Early Plans for Pippy Park

In 1966, with the new buildings of Memorial University finally sprouting and Confederation Building well established, Premier Smallwood announced in the House of Assembly his intentions to create a grand park in the north of St. John’s “that will attract attention across Canada.” The vision for what would become Pippy Park was quite extraordinary, and by 1969, a plan was drafted.

Despite some 250 houses on 400 privately-owned plots of land in the area, the Toronto planners were given the impression that no residents would be living in the park within five years of the development. This gave them carte blanche to re-imagine the space wildly.

Imagine a Viking-themed playground with child-sized equipment: a fort, a labyrinth, even a replica longboat with dragon-shaped figurehead moored safely in the valley. There was also a restaurant, high atop Mt. Scio, “designed with liberal use of glass walling” to take advantage of the panoramic views stretching towards the harbour. A map detailing the “Parks Headquarters Zoological and Historical Area” shows a miniature railway figure-eight looping across Naples Hill creek and over a bridge. A replica town complete with costumed actors, preserved buildings, display workshops (e.g. saw mill, smithy, farrier) and a museum were to be built near Nagles Hill Road at one end of the railway. On other side, the train passes by animal paddocks with a sampling of safely enclosed local animals (such as bears, caribou, and moose), a farm, and stables. Closer to Confederation Building, an 8000-seat sports arena was proposed, holding a much larger capacity than either Mile One or Memorial Stadium.

Many of the Master Plan’s special features have since been incorporated into other popular local attractions and many elements did come to fruition eventually, such as the golf courses, gardens, campgrounds, walking trails, and the Outer Ring Road. Funding limitations—or perhaps gentle reconsideration—saw that some of the more outrageous elements of the plan were never implemented.

—Erin McKee

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