From its inception, the vision was for a "Great Park."
In the early 1960s, then Premier Joey Smallwood envisioned a park-like setting for the newly constructed provincial legislature, as well as the new site of an expanding university.
The ‘60s in St. John’s heralded the construction of many important institutions: Confederation Building; Memorial University of Newfoundland (which has become Atlantic Canada’s largest university); the College of Trades and, within a few years, the Arts and Culture Centre.
All situated within a kilometre or so of each other, these institutions would have the ‘gem of Long Pond,’ as Smallwood referred to it, and the forested slopes of Mount Scio as their background.
The Park developed in phases. First, 400 acres surrounding the Confederation Building and the College of Trades were established and known as ‘Confederation Park.’ It was a mammoth task involving transforming gravel wastelands into a naturalized setting.
Within just a few years, the need for even more land to accommodate the expanding university was recognized. The second phase included the acquisition of land northward to the Windsor Lake watershed the Park would now comprise six significant water bodies. From its inception, the rationale for the Park was that land surrounding the university and other institutions be protected to ensure that their future growth could occur in a natural-like and spacious setting.
Sharing the vision of a great park, St. John’s entrepreneur Chesley A. Pippy made a significant donation of money to acquire the land. In recognition of his pledge, legislation (The C.A. Pippy Park Act) was passed in 1966 naming the Park after him. The C.A. Pippy Park was officially established in 1968.
A Commission made up of appointed representatives was charged with overseeing the Park, planning development that would blend with the countryside and preserve the natural beauty of the area.
Meanwhile, in the late 60s, planning consultants for the new Park were hired and toured Canada and the New England States to gain insight into the development of other large parks. While Pippy Park would be larger than any existing urban park, Regina’s Wascana Centre became a model for Pippy Park.
Pippy Park Today
Today, considerably more of the Park is left in its original state than was first envisaged. This means more forest and wild grassland remains relatively undisturbed. The ponds and streams have been carefully preserved in their natural pristine state only Leary’s Brook by Prince Philip Drive and the hospital complex was re-routed.The aquatic habitat has been improved over the years, thanks mostly to volunteer efforts.
With the building of other important institutions and facilities including the Health Science Complex, the Janeway Children’s Hospital, NRC’s Institute of Ocean Technology, the Marine Institute as well as the expansion of the university campus among others, and the soon to be built YW-YMCA the mandate of the Park continues to be relevant and contains some of the most important symbols of the Province’s culture.
Pippy Park has indeed become a Great Park used, admired, and recognized by local residents and national and international visitors alike.
Did you know?
- The very first meeting of the Pippy Park Commission was held on April 4th, 1966.
- During the construction of the Arts & Culture Centre site of the old Church of England boy’s orphanage massive 60-year old trees were saved and replanted around the new Centre.
- The Pippy Park Children’s Farm operated on Mt. Scio Road from 1977 to 1990. There were all kinds of animals from llamas to cows, from donkeys to rabbits.
- Dr. William Carson owned the farm called "The Billies" where Confederation Building is now. The farm stretched from Smithville all the way to the south shore of Kent's Pond.