The Thames River in Springbank Park
|Area||300 acres (120 ha)|
|Operated by||City of London|
Springbank Park is a 140-hectare (300 acre) park located along a stretch of the Thames River in London, Ontario, Canada. As the largest park in London, it contains 30 km (19 mi) of trails and is home to Storybook Gardens, a family attraction open year round.
Springbank Park was originally developed around the site of a waterworks facility in the late 19th century. Alderman James Egan suggested the nearby Hungerford Hill, now commonly known as "Reservoir Hill". In the years following the creation of the waterworks the city began to purchase more land in the surrounding area and the spot became a resort serviced by steamers to and from London via the Thames River.
On May 24, 1881 the steamer 'Victoria' capsized killing 182 people which instantly cut steamer travel along the Thames and scaled back the popularity of the waterworks grounds. Afterwards the grounds could still be reached by carriage and eventually horse-drawn bus but interest would not recover for years.
During the year 1896 the London Street Railway constructed and began service of a street car system to take people to and from the Springbank Park in record amounts.
As time passed on London grew around the park; about 1920 a miniature train was added as an attraction, and as of 2015 it still existed, although relocated and replaced.
Storybook Gardens opened in 1958. This popular attraction included sea lions (now replaced by harbour seals) and various other animals tied in with themes from children's nursery rhymes and stories. On June 16, 1958, "Slippery the Seal" escaped from a pool into the nearby Thames River. Ten days later, amid intense publicity and "sightings" of various degrees of reliability, the sea lion turned up 400 km away near Sandusky, Ohio. After several days on display to record-breaking crowds, the Americans returned Slippery. The mayor of London proclaimed "Slippery Day" and thousands lined the streets to see Slippery's return. An "international incident" staged between Storybook and the Toledo Zoo was later revealed to have been a publicity stunt.
The park also includes a Carousel, a miniature train (which are both placed just outside the park), climbing facilities and slides which have been upgraded throughout the years. In 2003 Storybook Gardens underwent a major refurbishment to its present state and it now open year round with skating in the winter. In 2008, the park also put in a 40-foot (12 m) tall Ferris wheel, and also had major repairs on the train and track.
Although the park still includes farm animals, there are no longer exotic animals. On June 8, 2012 while the remaining four seals at Storybook gardens were being transported to the Saint Louis Zoo two seals, Peanut and Atlantis died. A third seal, Cri Cri died on June 13 while being treated.
At present Springbank Park is the largest park in London, with trails accommodating biking or walking. As well there are climbers, swings, a wading pool, picnic areas and soccer fields. With paths leading to adjoining parks one can travel 10 km from Byron to downtown London without dealing with traffic.
- The Beaver June–July 2006 (p. 13)
- Boles, Brent (2013). "London's Storybook Gardens tries to find its footing 55 years after opening". The London Free Press.
- Morden, Pat (1988). Putting Down Roots. Stonehouse Publications. ISBN 978-0-919549-17-3.
- Ship Accidents