Introducing Montreal’s Park People – A Series: Les Amis du Parc Lalancette
Parenthood and community spirit inspired the desire to enliven, beautify and maintain a neighbourhood park.
Parc Lalancette, in brief
- Borough: Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve
- Location: 2315, rue Nicolet, bounded by Nicolet, de Rouen, Hochelaga and Bourbonnière streets
- Format: Recreation park
- Area: 34,727 m2 (2nd-largest green space in the borough)
- Equipment: park chalet (renovated in 2015), children’s play area, play fountains (summer 2016), dog park, urban furniture, sports field (baseball), outdoor skating rink and lawn bowling area.
- History: A quarry that has been converted into a park (J. Poupore Quarry)
- Accessibility: Close to Joliette Metro station
Marc-Olivier Champagne-Thomas and Hélène McKoy, two long-time residents of the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough, are behind the Lalancette green alleyway* project adjacent to Parc Lalancette. In the summer of 2019, they began their efforts to rejuvenate the adjacent park, kicking off their community park group Les Amis du Parc Lalancette.
"I'm a mom of two, and it's the kids who are the ones that are pushing us to take a greater interest in the park, making us realize how outdated it is." – Hélène
It makes sense that these two would lead the community park group. Marc-Olivier, an architect, a father of two, is actively involved with the borough's urban planning advisory committee (CCU). Hélène is the general manager of the Corporation d’animation des places publiques (CAPP)* and mother of two children and has numerous connections to municipal politics.
Credit: les Amis du Parc Lalancette
To start things off, Marc-Olivier came up with the idea of making toys available for sharing in the children's play area of the park.
I bought $20 worth of toys and we used a marker to identify them as belonging to Les Amis du Parc Lalancette so that they could be left there. Although a lot of people expected that the toys would be stolen, we made it through the summer with them and that's when the Les Amis du Parc Lalancette Facebook group was started*.
Since then, the physical and virtual community has grown to 286 community members who meet regularly to discuss the park and to share ideas for events and activities.
Source: Les Amis du Parc Lalancette Facebook group
There’s a long history of enthusiasm for Parc Lalancette and Hélène has been part of it from the start. Helene was part of the public consultation entitled Mon parc Lalancette*: un parc à rêver, which was initiated by the borough in 2015. The exercise generated a number of findings that were used to guide the community’s vision for the park. The consultation report* confirmed that: More than just a simple green space, this is a place for sports meetings, dog play, contemplative walks and family fun. Participants shared their vision for a Parc Lalancette that is easily accessible, safe, well maintained and fun for residents of all ages.
"I've seen Parc Lalancette go from a very ordinary park, a plain Soviet-era park, to the park that it is today." - Hélène McKoy
Vision and aspirations
Les Amis du Parc Lalancette considers itself a young community park group with little established organizational structure. The group meetings are spontaneous and largely involve a circle of parents in the park. Social media postings from various residents on the group's Facebook page generate discussions and ideas for beautifying the park and help make new initiatives happen.
"In order to get to the point of forming an official group, we need an inspiring project!" - Hélène McKoy
Recently, a new idea emerged: creating a team of volunteer parents and residents to work together to address issues like managing the garbage rink maintenance, as well as keeping up the community toy box* and vegetable garden.
Long term, the group is thinking about doing more advocacy work to revitalize the northern portion of the park.
As Hélène McKoy stated: “This section has been really neglected: the furniture is either missing or completely destroyed, the trails have been neglected and very little maintenance has been done. The idea is to move activities more toward the northern portion of the park and ease congestion in the southern portion. For example, the picnic tables right now are concentrated in the southern part, near the children's playground. The garbage leftover from gatherings at the picnic tables is potentially harmful to children.
Needs and challenges
For the park:
Les Amis du Parc Lalancette has an objective to maximize the potential of existing park structures and equipment to meet growing demand.
“The park is somewhat a victim of its own success, because before with the fence all along rue Rouen, it was enclosed. But when they redeveloped the park and made it more open, the sports fields (soccer, baseball drew everyone from the neighbourhood. It gives the impression the City didn’t adapt the amenities to the population’s needs." - Marc-Olivier Champagne-Thomas
Source: Les Amis du Parc Lalancette Facebook group
While the 2015 opening of a new, modern and user-friendly park chalet drew enthusiasm from local residents, there have been several challenges to accessing the benefits of the space. While the chalet has amenities like a locker room, an equipment lending room and washrooms, the space is, unfortunately, open only a couple of days a week, with timing that does not line up with times when most park users need access to washrooms and water. This has led to numberous complaints made on social media.
For the group:
Les Amis du Parc does not see mobilizing residents as a challenge. The group’s challenge is that as a volunteer-run organization, they need to find people willing to work behind the scenes on administrative tasks.
"It's not hard to get people involved, but what's tough is the paperwork, the administration, that's where it's more difficult to guarantee that people will be there," states Hélène.
Although the group is aware of the many challenges involved in establishing a committee of parent and resident volunteers, they see great potential for improving the quality of their local park so it serves the needs of the community.
Some relevant links
- Parc Lalancette*
- Consultation publique: améliorer le parc Lalancette, pour mieux l’aimer*
- Lalancette Park, Stroller Parking
- Parc Lalancette, Chronologie Montréal*
- Chalet du parc Lalancette*
- Parc Lalancette, de nouveaux jeux d'au pour profiter de l'été dans Hochelga*
- Les anciennes carrieres*
- Un nouveau chalet moderne et convival pour la parc Lalancette*
- Verdissement Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve*
- Plusieurs ruelles vertes réalisées dans Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve*
- Ruelles vertes 2020, entre défi et réussite*
- Des plans sur merure pour le parc Lalancette*
- Les toilettes des parcs s'invitent dans la campagne municipale*
A partnership with:
Generously supported by: