain.
  • The union feels they should have paid staff working alongside volunteers.

A major problem with the union's stance is that when I wanted to donate cash to pay full union wages and benefits for clearing a specific area of English Ivy, neither Parks nor the union wanted any part of the idea. I don't believe they have any desire to add the hard work of clearing invasives to any job's description.


City Policy and Plans

Contact e-mail : IvyPull at Shaw dot ca

map of Vancouver city showing location of Stanley Park