Stanley Park is very famous for being a park. It's not famous for being a neighbourhood.
But for one lucky couple, David and Normande Waine, it is their neighbourhood, except when they go on a trip. During this year's trip they turned to Vancouver adventure YouTuber Mike Downie to house sit for them.
Most people are unaware that 2800 Stanley Park Drive is a residence; the park has lots of structures, so a house doesn't seem totally out of place. Downie says he wasn't aware of someone living there until David reached out to him. Downie is a fan of the 9 o'clock gun, and one of Waine's duties is to load it.
So Downie went to do a video about David, and they got to talking about the residence.
"I'd never had heard of it so he goes 'No, it's right over there,'" Downie says. "I never follow a man into the woods, but here I go, as curious as ever."
It turns out the Waines have lived there for nearly three decades. Each summer they take a trip and get someone to house sit for them. This year, they asked Downie if he wanted to.
"I said what's required and am I allowed to film it," Downie says.
There are two responsibilities when house-sitting for the Waines. One is to water Normande's intricate garden. The city takes care of the front yard, but she takes care of the back.
"The second duty I would have is at 5 p.m. every night I had to lock the washrooms at the Brockton Point Oval," Downie says.
While it sounds easy, locking the washrooms became the biggest issue.
"The big hang-up for me, being a travel vlogger, was the responsibility of having to lock the bathrooms every single night at 5 p.m.," he says.
The task is easy, but the schedule isn't completely simple, since it's unwavering.
Overall, July 2021 was an unusual month for Downie.
"I think it was one of the most interesting months I could have lived there," he says.
His other adventures in the park all related to being there as a resident and not a visitor. There was the alone time with the park, like at midnight at the oval, or seeing the sunrise alone on the seawall at 6 a.m. He also had a couple of barbecues with friends, so they'd get to see the unique corner (and lifestyle) of the park.
For a couple of days, he tried not to leave the park for anything, eating at some of the restaurants and spending his day just in the area.
He also volunteered with the Stanley Park Ecological Society and helped pull invasive species out of Beaver Lake.
But the more unusual moments, even when boring, are what stick out to him. One night, coming home at night, Downie had to convince a construction crew that he needed access to the park even though it was closed because he lived there. Luckily they let him in.
Then it happened again.
"The park rangers closed Stanley Park due to fire risk, so again I had to convince the park rangers I had to be let in," he says.
Traffic was also an issue. Being stuck behind a horse-drawn carriage as a visitor occasionally is charming. When you're "rolling through the park at the speed of a horse" a few times a week the charm wears thin.
"I spent a lot of time sitting in traffic," Downie recalls.
Then there was the day the road was blocked after a tree fell across it.
"I really consider it like living in a cottage for a month, just getting out of the city but still being so close to see friends," Downie describes.
One thing that didn't happen was a coyote encounter. Despite regular reports of sightings and attacks, he didn't spot one the entire month.
While he enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience, he's not sure it'd work for him full-time. Being responsible for the washrooms on such an exact schedule doesn't work well for someone travelling as much as he is.
Downie is back to living in the city again; his time wound up at the end of July, but he will continue releasing new videos about the experience on his YouTube as August continues.