Advocates for more green spaces in Montreal are hailing a report from the city’s public consultation commission recommending that plans for a Turcot nature park running alongside Highway 20 be expanded significantly and serve as an emblematic green entryway to the city.
The nature park, which was projected to take up roughly 30 hectares of land tucked between the highway and Notre-Dame St. and the Lachine Canal, has widespread approval from city residents, the commission said in a report released Monday.
“But to ensure its viability, the project deserves to be improved” by expanding the proposed limits so it includes the green space of the falaise St-Jacques eco-territory, as well as the north-south pedestrian walkway project and a 10-metre protection zone for the falaise, in order to protect the whole green area, the report reads. The falaise, a forested, four-kilometre escarpment between the Turcot Interchange and Montreal West, was not included as part of the initial nature park project concept.
The first recommendation of the commission “is to rethink the limitations of the territory under study to make it into a project that is complete and coherent with the objectives of increasing the size of protected areas; to build secure and inviting infrastructure for walking and cycling; to facilitate access to the Falaise St-Jacques and the Lachine Canal, and to create a signature green entry to Montreal.”
“I feel so amazed that all of this happened and it’s because we were able to get all of these people and groups together over this thing, and it’s just so great,” said Lisa Mintz, founder and director of the Sauvons la falaise environmental group. “Nobody can say anymore that the Dalle Parc(pedestrian and bicycle bridge) is not part of this project.
“The next part is money — the city and provincial governments have to put the money where their mouths are.”
The city of Montreal announced plans last fall for public consultations on the new green space and pedestrian walkway project being planned for the former Turcot Yards. The reconfiguration of the Turcot Interchange and the highways and train lines leading to it left a large swath of land free to be converted from industrial zone to nature-park project.
More than 300 people participated in person, and another 1,139 did so online. The commission received 61 briefs from interested parties, 26 of which were also given as oral presentations before Montreal’s public consultation bureau, l’Office de consultation publique de Montréal.
The city said it wanted to accomplish three things with the project: develop a nature park in the old Turcot Yards that would include wetlands and wooded areas; create a north-south link for pedestrians and cyclists to be able to cross the falaise, railway and highway; and to create a “green and emblematic” entrance to the city.
Based on feedback from the consultations, the commission made 20 recommendations, including: Making the falaise part of the overall project, creating a 10-metre protective set-back area from the top of the ridge of the falaise to discourage dumping; creating a “green-band” of trees and fauna to offset the park from the highway; and including Terry Fox Park on St-Jacques St. into the project.
A pedestrian and cycling link connecting the Sud-Ouest and Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame de-Grâce boroughs and the nature park should incorporate a bold, distinctive look to reinforce the overall area’s role as a green entryway to downtown Montreal, used by many travellers commuting from the airport. As well, a citizen’s committee should be created to ensure continued public input for the project.
In a statement, the city of Montreal said it welcomed the recommendations.
“The report confirms that the nature park is of great interest to the citizens of Montreal. We will take into account the falaise St-Jacques into the development of the new park,” the city said.
A citizen’s information session with city and provincial officials present will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the St-Raymond Community Centre in N.D.G. at 5600 Upper Lachine Rd.