NO NEED TO BE AFRAID

Is­abelle Dosogne paints the Mel­rose Tun­nel in N.D.G. with her mom Yvette Sali­nas and sis­ter Pene­lope. It’s a time of year when the nor­mally creepy space can feel spe­cial.

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - ISAAC OL­SON

Kasey Part­ing­ton, a talkative 10-year-old, al­ready has her trickor-treat­ing route all planned out and it starts with a stroll through a dimly lit, some­what gloomy un­der­ground pas­sage­way that con­nects her St-Ray­mond neigh­bour­hood to the rest of Notre-Dame-deGrâce.

With loot bag in hand, sur­rounded by friends and fam­ily, she’s ready to visit the haunted Mel­rose Tun­nel at least twice on Hal­loween night — some­thing she has done for as long as she can re­mem­ber.

“It’s the first thing on my list,” she said, a spiny, card­board scor­pion dan­gling from her hand. “I go there every year to check it out. It gets creepier and creepier and it’s very cool. I love see­ing stuff I made, point­ing it out to my friends.”

The toi­let-pa­per-roll scor­pion was some­thing she was work­ing on dur­ing a decoration-mak­ing event held at the St-Ray­mond Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on Oct. 23. On Hal­loween, it will be hang­ing in the tun­nel as kids like Part­ing­ton stroll through, gaz­ing at a freshly painted mu­ral and hand­crafted crea­tures. This year, dec­o­ra­tions will have a “spooky woods” theme.

The Mel­rose Ave. tun­nel runs un­der the train tracks and is about 50 me­tres long. It links de Maison­neuve Blvd. to the rows of hous­ing sand­wiched be­tween St. Jac­ques St. and the rails. That tight-knit neigh­bour­hood, known as St-Ray­mond, re­lies on the pas­sage­way to ac­cess shop­ping, pub­lic tran­sit and ev­ery­thing else north of the tracks.

Many res­i­dents pre­fer the pedes­trian bridge at Grand Blvd., feel­ing the tun­nel is too creepy to use any time of year.

Eight years ago, St-Ray­mond res­i­dent Me­lanie Stuy de­cided to com­bat that sense of creepi­ness by dec­o­rat­ing the tun­nel for Hal­loween. She got neigh­bours in­volved and her ini­tia­tive has since blos­somed into an an­nual tra­di­tion that at­tracts hun­dreds of par­tic­i­pants every year, turn­ing the tun­nel into some­thing neigh­bours can be proud of.

“We know it’s creepy,” said StRay­mond res­i­dent Yvette Sali­nas, who co-or­di­nates the haunted tun­nel project. “We know it’s not pretty. But it is still there. It is some­thing im­por­tant to us and we want to show its im­por­tance by mak­ing it spe­cial on Hal­loween.”

Sali­nas co-founded the Cheap Art Col­lec­tive with Stuy and Amy Bar­ring­ton, which puts art “back into the hands of reg­u­lar peo­ple,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site. The group founded the N.D.G. Art Hive to bring fam­i­lies and res­i­dents to­gether on a weekly ba­sis to be cre­ative, usu­ally us­ing re­cy­cled and do­nated ma­te­ri­als. The events are free, pro­vid­ing the pub­lic with easy ac­cess to art.

When chil­dren dec­o­rate a pub­lic space with their art, Sali­nas said they de­velop a sense of own­er­ship. She strives to at­tract as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to help make dec­o­ra­tions, string them up and paint a full-length mu­ral in­side the tun­nel — some­thing the bor­ough of Côt­edes-Neiges–N.D.G. al­lows as long as it is wash­able paint.

Cyn­thia Haughton, now a VilleÉ­mard res­i­dent, moved out of N.D.G. sev­eral years ago, but she brings her fam­ily back every Hal­loween to dec­o­rate the tun­nel. She, like many in the area, feel that peo­ple north of the tracks are more in­tim­i­dated by the tun­nel than the St-Ray­mond res­i­dents, many of whom use it every day. She says the haunted tun­nel is a way for res­i­dents to take charge of the dreary pas­sage­way and wel­come res­i­dents from both sides of the tracks.

“Peo­ple are afraid of the tun­nel even though it’s not war­ranted,” she said. “Dec­o­rat­ing it wel­comes peo­ple from ei­ther side to go back and forth.”

Is­abelle Dosogne, 10, loves paint­ing the tun­nel and en­cour­ages more peo­ple to check it out on Hal­loween be­cause “it’s re­ally fun.”

Cor­rinne Se­vi­gny, 9, likes par­tic­i­pat­ing in the decoration mak­ing be­cause it al­lows her to be cre­ative.

“Last year, we made Hal­loween wreaths and we were walk­ing into a Christ­mas-slash-Hal­loween theme,” she said. “It was hi­lar­i­ous.”

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI

Jo Wed­lock, right, and Ste­fanie Duguay help dec­o­rate the Mel­rose Tun­nel on Sun­day.

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