New West Island park will span 3,000 hectares, protect wetlands
'Great Western Park' will help contain flooding, Montreal mayor says
The City of Montreal wants to create a park nine times the size of New York's Central Park in the West Island.
Mayor Valérie Plante unveiled the project Thursday, saying the park would combine several large existing parks in Pierrefonds–Roxboro, L'Île-Bizard-Sainte-Geneviève and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and would cover 3,000 hectares.
Plante said the project is an effort to preserve the area's wetlands and contain flooding. It is part of her administration's plan to protect 10 per cent of the city's undeveloped spaces.
"We value this beautiful land and want to showcase its magnificent qualities to everyone," said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, raising the possibility of the park having camp sites and urban farming.
For now, the city is calling it the "Great Western Park," but Plante says an official name will be announced at a later date.
The city's timeline for the project is unclear. Plante says she hopes to have more detailed plans by 2021 and to consult with the public this fall to see how the park should be used.
Three REM stations are already planned nearby, making it an easy trip for transit users, she noted.
Mayor Valérie Plante calls this a historic moment for protection of wetlands and biodiversity <a href="https://t.co/BEQCvfktBM">pic.twitter.com/BEQCvfktBM</a>—@Steverukavina
The mayor also didn't provide a budget for the park. She is requesting funds from the federal and provincial governments.
Real estate development had been planned for the area
The city will have to undergo negotiations with a local developer before it can move forward because about 365 hectares of the site are still owned by Les Immeubles l'Équerre.
The developer had — in partnership with real-estate promoter Cap-Nature — been planning a real estate project on the land for more than a decade, with 5,500 housing units, schools, daycares and sports fields.
The city says Les Immeubles l'Équerre won't be allowed to build on the land in the meantime.
But Plante said it wouldn't make sense to build on that land because it's at risk of flooding anyway.
If negotiations with the developer don't work out, the mayor said she would resort to using the city's pre-emptive right — a bylaw that allows the city to acquire land for public space or parks by compensating land or building owners.
The city had already announced the expansion of L'Anse-à-l'Orme nature park in partnership with Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in 2018.
For that expansion the city purchased 14 hectares of land from West Island real estate developers, costing the agglomeration of Montreal nearly $11 million.
'Like Christmas Day'
David Flether, vice-president of the Green Coalition, said the group has been waiting for the announcement of a park like this for more than three decades.
"It's like Christmas Day for 1.9 million people and for all the people around the region," Flether said. "I think parents are going to appreciate having places like this to take their children out for the day."
The parks the city will be consolidating are:
l'Anse-à-l'Orme Nature Park.
Bois-de-l'Île-Bizard Nature Park.
Bois-de-la-Roche Agricultural Park.
Rapides du Cheval Blanc.
With files from Steve Rukavina