POSITION STATEMENT: Escales découvertes, a City of Montreal Initiated 375th Anniversary Project for Mount Royal

2016-06-03

Montréal, June 3, 2016 Escales découvertes, a legacy project proposed by the City of Montreal for its 375th anniversary, has recently come under intense media scrutiny. It has been stated several times in this context that Les amis de la montagne supported the project with enthusiasm. Such statements beg clarification.

Since 2012, Les amis de la montagne has been involved in the Working Group on the 375th Anniversary of Montreal, struck by the City of Montreal’s Table de concertation du Mont-Royal (TCMR). Les amis has thus been privy to development of the City’s Escales découvertes proposal for Mount Royal and has striven to achieve results worthy of Montrealers and their mountain.

The overall project is vaster and richer than has been reported in the media.  Les amis de la montagne was indeed in favour of the City’s decision to propose such an important legacy project. The overarching goal of Escales découvertes was to link Mount Royal’s three summits, to build greater awareness of, and access to, the territory as a whole, named a special Heritage Site by the Conseil des Ministres in 2005. The concerns of Les amis de la montagne lie with some of the project’s ultimate development and design choices.

Over the past three years, Les amis attended some 15 meetings of the Working Group; it critiqued each iteration of the City’s proposal, and made extensive recommendations. It expressed reservations regarding the concept, design choices, and the apparent absence of consideration for maintenance of the installations.

Les Amis questioned the pertinence of some components of the proposed park furniture, as well as their sheer number. It underscored the necessity of aligning such choices with the development principles and values established for Mount Royal which have guided the work of generations of landscape architects. Dr. Charles E. Beveridge, in his book Mount Royal in the Works of Frederick Law Olmsted, says it clearly:

At Mount Royal, as with his other urban parks, Olmsted wished to avoid a proliferation of structures. The purpose of making the mountain accessible to the public for recreation, he firmly believed, was not to provide demonstrations of the art of architecture.1

Les amis de la montagne also shared its concerns over the City’s proposal for park furniture, a radical departure from the existing signature design for the park, as well as for the soon-to-be launched ring road (chemin de ceinture du Mont-Royal). When granite was proposed, Les amis countered with a suggestion to use local materials such as gabbro, limestone or hornfels. It also believes that certain selected sites and pathways would require prior work in order to ensure a quality visitor experience.

Finally, Les amis de la montagne stressed the importance of the sustainability of such legacy projects. The City is already faced with daunting maintenance and improvement challenges in Mount Royal Park and elsewhere on the mountain. What provisions are then in store for these new installations?

Les amis de la montagne acknowledges the value and importance of this TCMR working group, but would like to emphasize that it acts only in an advisory capacity. As such, its participation does not imply an endorsement of all aspects of the proposed project.

1BEVERIDGE, Dr. Charles E., Mount Royal in the Works of Frederick Law Olmsted, Entente sur le développement culturel de Montréal, Ville de Montréal, Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine du Québec.

Photo : Ville de Montréal