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Activists use Jane's Walks to call for protecting Meadowbrook

Activists use Jane's Walks to call for protecting Meadowbrook

Map of Meadowbrook golf course

Map of Meadowbrook golf course

Photograph by: graphic , The Gazette

MONTREAL - Urban development guru Jane Jacobs was remembered over the weekend with the fourth edition of a series of Jane’s Walks around the city.

Montreal was but one of about 100 cities in 17 countries that participated this year.

The idea is to get acquainted with the flora and fauna of each neighbourhood. About 40 guides led 50 walks in 12 boroughs and several cities on Montreal Island on Saturday and Sunday.

Jacobs was the author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), a seminal critique of urban renewal policies of the 1950s. She died in Toronto in 2006.

In Côte St. Luc, city councillor Dida Berku and members of a local activist organization called Les Amis de Meadowbrook hosted the Jane’s Walk which began at Richard Schwartz Park on Westluke Ave. on Sunday, just a stone’s throw away from the railway tracks. There were, however, no worries about stones being thrown at this most peaceful of demonstrations attended by about 45 brook-loving people.

The mission of Les Amis de Meadowbrook is to protect the verdant area, which is currently being used as a golf course, from being developed into high-density residential dwellings. The 57 acres in question are currently owned by a company called Groupe Pacific which has construction plans in mind.

There were placards to wave at Richard Schwartz Park. And a large sign (erected with the help of the City of Côte St. Luc), read “SOS! Conserve Meadowbrook for everyone!”

Berku voiced concerns about noise pollution from the recently constructed AMT railway-car repair yards in nearby Lachine, and about the dangers of freight trains carrying toxic substances passing so close to residential areas. Minutes later, a freight train towing several tanks of toxic substances appeared as if on cue to underline her words.

Retired schoolteacher and self-taught ecologist David Fletcher, of the Green Coalition, led the walk along the road next to the tracks. He pointed out black willows and hickory trees. After suddenly declaring “I love mosquitos!” he waded into a watery ditch in an attempt to trap mosquito larvae for display. (No luck. Too early.)

Access to the actual Meadowbrook park was not possible. So two members of Les Amis welcomed the walkers into their backyards, both of which overlooked the golf course. One of the hosts, aeronautical engineer Nigel Dove, pointed out the area targeted for condo development: “The last proposal was a green proposal but this isn’t the right place for it. It would be high-density, four-storey condos, 1,500 condos crammed into this little area.”

“My interest is to keep nature alive and to support what is important to the next generation, to pass it on,” said Sharon Smith, who teaches art at Royal Vale school.

Some of the walkers, such as François Rivest, Marie-Josée Breton and their three children, were visiting the Meadowbrook area for the first time. Breton had organized the Jane’s Walk in Montreal North on Saturday and the whole family had attended there, too. “That was quite enjoyable, “ Rivest said. “People were happy and relaxed and talking to each other. It was kind of a village setting.”

This was the first year that the city has participated in the Jane's Walks organized annually by the Urban Ecology Centre.