Dog & bicycle friendly, Colony Farm Regional Park is a lacework of flat, easy paths wending along the picturesque Coquitlam River, ringed by the majestic Cascade mountains in the background.
The marshy wetlands bordering the dyke trails support a variety of wildlife, from frogs to salmon, and salamanders to sea-otters. A wildlife enhancement project has been underway since 2008 to restore tidal flows to the Wilson Farm area.
The presence of three sleek otters complacently swimming through the waterways on the June morning that we visited seemed to indicate that the environs were certainly conducive to returning wildlife.
Dogs are supposed to be on-leash, but it’s not uncommon to see a well-behaved canine companion freely trotting about at its owner’s heels.
Swallows swoop and dip over the meadows and the occasional hawk can be glimpsed diving for unwary voles. All sorts of birds thrive off the grasses, wildflowers, and smolt in the wetlands, from tiny finches and warblers to stately herons.
Colony Farm is a tranquil oasis in the heart of Port Coquitlam, perfect for a meandering ramble or a spot of easy cycling among pretty meadows.
There is a small, looping trail of approximately 2km long that starts at the main parking lot at Colony Farm Road, comprised of the Garden Trail, the Home Farm Dyke Trail, and the Colony Farm Trail, the last of which parallels the road into the main parking lot. Other equally lovely trails wind throughout the park.
There are several access/egress points to Colony Farm park, (which actually forms a section of the impressive 25km Poco Traboulay Trail). ColonyFarmParkMap We chose to park down near the Fraser River, just off the Mary Hill Bypass heading east, at the junction of Shaunessy Street. The little side road that parallels the Fraser River is called Argue Street, and has a gravel parking lot shortly after entering the street, on the right. The Gillnetter Pub is further down the road–diners must be 19 and older.
Coming to Vancouver? We’d love to hear from you!
The beautiful setting of Colony Farm has a fascinating history. In 1904, the BC government purchased 1,000 acres in rural Coquitlam for the construction of a new psychiatric hospital, known then as Hospital for the Mind, and later as Essondale, then Riverview Hospital (and now home to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital). The site was cleared predominantly by the toil and labour of the asylum’s patients.
Located down the hill from the hospital site, Colony Farm was established to grow food for the patients. The rich alluvial soils meant crops and livestock thrived; in 1913 alone, Colony Farm produced more than 700 tonnes of crops and 20,000 gallons of milk, almost entirely from the labour of patients. There was a cannery that provided 22 tonnes of various fruits and vegetables; barns where 20 hogs were killed each week, and tonnes of beef, mutton, and butter were produced as well.
Colony Farm gained a reputation as the best farm in Western Canada. For nearly 80 years, Colony Farm provided food, milk and meat for thousands of staff and patients at Riverview Hospital.
In 1964, a maximum-security building for prisoners was built on the land, and in 1974, the Commission on Human Rights frowned upon the practice of allowing patients to work on the farm, despite the 50-some odd years of documented therapeutic effects. By 1983, the provincial government shut down the splendorous success of Colony Farm.