Ducks glide across a lake shaded by towering willow trees, while dragonflies buzz over the pathways like tiny, iridescent-blue helicopters. They’re almost as colourful as the multitudinous shrubs and flowers—roses, lilies, hydrangeas, and many more—that line the meandering paved trails like a walk-through kaleidoscope.

Richmond’s Minoru Park is an escape-from-it-all urban oasis that locals and visitors craving an outdoor respite beeline towards year-round. And although it’s relatively compact at 18 hectares (45 acres), this popular spot has more than enough attractions to keep you occupied for hours—starting with a slice of local history.

Trail and flowers
Minoru Park is a city oasis. | Photo: John Lee

History

There are entrances to Minoru Park from Granville Avenue, Gilbert Road, and Westminster Highway. But for a cool introduction to the park’s surprising past, consider arriving via Minoru Boulevard. That’s where you’ll find a detailed sculpture of the racehorse that gave the park its unusual name. Owned by King Edward VII, Minoru was a renowned Irish thoroughbred that won England’s prestigious Epsom Derby in 1909.

That same year, Richmond opened its new horseracing venue. Channeling the fondness for the world-famous equine, it was named Minoru Park Racetrack. With its large grandstand, the facility quickly proved popular with race fans. But it wasn’t only thundering hooves that lured the crowds. This was also the site of Western Canada’s first-ever airplane flight­­—a dramatic 1910 event cheered on by thousands of excited spectators.

Statue of Minoru
A statue of Minoru can be found in the park, near Minoru Boulevard. | Photo: John Lee

Minoru Park Racetrack’s popularity faded and the site closed after World War II. But that wasn’t the end of the story. In 1958, the Municipality of Richmond bought the land and Minoru Park 2.0 was launched, this time as a recreational facility for everyone to enjoy. And while there are still reminders of the park’s racetrack past—including heritage panels and large-format outdoor photos—there is also much more to see and do at Minoru Park these days.

Racetrack photos at Minoru Park
There are several reminders of the park's past to discover. | Photo: John Lee 

Verdant gardens

Many people are now lured by the park’s tranquil green spaces and small lake, laced with easy-access paved walkways. There are three trails of up to 1.5km here—just follow the small ‘Walk Richmond’ signs. If you have time, though, it’s best to simply slow down, explore without a plan, and drink it all in. On our visit, we spotted fluttering butterflies, some busy squirrels, and even a turtle, basking on the shoreline as ducks swam past and swallows buzzed the water for insects.

Duck sitting near the lake
Keep an eye out for local wildlife. | Photo: John Lee ​

The abundance of flowers also makes Minoru Park feel a little like a free-entry botanical garden, with many visitors sitting on benches to commune with the nature-based calm. But there’s another slice of local history to discover here as well: wood-built Minoru Chapel was Richmond’s first church when it opened in 1891. The heritage building was relocated to the park in 1967—and to this date, it’s still a popular wedding venue. On our visit, an art class was sitting nearby, sketching its charming gabled visage.

Minoru Chapel
Minoru Chapel is a popular spot for photos. | Photo: John Lee

Beyond the greenery

Unlike many parks, latter-day Minoru has a much wider function as a recreational attraction. The old racecourse site is now the home of an outdoor running oval called Clement Track, popular with walkers and sprinters. Nearby, there are also soccer fields, a baseball diamond, and tennis courts. Indoor sporting facilities on the edge of the park include an ice arena and swimming pool.

But you don't have to be sporty to enjoy Minoru’s other attractions. Located along the southeast end of the park, you’ll also find the Richmond Cultural Centre, a hub-like facility shared by several popular institutions. We checked out the Richmond Art Gallery, then dropped into adjoining Richmond Museum to peruse a fun exhibition about cool collections created by several city locals (including some massed ranks of toy solders).

Collection of toy soldiers
Drop into Richmond Museum while you’re visiting the park. | Photo: John Lee

The museum and gallery (plus adjacent public library) receive the lion’s share of Cultural Centre visitors. But it’s worth exploring the building a little further. We checked out a corridor lined with intriguing photos from the 1918 Steveston fire, plus a hidden gem rooftop garden bursting with colourful plants and flowers.

Speaking of plants: time your Minoru Park visit for a Tuesday (between noon and 4:00pm until October 8, 2019) and, just outside the Cultural Centre, you’ll find the Kwantlen Street Farmers Market. It’s a great place to pick up local produce, nibble on delicious bakery treats, and reflect on the days when thousands used to flock here for a heady night of racetrack shenanigans.

Need to know

Minoru Park is a 10-minute walk west of the Canada Line’s Richmond-Brighouse Station. Plan your transit trip to the park via the TransLink website. If you're driving, there is a parking lot at the 7191 Granville Avenue park entrance.

Dogs are allowed in the park, but they must be leashed; and feeding wildlife and picking plants is not permitted. The park also has washrooms, picnic tables, and plenty of benches.

Roses in Minoru Park
Roses near Minoru Chapel. | Photo: John Lee