The Grass Should be Greener: preserving Montreal’s green spaces
Credit: Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook
Greenspace is a pillar of environmental wellbeing in Montreal while also being an essential part of mental and physical health for citizens. Parks are a tiny oasis amidst the chaos of our big city, a place where locals can exercise and get fresh air, sit in the grass, and read a good book or connect with friends and family.
The trouble is, these areas are limited and shrinking rapidly. A 2019 CBC article revealed that the 2.4 hectares of green space per 1000 Montrealers are inadequate and shockingly low compared to other cities in the country. The development and destruction of the island’s green spaces are pressing concerns.
Greenspace preservation is a passion for environment enthusiast Dan Boulerice, a proud team member at Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook. The organization has been fighting against the development of the area since 1989, and Boulerice has been involved for over 20 years. He was drawn to the group when he attended a city meeting regarding the green space, which happened to be one of his favourite jogging and golfing spots.
Meadowbrook is a peaceful 57 hectare 18-hole golf course located on the border of Montreal West. The land originally belonged to Canadian Pacific Railway, which built the golf course for its workers in the 1930s. It later sold for $6 million, but the new (and current) owners found the golf course was not profitable enough to justify not developing the area.
That’s where Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook comes in. The team consists of about 20 members with hundreds of dedicated supporters who appear at council meetings, make frequent visits to City Hall to protest, preserve briefs during rezoning, write for local newspapers, and more.
Though the members are somewhat divided, some wishing for the land to remain a golf course and others pushing for it to become a park, they all agree on one thing: Meadowbrook must be protected from development. “In the eyes of a lot of people, it [the green space] doesn’t do much,” says Boulerice. But many groups are devoted to proving that green spaces are way more important than people might think.
Lisa Mintz, bird specialist, award-winning environmental activist, and founding member of four preservation groups is co-director of Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook. Since the 1970s, North America has lost 50% of migrating birds, explains Mintz. “Green spaces are fragmented, and we are losing species all the time,” she says, making it crucial for citizens to push for change. Having run politically twice, Mintz has seen it from both perspectives. “Politicians can’t make changes unless there is a public voice asking or demanding it,” she says. Mintz also shared a 10 point guide with ways for people to contribute! It includes writing a petition, attending city council meetings, and getting support from local groups such as her own. These are things we can all do as individuals, and she is adamant they can impact our city for the better.
“If no one says anything, then the developers win. We have way more power than we think!” says Mintz.
Another Meadowbrook partner, Nature Québec, has been dedicated to conserving natural ecosystems in our province since 1981. Like Mintz, they feel strongly about the necessity to protect the area. Marie-Audrey Nadeau Fortin, a member of the organization, says that saving urban green spaces is equally vital as preserving large-scale natural land. She explains that simply protecting them is a “natural climate solution” because natural environments trap CO 2 . This strategy could potentially represent up to 37% of global climate efforts by the end of the decade, but not without preserving our parks!
The fight for Meadowbrook has not been easy, explains Boulerice. One of Les Amis’ notable achievements was having the green space rezoned to recreation. However, this sparked a legal case. Calling it expropriation, the landowner sued the city. Today, the court cases continue and have slowed down the group’s efforts.
The ongoing process has taken a toll on Boulerice and the other members. “For the people who want to develop, it’s their job,” he says, “but the members of Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook don’t get paid, we have other jobs and interests, we have limited time and energy.” Maintaining motivation has been a challenge for the group.
Most members have been contributing for decades. “It’s mostly boomers like me,” says Boulerice, laughing.“When it’s a long battle after a while people care less,” he says.
Now estimated at $60 million, Meadowbrook’s fate lies in the hands of the court hearing. Like many other beloved green spaces in Montreal, it faces the growing concern of development. So go out and get some signatures, talk to a local councilor, or simply spread the news on your platforms! Every little bit counts.
Interested in getting involved?
Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook: http://lesamisdemeadowbrook.org
Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook - partners:
- Mintz’s organization, Urbanature Éducation: https://www.urbanature.org/home-1
- Nature Québec : https://naturequebec.org/en/