Thursday, 29 July 2010

Mount Royal, Molson Stadium, and Montreal's Endangered Green Space: After the Fact Is Too Late

How to keep Mount Royal from being nibbled away? That's a big question, particularly when people don't seem to get upset until after the fact. This morning Radio Canada carried a story about several groups which have denounced how McGill's Molson Stadium, where the Alouette football team plays, has been enlarged. Among them is Heritage Montreal which at its annual general meeting in June deplored the way the new construction--particularly the high bleachers--deviate from approved plans.

In a resolution passed then, the group said that even though visual simulations and assurances by the developer that the project would "respect and integrate into the heritage landscape of the mountain," this was not done. It called on the provincial government and the City of Montreal to explain publicly how the "permanent damage to this heritage landscape" could be carried out with their authorisation and financial assistance, as well as what they intend to do about this blot on the landscape.

In the future, "independent and scientific verifications of visual simulations supplied for any project which may affect the integrity and presence of Mount Royal" should be required, the resolution said.

Of course, that's a big part of the problem: there are few people who know how to read plans presented, and it's hard to get people fired up to demand changes to plans which they don't understand. Lee was always skeptical about the idea of enlarging the stadium, which nestles up against the mountain, and as soon as he saw the big cranes being put into place, he was sure we were being had again. You aren't building a small, unobtrusive set of bleachers when you need cranes 15 stories high. But either the watchdogs didn't notice, or didn't care.

The same thing, more or less, happened when the nearby intersection of Park and Pine avenues was redesigned a few years ago. Helen Fotopolous, the city council member with the environmental dossier at the time, insisted that there actually would be more square meters of green space when the dust settled. The roads on the proposed plans wouldn't be open to traffic, all would be cool, she said.

It's no accident, I'm sure, that one of the roads put in then now services the stadium. As for getting more green-space, well, it's a near thing--and it's clear that much of the "reclaimed" space is not suitable for leisure activities. Who's going to have a picnic or play Frisbee in the triangle piece that figures in the green space tally?

Photos: New stadium from Canadian Press, Park/Pine interchange from SpacingMontreal. The stadium is just to the left at the bottom of the photo.

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