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Top 5 Places to Experience Nature in Richmond

Submitted by on December 26, 2010 – 12:26 amNo Comment

by Joanne Sasvari
Tourism Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Special to Road Trips for Gardeners

Standing amid the cool modern architecture of Richmond’s urban city core, you might find it hard to believe that this is a paradise for outdoors lovers. But indeed it is. Richmond features some 90 parks and green spaces as well as 80 kilometers of trails to explore by bike or by foot. Best of all, as a series of islands embraced by the arms of the Fraser River delta and washed by the tides of the Strait of Georgia, it’s nice and flat, making even a long bike ride an easy one. And that’s good news for weekend warriors exhausted by the thought of scaling those majestic peaks towering to the north.

Here are the top five places to experience nature in Richmond.

1. Garry Point Park
12015 Seventh Avenue, Richmond
If someone tells you to go fly a kite, this wide-open, windy point near Steveston is where you’ll want to do it. More than that, though, the 30-hectare (74-acre) park offers spectacular views of the Fraser River and Southern Gulf Islands, making a great spot to watch the sunset or the boats chugging along the river or the shore birds hanging out nearby. It features sandy beaches, a fisherman’s memorial, great walking trails and terrific fish ‘n’ chips at Pajo’s. Garry Point is also conveniently close to the fishing village of Steveston, so from here it’s easy to get on the Heritage Trail, a five-kilometre (three-mile) path that will take you past some of the most historic sites in the Lower Mainland, including the famous Gulf of Georgia Cannery.

2. West Dyke Trail
Along Sturgeon Banks
As a low-lying area in a river delta, Richmond is surrounded by a series of dykes protecting it from encroaching waters. These raised, flat areas provide terrific trails for cycling and walking, with views of river, ocean, islands and mountains. One of the most popular is the West Dyke Trail, a 5.5-kilometer (3.5-mile) trail that links Garry Point Park and the Terra Nova Natural Area. Along the way, it passes the marshes and mud flats of the remarkable Sturgeon Banks wetlands, where you are bound to see a wide range of waterfowl such as tundra swans, snow geese and ducks, as well as all sorts of marsh birds, and even owls. Be sure to bring a picnic lunch and pair of binoculars.

3. Richmond Nature Park
11851 Westminster Highway, Richmond
One of the unusual features of Richmond’s geography is the bogs that once covered much of this low-lying land. Some 81 hectares (200 acres) of bog has been preserved as the Richmond Nature Park, where visitors can get a fascinating glimpse into a whole other world. Bog flowers, hummingbirds, owls, brilliantly colored foliage — this fragile natural area is constantly changing, constantly fascinating. Four walking trails meander through the area, including a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. An interpretive center offers interactive displays and a covered picnic area is a great place to stop and take a break.

4. Terra Nova Natural Area
West end of Westminster Highway
This area at the north end of the West Dyke Trail is a 35-acre ecological park that features native plants, viewing platforms, paths and a slough with a wide variety of wildlife. Still under development is a new addition, the 25.5-hectare (63-acre) Terra Nova Rural Park, which will fill the northwest quadrant of Lulu Island, Richmond’ s biggest land mass. Both are excellent spots to take in panoramic views of mountains, wildlife and water, as well as the action across the river at Vancouver International Airport. Plus, should you be tempted to cycle the entire 47.5-kilometer (29.5-mile) circuit around Lulu Island, this would be an ideal place to start.

5. Iona Beach Regional Park
Iona Island, adjacent to Vancouver International Airport
Iona Beach Regional Park is something of an anomaly. It’s located on Iona Island, which isn’t an island at all, but a peninsula way out past the airport. Although it appears to be in Richmond, it’s administered by Metro Vancouver. And unlike much of the rest of this tidal estuary, like, say Sturgeon Banks, it’s not marshland, but sandy beach protected by two jetties. That makes this a great destination for a sunny afternoon of kite flying, sunbathing or picnicking. Plus the 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) of flat, easy bike trails offer endless views. An even better reason to brave the drive across Sea Island to get here is to go star-gazing — Iona Beach is far enough away from the bright lights of the city to offer a spectacular view of the night sky.

For more information on Richmond parks, go online.

(Photo of Terra Nova Natural Area courtesy of Tourism Richmond)

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