Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People’s Playground
by David Spector
Great Plains Publications, 248 pages, $29.95
By the early 1900s, Winnipeg was a booming city sometimes called the “Chicago of the North.” In response to a rapid increase in population and industry, residents and city officials alike called for an extensive green space that would provide a reprieve from the noise and pressure of city life.
In 1909, Assiniboine Park officially opened, offering residents a park setting that reflected — or upheld — the social morals of the time. The park emphasized the natural landscape, limited commercial activity, and followed the province’s Lord’s Day Observance Act, which prohibited organized picnics, recreation, and play on Sundays.
A new book, Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People’s Playground, by historian and retired Parks Canada researcher David Spector, provides a comprehensive look at the over-one-hundred-year history of the park, with a focus on infrastructure, major projects, operations and management, and — the park’s crown jewel — its zoo.
An accessible and detailed read, the book features plenty of photographs to illustrate the park’s evolution. With his book — and at a time when the park has entered a new period of rapid change, under the private management of the charitable Assiniboine Park Conservancy — Spector has made a significant gift to Winnipeggers and their beloved park.