Nawaz: The birds need the natural spaces of the Technoparc, and so do we

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Preserving this 215 hectare area of ​​biodiversity is essential, but on a recent visit, evidence of pervasive development was everywhere.

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If you are a bird watcher in Montreal, chances are you already know the Technoparc. Often called the best local birding site and listed as a hotspot on eBird.org, this wetland adjacent to the Borough of St-Laurent airport is a haven for native and migratory birds, with documented sightings of over 200 different species.

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A volunteer citizen group, TechnoparcOiseaux, maintains the trails, bird feeders, a very active website and Facebook site – it’s worth joining alone for some great amateur bird photography. The group is also campaigning for the preservation of the area, which is constantly threatened by industrial and commercial development. For years, the group has been asking the city of Montreal, the province and the federal government to intervene by creating a protected ornithological and wildlife reserve. He organized a march on September 12 to draw attention to planned development in an area dubbed the Monarch Fields, a breeding habitat for the endangered monarch.

I’m what you might call a pandemic-induced birdwatcher, and for me, birding has been a good motivation to get outside. But a visit to the Technoparc was more difficult to sell to the family than going to an official bird sanctuary: “Hey, do you want to go to the edge of an industrial park somewhere near the airport? But last week, driven by a growing sense of threat to the region, we finally made the trip.

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We entered the destination into our GPS and followed the directions on winding roads of gray buildings. Towards the end of our route, construction workers carrying detour signs gave us hand signals to turn around. We stopped to compare the satellite map to a few we had downloaded, trying to figure out where exactly we were and the best place to access the trails.

Eventually we pulled away from the team of fluorescent vests and around a corner we entered a field about the size of two football fields, where only 20 or 30 cars were parked near a remote office building. Although the lot was marked for employees, there were about 1000 empty spaces, so we parked in the nearest one. On foot, we quickly found where we needed to go.

It was a hot and windy day. On the path lined with reeds growing above our heads, we left the ordinary world behind us. Asters and the goldenrod lined the path. Brilliant crimson vines made their way to the still green trees. Early on, we spotted a red-tailed hawk. I wondered aloud if it was Eddie, the most famous bird on the TechnoparcOiseaux Facebook site and, as its members suggest, perhaps the most photographed bird in Quebec.

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We noticed a goldfinch and a few rusty blackbirds. Although at different times we were within earshot of planes, trains, trucks and a helicopter, we did not see anyone. It was strangely calm and beautiful. Using binoculars, we observed hawks circling above us, held aloft in the breeze.

But if the paths were idyllic, the evidence of an overwhelming development was everywhere. Huge signs declared land for lease. Various trails have been fenced for construction. A paved road lined with lampposts, ending in a well-maintained turning circle, stretched incongruously into a wind-blown field, as nearby a few strange sidewalks led nowhere.

I just hope they continue to get nowhere. A mask factory has been proposed for the area and – with $ 29 million in federal money given to Medicom Group to build it – construction could begin at any time. But according to the closing speech of the TechnoparcOiseaux march on September 12, there are already two million square feet of vacant land and office buildings in the area. The members pleaded for the plant to be built on part of this already developed land, and not on the last large undivided green space on the island of Montreal.

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For it is the contiguous nature of the earth and the biodiversity of its ecosystems – made up of grasslands, mixed deciduous forests and wetlands – that make it such a popular and important destination for wildlife. It’s also what makes this 215 hectare unprotected area so critical to preserve given climate change, as it helps combat the heat island effect of so much surrounding concrete and asphalt.

MAP: Green spaces of the Technoparc north of Trudeau airport

Worried about our return to the Plateau due to rush hour traffic, my husband and I only explored a small portion of the trails. When we got back to the car, a parking attendant was waiting for us in an idling SUV, alerted to our presence by a surveillance camera. He was friendly, but warned that we couldn’t leave the car there.

It was a good reminder that, one way or another, there is always a price to pay for parking. Unfortunately, when it comes to destroying natural spaces, it can cost us all a lot more than just a ticket.

  1. Save the Fairview Forest members gather in the woods west of the Fairview Mall in Pointe-Claire in November 2020.

    Hanes: Trying to save biodiversity before it’s too late

  2. Jim Harris is one of the activists who are trying to transform the grounds of the Technoparc St-Laurent into a wildlife reserve.

    Calls for the protection of Montreal’s last significant and intact wetlands intensify

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