Jean Dra­peau Park: Mon­treal's court­yard

Montreal Times - - Front Page - By Ser­gio Martinez mtl­

The is­land is still known as Île Sainte Hélène, the name given to it by no other than the ex­plorer Sa­muel de Cham­plain in 1611, af­ter the name of her young wife. Most of the is­land, how­ever, is now des­ig­nated af­ter the for­mer mayor who was the driv­ing force be­hind Expo 67. Jean Dra­peau Park is not only a well-pre­served nat­u­ral area just a few min­utes from down­town Mon­treal. It is also a place where the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada is held ev­ery year, the site of a beau­ti­ful (al­though this year closed) swim­ming pool com­plex, the stage for many con­certs, and the lo­ca­tion of an ar­ti­fi­cial beach.

These mul­ti­ple vo­ca­tions of the park were cel­e­brated this past Tues­day when Danièle Henkel, Chair of the Board of Di­rec­tors, and Ron­ald Cyr, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the So­ciété du parc Jean-Dra­peau, un­veiled the list of ac­tiv­i­ties pro­grammed to cel­e­brate what is also the 50th an­niver­sary of the park. This press con­fer­ence was also the oc­ca­sion to launch "Two Is­lands, One Park, One City", a book de­signed in the form of a vis­ual al­bum that cov­ers the his­tory of the is­land since the times of Iro­quoian set­tling, to the French col­o­niza­tion, the British takeover, and the pe­riod af­ter the found­ing of Canada. The book was pro­duced by Manuela Fer­ron, Linda Pim­paré, and the man­u­script by Diane Ger­vais, with Manuela Fer­ron and Hélène Gautry.

Neigh­bour­ing the Park on the south­ern tip of the is­land, is La Ronde, the site of a new edi­tion of the Fire­works Com­pe­ti­tion (from July 1 to Au­gust 5), one of the most pop­u­lar sum­mer events. Back at the Jean Dra­peau Park, the Week­ends du Monde, a mul­ti­cul­tural fes­ti­val fea­tur­ing dance, mu­sic, and gas­tron­omy from Ja­maica, the Maghreb coun­tries, Cuba, Mex­ico, Peru, Venezuela, Colom­bia and Tu­nisia will run July 8-9 and then July 15-16.

For those look­ing for ac­tion and sports, the MTL Chal­lenge – Bateau Dragon is sched­uled for July 8 and 9, the Mon­treal Spirit Triathlon is set for Sep­tem­ber 9 and 10, and the 24 hrs Roller Mon­treal for Sep­tem­ber 16 and 17.

The park is also home to out­stand­ing con­certs and mu­sic fes­ti­vals: Me­tal­lica will be per­form­ing on July 19.The Osheaga Fes­ti­val of Mu­sic and Arts is sched­uled for Au­gust 4 to 6. The fes­ti­val Ilesoniq takes place on Au­gust 11 and 12, Guns-n-Roses will be at the park on Au­gust 19. Piknik Elec­tronik will be on week­ends un­til Sep­tem­ber 24.

Other places of in­ter­est lo­cated on the is­land are the Bio­sphere, an en­vi­ron­ment mu­seum; the Ste­wart Mu­seum, and of course, the ever-pop­u­lar amuse­ment park La Ronde and the Mon­treal Casino. This year, be­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of Expo 67 has also pro­vided the op­por­tu­nity to present a photo ex­hi­bi­tion at the Bio­sphere cel­e­brat­ing that unique mo­ment in the his­tory of Mon­treal and Canada.

Jean Dra­peau Park is ac­ces­si­ble by metro (yel­low line, from the Ber­riUQAM sta­tion), by bixi, and by boat from the Old Port and Longueuil. I would strongly rec­om­mend pub­lic transit over the car: traf­fic jams, es­pe­cially the days of fire­works shows or con­certs, are of ex­as­per­at­ing pro­por­tions. For de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about ac­tiv­i­ties and fees for some of them, visit

Aerial view of Jean Dra­peau Park in the present, from "Two Is­lands, One Park, One City"

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