A new park arrives in West Montreal as the finishing touches are made to the St-Jacques escarpment
An expanse of sloping woodland sandwiched between Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-GrÃ¢ce district and Highway 20 will finally be passable this spring, with the long-promised linear park.
While this is exciting news for any nature-loving city dweller, there is still a long way to go for pedestrians, cyclists and wildlife to easily navigate the green spaces of the west, said Roger Jochym.
He is part of a group that fights to protect and promote the natural beauty of a escarpment known locally as Falaise St-Jacques.
Transforming the escarpment into a linear park, or green belt, has long been part of the plan as the Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ) renovates the Turcot interchange and Highway 20.
The park will stretch for about three kilometers next to the busy highway, south of St-Jacques Street in NDG – a commercial strip with car dealerships, inexpensive motels, restaurants, bars and supermarkets.
Nest boxes with bird feeders
The park will feature features such as picnic tables, garbage cans, bike racks, birdhouses, and a trail running through the landscaped green space.
The trail links Pullman Street, near DÃ©carie Boulevard, to Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Boulevard, near the border with Montreal West.
But while the public park has been in the planning and construction phase for years, citizens have also added their own touch to the escarpment. There are trails that people walk or cross-country ski, with handmade signs and bird feeders hanging from the trees.
“I always like to compare it to a country road in town,” said Jochym.
Keep it clean
The escarpment has also been a dumping ground for everything from garbage and tires to dirty snow that has accumulated in parking lots and been illegally pushed over the edge.
CÃ´te-Des-Neiges â NDG, in collaboration with the Sud-Ouest borough where the escarpment is located, tackles litter and snow dumps. During this time, volunteers went to great lengths to clean the slope and keep it clean.
“There are still tires on the cliff, but I would say about 85 percent of the tires have been moved,” said Jochym.
And the land is teeming with wild animals, he said.
âThere are a huge number of tits here and nuthatches,â he said.
The park may not officially open for several months, but it is already attracting pedestrians like James Mullaly who said it was a nice walk compared to walking, for example, the stretch of boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest – a one-way road parallel to rue St. -Jacques.
One of the biggest differences is that he doesn’t have to stop for cars at intersections when walking through the linear park.
“If there’s ice on the sidewalk and you have to walk down the street, you fight with cars and everything, then here is this long stretch of walking without a break, so it’s nice.” , said Mullaly.
Connect the boroughs with a bridge
Regardless of the progress, defenders like Jochym say there is still a long way to go. He would like it to be part of a larger network of interlocking green spaces, also known as green corridors.
A key feature would be a green bridge, spanning the rail highway to link NDG to the Sud-Ouest borough. Advocates and some local politicians have called for a span that is not just an overpass for pedestrians and cyclists, but a living bridge with greenery.
It has been on and off the table for over a decade, with the MTQ even drawing up the plans for the project in 2010.
The bridge would connect people to the Lachine Canal and to parks like Ignace-Bourget and Angrignon.
Jochym said his group saw the bridge as a “thread that sews everything together”. Since it is green, “nature is continuous in all of these parks,” he said.
Mayor ValÃ©rie Plante supports a sort of pedestrian link on the highway, but the city says the project is “very complex” and still under consideration.