OP-ED: An argument for saving Meadowbrook

Photos by Richard Dupuis

Conserve Meadowbrook: A Project for 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity

Meadowbrook Golf Course, that Island of Green in northern Lachine and southern Cote-St-Luc, is a welcome relief from the endless expanse of houses and factories, train yards and highways. An area of 57 hectares, with its original topography of undulating hills and ravines, contains row upon row of magnificent large trees, little thickets crowning its ravines and the Little St-Pierre River. It is home to rabbits and foxes and other small animals. Vestiges of the once grand forests that covered the Island of Montreal remain. In the spring waterfowl nest in its ponds and it is visited by the occasional deer.

This may soon change if the discussions presently taking place concerning the Lachine portion of Meadowbrook materialize. This rare natural area may soon become streets, sidewalks, driveways, housing and parking lots.

Meadowbrook needs to be conserved as a nature park. There are no protected natural spaces between Terra Cotta Park in Pointe-Claire and Mount Royal. Le Sud-Ouest, in which Meadowbrook lies, has the least amount of natural space of any area on the Island of Montreal. The 500,000 local residents and, indeed, all Montrealers would benefit from a protected Meadowbrook. It is also the keystone of the proposed Trame Verte du Sud-Ouest, a green corridor to the Falaise St-Jacques, to the new green spaces at the Turcot, and to the Saint Lawrence River.

The City of Montreal has every reason to conserve Meadowbrook: it is the logical conclusion to its Sustainable Development Policy adopted in 2005. The city recognizes that to create a viable urban community, equal weight must be given to the three pillars of sustainable development: the social, the economic and the environmental.

The social orientation of the Sustainable Development Policy is to enhance and improve the lives of citizens. What better way to add social value than to give citizens a place, close to home, where they can relax in a natural setting; where our young people can see nature first hand, and where hiking, cross country skiing, and bird watching can take place.

But the social aspect goes much beyond this. In 2008, the BBC reported on a study published in the Lancet that concluded that living next to green space can make a “big” difference in protecting us from strokes, heart disease and other fatal illnesses. Previous studies show other positive benefits such as the reduction of stress and high blood pressure. The researchers were unanimous that politicians must provide adequate green space in urban communities to ensure the health and well-being of their citizens.

The Tremblay administration must live up to the environmental commitments of its Sustainable Development Policy. The environmental pillar of sustainable development has been compromised and neglected for years. Shamefully, Montreal is at the bottom of the list of North American cities for natural space conservation. The city claims that 5% of the Island of Montreal is protected, but this is far below the international objective of 12%. Averaged over the last 15 years, just $2 million per year has been invested in natural space conservation, a mere 1/20 of 1% of its annual $4 billion budget. It is time for some serious catch-up.

The cost of preserving Meadowbrook would not be an undue financial burden on the Agglomeration. The Golf course was last sold in 2006 for $3 million. It should also be noted that a housing development on the golf course would be of no value to the residents of the borough of Lachine. All property tax revenues, including those from any new development, go to the central city, Montreal. The borough residents would be left holding the bag of traffic congestion and pollution, and stripping away the vegetation would create even more urban heat islands. But a Meadowbrook park would provide Lachine residents with all the benefits that an adjacent forest and a park can bring.

If you look at Meadowbrook in the winter, you will notice it is covered with countless footprints, dog prints, and cross country ski prints. Citizens have literally voted with their feet that they want this green space conserved and have demanded its protection for more than 20 years. The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (2004) and the Commission permanente du conseil d’agglomération sur les grands équipements (2009) have both strongly recommended that Meadowbrook and its Little St-Pierre River be conserved. In 2004, Mayor Gérald Tremblay himself promised to save Meadowbrook. In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, let the Tremblay Team prove its commitment to sustainable development by conserving Meadowbrook as a nature park.

Al Hayek
Member of Les Amis de Meadowbrook

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