Have Your Say:
The future of Westmount Park
Three features of the city-wide debate stand out
September 9, 2021
Dear Westmount Magazine,
I have been living in the municipality of Westmount for three decades, right next to Westmount Park, a highly used and successful model of landscape design that is an important part of the patrimony of all Montreal. Now the municipal authorities in Westmount appear determined to make some very unwise changes that would mar this park. The following quite simple argument represents the views of many citizens, so it only makes sense to also share these perceptions in the pages of Westmount Magazine.
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During the city-wide discussion about the future of Westmount Park, three features of the debate stand out.
- Public opinion
Citizens have made it abundantly clear that they want the park to be properly maintained, not spoilt by unwise interventions. In consultations and in public discussion, residents have been adamant about not wanting unneeded infrastructure, such as an amphitheatre or suspended walkways.
- Westmount’s landscape tradition
Westmount Park has been designed following North American landscape practice. Frederick Law Olmsted did not work personally here, but his success with Mount Royal Park inspired city leaders in 1898 to have their own Olmsted approach and they corresponded with the Olmsted firm in Brookline, Mass. (see Olmsted Brothers to Chairman of the Park Committee, Town of Westmount, August 1, 1899, Library of Congress, Wash. D.C.). The Olmsted Brothers stressed the “landscape effect” for Westmount Park and emphasized that “features should be so contrived as to interfere with the landscape in the least possible degree.” [Emphasis added]
- Municipal democracy
Westmounter Jason Prince has just co-edited a very important book – Montréal: A Citizens Guide To City Politics. Veteran reporter Linda Gyulai contributes a chapter, “Power and City Hall,” that demonstrates the deeply undemocratic rules governing all municipalities in Quebec, and this includes Westmount, which has the same closed room meetings governing executive decisions that all other Quebec cities have.
These facts converge. The public in Westmount is against uncontrolled ambitions to re-make Westmount Park. And public opinion fits in with the landscape tradition that Westmount has followed for more than 100 years. Finally, Westmount suffers from the same democratic deficit as other Quebec municipalities – so the Mayor and councillors should listen to citizens and not cling stubbornly to grandiose ideas that will spoil Westmount Park.
251 Melville Ave.
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