Polar Bear Compound in Stanley Park

from the audio walk Artists' Memories of the West End | Vancouver

Artists' Memories of the West End
8 Stations
17:27 min Audio
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Polar Bear Compound in Stanley Park


Jerome Mandrake remembers visiting the Polar Bear Compound in Stanley Park as a child and the significance it has in his life today. The Stanley Park zoo closed in 1997 following the death of its last polar bear, Tuk.


So here is the polar bear compound in Stanley Park. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. The zoo and the park closed in 1997. It was actually after the last bear here, whose name was Tuk, I believe, passed away onsite. And that’s what I think was the final blow to the park and it closed.

My parents split when I was six years old. They divorced and we would stay with my dad on the weekends. And we never had a lot of money, but we loved going out and exploring. And the zoo in Stanley Park was free. Our favorite thing to do, maybe once a month or something, we would jump on the Skytrain from the suburbs and we would come down here and we would go explore the zoo. And the polar bear cage was the favorite.

And dad always used to tell us that this was where the magic in the park was. And I never really understood what that meant, but I believed it. There was something that was kind of magic and other worldly about this space. And the little shrubs here, right near the edge of the compound - Dad used to throw little treats into the shrubs. So they jiggle, and he’d say that the candy creatures were out and we’d go digging for the candies.

And it’s pretty amazing that to this day, the compound is still here and it’s overgrown, and it looks like the people that found their way in. it’s spray painted, and there’s cans in there, but it’s been left alone. And you would think, this close to the Aquarium, it would have been turned into a store, or they would have done something with it, but they’ve just let it be as kind of a monument to my past. I like to think, right. I used to come here with my dad and explore the last magic in the park. It’s a magic space to still be here.

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