Part of Beaconsfield's Angell Woods off-limits to the public, judge rules

The judgment, handed down this week, states not only a privately owned area of the woods is off-limits, but that the Association for the Protection of Angell Woods (APAW) must stop encouraging people to use the area recreationally.

The judgment also clears City of Beaconsfield of acting in bad faith, abusing power by holding up development

Stephen Lloyd, president of APAW, says this decision may bring them one step closer to conserving the entirety of Angell Woods. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

A large swath of Angell Woods, a popular wooded area in Beaconsfield, will be off-limits to the public following a recent Quebec Superior Court decision.

Roughly 40 per cent of Angell Woods is owned by Yale Properties, a real estate company. A citizens group, Association for the Protection of Angell Woods, was encouraging local residents to use the woods recreationally.

The Superior Court decision states that not only should the public stop using Yale's land, but APAW must also cease inviting others onto the property.

News of the ruling saddened Beaconsfield residents who use the woods on a daily basis.

"I'm stunned. I love it here," said Mark Connolly, who's family often walks their dog in Angell Woods. "We moved here for this."

That sentiment was echoed by another dog-walker who spoke Wednesday morning with CBC News.  

"It's very disappointing," Heather Cooke said. "I come here every day."

'A positive step'

Despite the limits it places on members of the public, the group nevertheless called the court ruling a "positive step." The group's president, Stephen Lloyd, said it vindicates efforts by Beaconsfield to block real estate development in the area.

As part of its claim, Yale Properties had argued that the city was acting in bad faith and abusing its property rights with a series of zoning bylaws and municipal regulations that kept the land from being developed.

Justice Johanne Mainville dismissed the claims, clearing Beaconsfield of wrongdoing. That, said Lloyd, helped push his group's conservation goals forward. 

"When we started 20 years ago, zero per cent of Angell Woods was conserved. Now we're halfway there."

Heather Cook walks her dogs in Angell Woods every day. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

The fate of the entire Angell Woods territory has been a point on contention among West Island residents and environmentalists for years. 

The piece of land, acquired in 1981 and slated for residential development, is bordered by Elm Street to the south and a protected piece of government land to the north.

To the west it's boxed in by private properties on Lakeview Boulevard, and the City of Beaconsfield's park land to the east. The area totals about 3.5-million square metres (32 hectares).

Beaconsfield hopes to buy land

Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle said that his administration would love to buy the land from Yale and convert it into a public park. But money is an issue for the municipality, and hopes the City of Montreal will help with acquisition. 

"Montreal is very, very eager to acquire the land," Bourelle told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "You have a willing buyer, but you need to have a willing seller."

As it stands, Angell Woods is parsed into several different plots of land, one of which is owned by Yale Properties, another by a second private developer, one plot by the City of Beaconsfield, one by Ducks Unlimited Canada and one by the City of Montreal.

With files from CBC Daybreak