A tribute to Eleanor Hadley (1921 – 2015): Champion of Stanley Park, English Bay, Vancouver’s urban parks and beaches

Eleanor Hadley, Occupy Vancouver, Oct. 15, 2011. Vancouver Art Gallery. Image credit: Daniel J Pierce YouTube. CLICK to watch

Eleanor Hadley, Occupy Vancouver, Oct. 15, 2011. Vancouver Art Gallery. Image credit: Daniel J Pierce YouTube. CLICK to watch

Vancouver has lost a champion of public parks and an advocate for accountable government.

For six decades an unstoppable advocate for our city’s urban parks and beaches, Eleanor Hadley passed away peacefully at noon on Friday, March 6, 2015, after a brief illness. (A celebration of her life has been scheduled for April 25. See Facebook page or CityHallWatch for details.)

Eleanor ran as a candidate for Vancouver Park Board Commissioner a number of times, most recently in the November 2014 civic election. Her candidate statement leaves us with a clear message to remember her life:

Eleanor Hadley was born in Ontario, Canada 93 years ago. Eleanor is passionately loyal and caring about her country….

I have lived in the West End since the 1960s near Stanley Park and English Bay. I have attended Parks Board meetings and City Hall meetings since the 1960s. I have tried to save Stanley Park and English Bay Beach and all our Parks from commercialism. I am opposed to the Aquarium in Stanley Park and whales in captivity. I am shocked that the Aquarium is now building four huge buildings and two more whale pools by the approval of the present political party that ignores our history and agreements to keep our parks in their natural state.

Canada is a beautiful and free country. Vote for people who care.

As a tribute, below is a short compilation of videos and writings about Eleanor. The video interview by CBC’s Douglas Arrowsmith (January 2011), filmed beside the English Bay she loved, is delightful. The trailer for  “The Hollow Tree” documentary by Daniel Pierce about saving that famous icon in Stanley Park is a must-watch too.


The issues Eleanor raised during hundreds of appearances in meetings and around the City are serious. Perhaps Eleanor’s legacy is this: A challenge for every generation everywhere to think about public spaces and the need to defend them. What would Vancouver have been like without Eleanor? As just one example of how things really can turn out, see our story from September 2014: “Humble food stand on Kits Beach ends up controlled by billion-dollar private Texas company. How did this happen?


 Here she is at Occupy Vancouver in 2011. WOW!

At the time 90 years old and an independent candidate for Park Board, Eleanor Hadley elbows her way to the front of the crowd at the Occupy Vancouver rally on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery. She starts off saying “I am thrilled to see all you young people.” She tells a legion of screaming fans, “I want Stanley Park back!” And she finishes with a flourish, “Thank you very much. I love you all. My name is Eleanor Hadley, and I’m proud of it!” (Video by Daniel J. Pierce)

Ellie Hadley: The art of speaking out — Lessons from a life of a 89-year-old concerned citizen (Interview by Douglas Arrowsmith , CBC News Jan 19, 2011). Part of her daily routine was a walk to the same park bench overlooking English Bay. Here she shares some of her life’s lessons with CBC video producer.
Eleanor Hadley, CBC interview, Life Lessons of an Activist, D Arrowsmith Jan 2011
Video about environment by Ramshackle Pictures  – 90-Year-Old Eleanor Hadley Speaks at Occupy Vancouver (posted online at Vancouver Media Co-op, 21-Oct-2011)
Eleanor Hadley was recently featured at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Daniel Pierce’s film, “The Hollow Tree”, for her role in helping to save the Stanley Park Hollow Tree… 

Eleanor Hadley is a 90-year-old parks activist that has been standing up to City Councellors and Parks Board commissioners for the past fifty years. Many have even seen her ejected from public meetings for exceeding her allotted five-minute time limit. But after five decades of seeing Stanley Park and English Bay sold off bit by bit to make way for restaurants and aquarium expansions, Eleanor has had enough. This municipal election, Eleanor Hadley will be running for Parks Board as an Independent. So on November 19th, be sure to vote for the fiery old broad with the yellow flower in her cap, Eleanor Hadley… Mrs.


The Hollow Tree” DVD (includes scenes of Eleanor Hadley)

A group of specialists bands together to come up with a solution to a bizarre problem: how do you keep a thousand-year-old red cedar standing for another thousand years? This one-hour documentary premiered at the DOXA Film Festival in 2011. It won Best Documentary at the Yosemite Film Festival. It then went on to be broadcast on CBC’s Documentary Channel across Canada and on Knowledge Network in BC. This was Daniel J. Pierce’s and Ramshackle Pictures’ first long-form documentary and was funded with assistance from the Hollow Tree Conservation Society, the Vancouver Heritage Society and the National Film Board of Canada.
Watch the trailer (3:48 minutes):


Information from DOXA Film Festival
The Hollow Tree Justice Forum
Daniel Pierce, Canada, 2011, 90 minutes
Paris has the Eiffel Tower and New York has the Statue of Liberty, but there is perhaps no more iconic structure in Vancouver than Stanley Park’s Hollow Tree. The tree invokes deeply held passion not just in people who call Vancouver home, but in the legions of visitors who, every year, cheerfully pose for pictures in front of its massive roots and trunk.
But after the 2006 storm that devastated large sections of Stanley Park, the fate of the tree hung in the balance, quite literally, when it developed an ominous lean and was deemed a danger to the public. As Vancouver citizens offered their opinions, everyone from author Douglas Coupland to Parks Board Commissioners seems to have a deeply held idea of what the future of the tree should be. Was saving it simply propping a dead stump? Was it better to allow a dignified death or artificially maintain it with wire cables and supports? As a last lingering reminder of the city’s wild past, the tree has become a symbol.
As the debate erupts over the future of the tree, people take sides and a battle is joined between engineers, historians, and arborists committed to saving this ancient wonder, and city administrators who are determined that spending money on the tree is a waste of time and resources. In the centre of this debate stands, or rather leans, the tree itself, a thousand year old Ancient Red Cedar that has weathered countless storms, as well as other indignities visited upon it by humans, which have included people backing their cars inside the tree, as well as other far more invasive interventions by Parks Board staff. The campaign to save the tree reaches new heights when the decision is made to right it once more, a feat of engineering that requires a massive crane. But as the crew of engineers, arborists, and crane operators assemble in the park, the question remains, will all their work be enough to save the tree, or will all their work and dreams come crashing down? —DW

2 thoughts on “A tribute to Eleanor Hadley (1921 – 2015): Champion of Stanley Park, English Bay, Vancouver’s urban parks and beaches

  1. I am so glad that the last time I saw Eleanor, I think at the Capital Plan meeting in Sept 2014, that I thought to tell her how much I appreciated how she had spoken out on issues concerning the Park Board. She truly did keep Parks Commissioners on their toes (and especially Park Board Chairs, as I can attest!).

  2. Eleanor – thanks so much for being such a strong advocate for Stanley Park. I had the pleasure of seeing you at Park Board meetings on a regular basis when I was a Park Board Commissioner. As Chair of the Park Board I always showed you respect and you acknowledged that on many occasions. You will truly be missed and again thank you for your tireless work on behalf of all of the citizens of Vancouver. You were the 8th Commissioner…

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