Exploring the Community Park Groups in Montreal’s Park People Network

September 2, 2021

Clemence Marcastel

Parks and green spaces cover 11% of the City of Montreal (2.8 hectares of park per 1,000 residents). This area is made up of 20 large parks managed by the City of Montreal’s large parks department and over 1,200 neighbourhood parks in the 19 boroughs. These public parks are enjoyed by millions of people every year.

Since 2018, Park People has supported and mobilized Montreal Park People groups by providing them with funding through programs such as TD Park People Grants Program and through training, networking and one-on-one support.

Today, more than 72 Park People groups in Montreal are part of Park People’s network. But, we know there are many more. Together, these community park groups actively contribute to the preservation, maintenance, improvement and activation of Montreal’s parks.

 

Credit photo: Matias Garabedian, Montreal, Canada, 2017

 

In 2018, we developed a series of case studies to better understand the landscape of community park groups in Montreal (Les Amis de la Montagne and Sauvons la Falaise) and Quebec City (The St-Charles River Society).

This year, in the midst of a pandemic, we had the opportunity to meet five more inspiring Montreal groups and learn about their work as well as their hopes, challenges and current needs. What we learned has helped paint a picture of the unique make up of Montreal’s community park groups.

We’re proud to highlight the results of this work: 5 case studies highlighting the work of Les Amis du parc Lalancette, Racine Mtl-Nord, CAP Jarry, Les AmiEs du parc des gorilles and Les AmiEs du courant Sainte-Marie.

These 5 case studies shine a light on the various definitions of parks, what motivates Montrealers to get involved in their parks, and how groups are working to grow the movement to support city parks.

Here’s some of what we learned:

 

Parks and groups of different shapes and sizes

 

What people in Montreal consider a “park” is extremely variable, imprecise and sometimes surprising!

The groups that we met with allowed us to explore what the term ‘park’ really means. From the site of an abandoned rail line to a large metropolitan park to the concrete backyards of social housing developments, to creating infrastructure to establish public access to a river, the park itself seems to inform how, when, and why community park groups exist.

Our CÉRSÉ collaborators have undertaken an exhaustive inventory of Montreal’s municipal literature on the subject. The two primary sources regarding parks and green space: le Plan directeur du sport et du plein air urbains de Montréal (City of Montreal, 2018) and the base de données ouvertes Grands parcs, parcs d’arrondissements et espaces publics (City of Montreal, 2020) are a great resource for understanding the typology of parks across Montreal.

 

Taking care of a park to improve quality of life

 

In Montreal, as in other parts of Canada, residents living close to the park tend to spearhead park improvements. By engaging in their park, residents gain a sense of ownership over their neighbourhood park and their community.

Again and again, we saw how community park groups foster greater community cohesion. For example, les AmiEs du parc Lalancette children and families play together. In Racine MTL-Nord, the community worked together to beautify their common space and to build a new sense of connectedness.

 

Credit photo: RACINE-Mtl Nord

 

Another benefit of resident engagement is building urban nature connectedness. This connection to nature enhances people’s mental and physical health since biodiversity is essential to the well-being of residents. By working together to improve their parks, Montreal’s park groups are giving back to the natural world. For example, CAP Jarry has introduced more diverse tree species into Jarry Park. Similarly, the Friends of Gorilla Park have greened an urban forest previously faced with destruction. The Friends of Courant Sainte-Marie have focused on connecting the community with the St. Lawrence River, and Racine Mtl-Nord is teaching its members how to nurture and grow healthy ecosystems.

 

How friends of Montreal’s parks are mobilizing to boost the power of their city parks

 

Our review of Montreal’s community park groups revealed how park engagement leads to greater community cohesion.

For les AmiEs du parc Lalancette, this cohesion resulted from the group working together to improve their shared living environment.

 

Credit: les Amis du Parc Lalancette 

 

Other groups found success by prioritizing concrete, short-term activities that generate quick wins and create a sense of accomplishment among volunteers. The Friends of Gorilla Park, for example, started by hosting modest cultural and social events. Similarly, Racine MTL-Nord hosted activities that required little cost or equipment.

Across all of the groups we featured, activating the power of urban parks meant working with the right partners.

The first of these strategic partners is the City of Montreal. The Friends of Gorilla Park works with the City and its teams to establish a formal partnership like the one established between the City and Les amis du champ des possibles in 2017. In the case of CAP Jarry, working with the City allowed the group to understand the relationship between the borough of St Michel Parc-Extension and the central part of the city. Finally, when it comes to the large metropolitan parks a magical event like the Ephemeral Christmas Tree Forest sets the stage for future success.

 

Photo credit: Marie-Hélène Roch

 

Once the door to park engagement is opened a crack, Montreal’s vibrant community organizations are eager to step forward. For example les AmiEs du courant Sainte-Marie was able to create the Village au pied du courant because they created an inspiring collaboration with La Pépinière. This type of park event programming has spread beyond Montreal and has helped make the city an international leader in the appropriation of urban public spaces. The group Racine MTL-Nord is supported financially by Paroles d’excluEs, a Montreal non-profit organization (NPO) that fights poverty and social exclusion by speaking out, has mobilized residents to work collectively to improve living conditions in a community housing community.

Other local partners that have collaborated in important park projects include La Coalition Montréalais des Tables de Quartiers (CMTQ)*, Le Regroupement des Éco Quartiers de Montréal*, Le Centre d’écologie urbaine de montréal*, Les maisons de la culture de Montréal*, the municipal libraries*, Sports et loisirs de l’île de Montréal*, le Groupe uni des éducateurs-naturalistes et professionnels en environnement (GUEPE)*, and Les amis de la montagne.

 

Credit photo: RACINE-Mtl Nord

As you explore all of the case studies, we know you’ll be as inspired as we are.

As we uncover more of these inspiring park projects, we are committed to making sure that all Montrealers have equal access to quality neighbourhood parks that meet the community’s needs. We know that there is an uneven distribution of Montreal’s city parks among the various boroughs. (This is also the case with respect to other urban facilities, such as municipal swimming pools). We are committed to changing this.

If you are inspired to do something to activate or improve your Montreal city park, or you’re part of a community park group, join our Network and connect with our partners (Les amis de la montagne, Le Centre d’écologie urbaine de Montréal*, and the Conseil régional environnemental de Montréal) to find out more about our upcoming activities.

 

We’re here to help.

 

   

 

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Generously supported by:

 

 

 

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