Guide to Renfrew Ravine
Take a tour of this “jewel in the city” with us!
Renfrew Ravine is part of the Still Creek Watershed. Water from Still Creek flows into Burnaby Lake, which joins with the Brunette River, and finally enters the Fraser River in New Westminster. It is located in East Vancouver and runs along Atlin St. from East 29th to East 22nd Avenue. It is one of the only remaining above-ground streams in the City of Vancouver. Still Creek leaves its culvert (underground pipes) at 29th Avenue and flows through the ravine before re-entering a culvert to cross 22nd Avenue, reemerging in Renfrew Park.
The area surrounding the ravine was once forest and swampland, but a pattern of development gradually transformed the area from a vast wilderness into the small island of green space that exists today.
Logging began in 1905, and the result is a predominantly Cottonwood/Alder forest with an extensive undergrowth of invasive Himalayan Blackberries. Large Cedar stumps are the only remaining evidence of the once proud old-growth trees that stood in the ravine.
Today, the ravine is home to over 60 species of birds, as well as squirrels, raccoons, opossums, mice, rats, skunks, and coyotes.
The past few decades of ravine history have been marked by increased community involvement. Neighbourhood studies, semi-annual garbage cleanups, storm grate markings, lost streams murals, tree plantings, and public art installations have been undertaken to restore a badly abused creek and raise awareness for this unique “jewel in the city.”
Ravine Sanctuary Garden
This garden is located at the south end of Renfrew Ravine across the street from the 29th Avenue Skytrain Station, where Still Creek emerges from a culvert to flow through the ravine. Created in 2002 by artists Carmen Rosen and Jennifer Norquist, the Ravine Sanctuary Garden brought together Windermere Leadership and Early Career development students, Evergreen Foundation, and numerous community members, who helped cut stone and attended mosaic and garden workshops as they learned about the ravine. It features a pebble-mosaic fish swimming up a pathway, a center mosaic made from sliced semi-precious stone collected by local rockhound and ravine steward Grant McKay, and a wooden bench made by Tim Patterson with salmon carved by Interior Salish artist Gerry Sheena. Native plant species to support wildlife habitat.
The garden is the result of efforts of well over 200 individuals ranging in age from four to eighty-four. Several high school classes helped with designing the layout, landscaping, creating artwork for the signs, and installing birdhouses.
This space is a natural sanctuary in an urban environment, and acts as a gateway to the rest of the ravine, encouraging its use for walking or relaxation.
The labyrinth is located at 27th Avenue on the east side of the ravine. It was conceived in 2002 as a multicultural installation. Walking meditation is a part of many traditions, and respects the diversity of Renfrew-Collingwood. The labyrinth was constructed and is maintained by local residents and neighbours with generous help from local students.
A labyrinth differs from a maze because it has only one path which you follow into the center and then back out again. The 11-circuit design is in the same style as the labyrinth laid in stone in the Chartres Cathedral in France, and is based upon specific geometric ratios. The central rosette contains shards from the quarry that the cathedral was cut from.
This outdoor labyrinth allows you to enjoy the birds, trees, and the flowing water from the bottom of the ravine. People report leaving the labyrinth feeling relaxed, with a connection to spiritual and/or natural energies.
When walking the labyrinth, people usually wait until the person in front of them has reached the third turn (about a minute) before beginning. If you meet someone on the way, just step off your path onto another one and step back once they have passed. When you reach the center you can stay as long as you like. Some people like to take time before and after walking to reflect. Some walk around the outer circle while others sit still.
Please enjoy the labyrinth. After years of walking, the ground has become sculpted by the countless footprints: we would love it if you would add your own steps to the labyrinth’s history.
North Ravine Garden
Near the intersection of Renfrew Street and Boyd Diversion is the North Ravine Garden.
Created in 2006 and 2007 with lead artists Carmen Rosen and Jennifer Norquist, it involved hundreds of community members in the design and creation.
Featured are a native plant garden and a hand-made ferro cement Yin-Yang bench, surrounded by a 60 piece fish-themed tile mosaic. In some seasons, there is a good view of Still Creek running through the bottom of the ravine. In 2018, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation renovated the pathway to include stairs and a boardwalk to an old-growth Cedar stump which acts as a nurse log for new plants. Read more about the renovation of Renfrew Ravine and park here.
Dye Garden and Pollinator Meadow
Following the 2018 Park Board’s renovation of Renfrew Ravine Park, Still Moon Arts Society installed a Colour Me Local Dye Garden at the top of Renfrew Street at 24th Avenue. The Environmental Youth Alliance also created a pollinator meadow in the Spring of 2019.
These community gardens support pollinators, natural dye programs, and medicinal plant programs with Resurfacing History. It has plants that can be used to create a range of vibrant colours for dying natural materials such as cotton, linen, wool, and silk. Different parts of these plants can be used to create dyes, including roots, stems, bark, leaves, flowers, and fruits.
Once finished with the fourth installation, feel free to cross 22nd Avenue and follow the path along the creek, at stream level, through Renfrew Park. Mycelial Connections and Fruiting Bodies (2019) mushroom sculptures are along the pathways in Renfrew Park and at various times of year may be fruiting oyster mushrooms. Each autumn at the Moon Festival Renfrew Park is aglow with lanterns, art and music as the community celebrates the beauty and abundance of the natural world.
Much of Still Moon Arts’ work aims to continue the restoration and conservation of life in Still Creek. In addition, our goal is to provide an accessible means for the community to build their own connections to the stream and work towards meaningful community engagement with nature. Come check out the projects that we have done over the years to achieve these goals!
If you would like to take part in this journey of restoration for the ravine, find out how you can be involved with Still Moon’s ongoing environmental stewardship projects and activities.
The easiest way to access Renfrew Ravine is from the 29th Avenue Skytrain station. Leave heading north, cross 29th Avenue and enter the ravine via the Sanctuary Garden. Once finished, follow Still Creek down Renfrew Street to the Renfrew Canada Line Station located on Grandview Highway, where Still Creek also turns and flows east towards Burnaby Lake. Alternatively complete the tour in the opposite direction.