Given the extreme heat waves Montrealers experienced last summer, with at least 66 people having died from heat-related complications and the potential for more summers like it – the expected opening of a new beach in Verdun could very well prove to be a welcome respite.
Last November 2018, the Borough of Verdun finally received federal and provincial authorization to move forward with the brand-new beach that will be located in Arthur-Therrien Park, behind the Verdun Auditorium. It was actually supposed to be open in the summer of 2017 as part of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, but was delayed due to disputes over the location, rising costs and opposition from environmentalists over concerns it would disrupt the fragile ecosystem located in the wetlands nearby. Many residents are also worried about the increase in traffic and noise. Nonetheless, contractors have been working hard to make it happen, from smoothing out and correcting the depth of the river in front of the beach to make it safe, to temporarily moving the bike path in the area while the work is being done, as well as planting trees.
The waterfront area in Verdun has been a popular place for residents and visitors from other parts of the city who like to walk or jog for exercise, or simply seek a place to relax – and the planned changes should enhance the experience. Other plans for the beach include wooded areas, cascading gardens, a park and new bike path. There will also be slides integrated into the slope down to the river and a sandy beach for swimming and lazing about, as well as other recreational activities. A big plus, and very important aspect to the beach, is that the shoreline will be accessible to people in wheelchairs, ‘with paths woven through a grassy, landscaped space where visitors can relax and gaze at the water’. Whether it will be open on time, or at least before the first heat wave kicks in, remains to be seen.