People restoring the wall at Third Beach

First phase of Stanley Park seawall restoration work finishes this week

“As this was the first time we had done such a major restoration project on the seawall, we were very happy that impact to park users was kept to a minimum," said Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.

August 14 2018 –

The first phase of the largest restoration work on the 101-year-old Stanley Park seawall will be completed this week.

One of Vancouver’s most popular attractions with about eight-million visitors a year, the seawall is subject to seasonal battering, as well as large storms, which damage the structure and necessitated the restoration work.

The repairs included stabilizing foundations, filling of holes with grout, and stone replacement which will increase the seawall’s resiliency against more aggressive storms brought on by climate change.

A media event Tuesday, August 14, 2018, was held at the seawall near Brockton Oval where work is being completed on the first phase of the restoration. Julia Murrell, the granddaughter of  seawall architect James Cunningham, joined staff and the Park Board Chair for the event.

Minimal impact on park users

“As this was the first time we had done such a major restoration project on the seawall, we were very happy that impact to park users was kept to a minimum,” said Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.

“With continued regular maintenance, the seawall should resist climate change and serve residents and visitors for another 50 to 75 years.”

Created in 1917 with the goal of staving off erosion, the nine-kilometre Stanley Park seawall took 60 years to complete. Work continued intermittently as resources became available, including a federal employment program during the Great Depression of the 1930s.The majority of the work was carried out between 1950 and 1980.

The seawall is most associated with the contributions of master stonemason James Cunningham, who worked on its construction for more than 30 years, and Stuart Lefeaux, the park superintendent who supervised the seawall’s completion.

Vancouver Island resident Julia Murrell recalls visiting her grandfather James Cunningham while he worked on the seawall in the 1950s and 60s. Cunningham died in 1963.

“He was very proud of his work on the wall. After he retired the Park Board had problems finding skilled stonemasons and so would bring him back and lower him down to the beach to cut the rock. He almost finished the seawall, but not quite.”

Second phase to begin next year

The current $4.5 million restoration job will be done in two phases. The first phase focused on areas with the highest level of damage such as Brockton and Ferguson points. Stonemasons were required to map and number facing stones on the seawall in order to reinstall them in exactly the same location.

The second phase, which requires Board approval, is expected to begin early next year. The cost of the project includes environmental and archaeological studies, permitting, and monitoring.