Friday, 8 June 2007

Saving Mont Royal

This is great weather for walking on Mount Royal, the “mountain” in the center of Montreal island. The original plan for the park was made by Frederick Law Olmsted, but not much more than a curving carriage road remains from that plan. Nevertheless Mont Royal park is a well-used, and well-loved oasis of nature in the city.

Protecting Mount Royal requires continual effort. Les amis de la montagne have just finished a month of activities aimed at raising awareness of Mont-Royal, which included a Sunday when 500 people took to the paths and woods to pick up litter and plant 450 indigenous trees and bushes. But citizen efforts like this are not enough since several projects threaten to nibble away at the edges of the park space. (See Les amis de la montagne's Cartes des principaux projets sur le Mont Royal.)

Perhaps the largest is the transformation of three hospitals on the mountain’s southern flank. Most of their functions will be transferred in a few years time to a new super-hospital. What will become of the existing buildings? With their gorgeous views of the city and the St. Lawrence River, the sites are enough to throw real estate developers into a frenzy. The Royal Victoria Hospital also has considerable historical and architectural features that warrant safe-guarding. These are dossiers that require close attention, and ones to which I expect to return as the summer advances.

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