Grand Parc De L’ouest – Environmentalists had something to celebrate on August 16 at a press conference beside Montreal City Hall. They turned out to show support for recent announcements by Mayor Valérie Plante to create the largest urban park in Canada, ‘Grand Parc De L’ouest’.
The proposed park will comprise some 3,000 hectares (30 square kilometres) on Montreal’s West Island and on Ile Bizard, incorporating some existing parks as well as threatened green spaces. The L’Anse-à-l’Orme Corridor, the backbone of this new park, will finally be relieved of the threat of massive urban development.
“Some of us have been working to see this for 30 years,” said Helena Fletcher, a painter. She spoke of how some of those working to save these green spaces have died; others have faced divorces, probably caused by the struggle to save a little bit of nature. “Life is not easy for activists.”
Campbell Stuart, a lawyer long associated with environmental causes, was the master of ceremonies. He introduced Jérome Dupras (a biologist and musician with Les Cowboys fringants), Sophie Paradis (Quebec director of the World Wildlife Fund), and Sue Stacho (a schoolteacher and founder of Sauvons l’Anse à l’Orme).
Grand Parc De L’ouest an ecological site of exceptional importance
Dupras described the area of the proposed park as “an ecological site of exceptional importance” containing many rare species. He spoke about the misinformed notion that we must destroy and build upon nature, but that green spaces “have hidden value for ensuring pollination, carbon sequestration, and flood control.”
Paradis spoke about how some 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas, putting great pressure on nearby green spaces. Montreal compares poorly, however, to other urban areas in terms of the percentage of its land area that is protected. Toronto, Calgary, New York and Oslo (Norway) have all protected more or much of their territory. She mentioned that preserving green space has now been found important for maintaining human health.
Was it a coincidence that bagpipes started playing in the background when Stacho took the microphone? She was the star of the show. The movement to create this big park started 4 years ago in Stacho’s backyard when she and a handful of other environmentalists took up what they feared was “a hopeless cause.”
“This is what happens when passionate people link up with forward-thinking leaders,” declared a happy Stacho. She praised Plante’s “audacious gesture” but called upon another park now to be created in the East on the Anjou Golf Course.
After the press conference, Al Hayek of Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook told The Times that, in 2004, a survey showed some 80 percent of Greater Montreal residents thought it was important to save natural milieu. “Now, (the Plante) administration is listening.”
Echoing what Hayek said, David Fletcher of the Green Coalition believes that there is a good likelihood the park will be created so long as the issue stays in the public eye. He also hopes that voters in upcoming elections remember their obligation to vote for those not yet born. “We are facing rampant, ill-conceived development. Of what use is economics when our planet is collapsing?”