Osheaga’s new home - A park or a dev­as­tated place?

Montreal Times - - News - By Ser­gio Martinez mtl­times.ca

Ex­cept for those go­ing to the Casino, I guess very few Mon­treal­ers visit Île Sainte Hélène in the win­ter. But as soon as the weather im­proves and La Ronde opens its doors or peo­ple sim­ply feel in­clined to visit that en­clave of na­ture in the mid­dle of the St. Lawrence River, they will be for a sur­prise; al­beit, an un­pleas­ant one I should say. Af­ter com­ing out of the Jean Dra­peau metro sta­tion, where trees used to stand, now vis­i­tors would face what seems a dev­as­tated place, com­pa­ra­ble per­haps to what is left be­hind when a hur­ri­cane has passed.

The cause of this des­o­late land­scape is no other than a "legacy" of former Mayor De­nis Coderre: his beloved "Am­phithéâtre na­turel," the trans­for­ma­tion of the south­ern part of St. Hélène Is­land into a giant out­door venue for con­certs and other big events. For this pur­pose, hun­dreds of trees and large green areas were re­moved in or­der to in­stall gra­di­ents where the public could be ac­com­mo­dated. Of course, these new in­stal­la­tions will be con­crete struc­tures.

When the project was first dis­cussed in city hall, the then op­po­si­tion leader and now May­orVa­lerie Plante, de­cried the idea. Her ar­gu­ment was pre­cisely the mas­sive de­struc­tion of ma­ture trees that the project en­tailed. How­ever, since the pro­jected am­phithe­atre is now in its ini­tial phase — the re­moval of all the trees— lit­tle can be done, and the city ap­par­ently had no op­tion but to let the con­struc­tion of the giant venue go ahead.

When the project was first pro­posed by Coderre, the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion was to pro­vide im­proved fa­cil­i­ties for mu­sic events such as Osheaga and oth­ers that are staged at Jean Dra­peau Park. In prin­ci­ple, this may sound fine, ex­cept that as far as we know, those at­tend­ing those con­certs —mostly young peo­ple— were not com­plain­ing about the fa­cil­i­ties as they stood un­til now. In­deed, hav­ing areas with trees was seen as an ad­van­tage, since when these events take place dur­ing the day, it may get very hot, hav­ing a break in the shadow of a big tree could then be a good thing.An­other fac­tor that was not con­sid­ered is that trees —as seen in the area of the Notre Dame Is­land where the last Osheaga con­certs were held— also serve as nat­u­ral re­duc­ers of ex­ces­sive noise, thus ad­dress­ing some of the com­plaints of neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties in the South Shore. In the new lo­ca­tion, with­out trees around, the public will not have much relief from the sun, the in­evitable noise that a con­cert gen­er­ates would still get to the South Shore, and on top of all of this, what is a park with­out green spa­ces?

It is un­for­tu­nate that at this point noth­ing can be done to re­me­di­ate a sit­u­a­tion that threat­ens the char­ac­ter of Île Sainte Hélène as a sort of oa­sis in the mid­dle of our ur­ban set­ting. Of course, con­cert pro­duc­ers will have what has been promised to be a state-of-the-art out­door au­di­to­rium, but that would have been at the ex­pense of what used to be a pleas­ant place that now has been de­stroyed.

(Ser­gio Martinez)

he same area of the park as it looks right now

(Google photo)

The park around the Jean Dra­peau metro sta­tion as it looks in this 2013 pic­ture

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