The decision to close one of the two roads leading to Mount Royal Park is the latest twist in a century-old debate over how to balance the conservation of downtown Montreal’s wooded refuge with the needs of the metropolis in terms of transport.
The park’s architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, is responsible for some of North America’s most famous public green spaces, including New York’s Central Park.
In 1872, the City of Montreal asked Mr. Olmsted to design a plan for its new Mount Royal Park. However, the Camillien-Houde route was not part of Mr. Olmsted’s proposal.
Montreal built the road on the northeast side of the mountain in the late 1950s in an effort to expand automobile infrastructure. This is indicated by a study of the site commissioned by the City in 2018 and written by historian Denise Caron.
What would Mr. Olmsted think of the closure of the Camillien-Houde route?
It’s not clear, says Witold Rybczynski, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania and Mr. Olmsted’s biographer, in an interview with The Canadian Press.
It is very difficult to try to understand what a person like Mr. Olmsted would think about our world today. He was a very pragmatic person.
Mr. Olmsted died in 1903, before automobile use became widespread.Rybczynski. But I have no idea what it would be.”,”text”:”I’m sure he would have something interesting to say about automobiles, Mr. Rybczynski continued. But I have no idea what it would be.”}}”>I’m sure he would have something interesting to say about automobiles, Mr. Rybczynski continued. But I have no idea what it would be.
Vehicles and a cyclist are traveling on the Camillien-Houde route.
Photo : Radio-Canada / Charles Contant
On Wednesday, Mayor Valérie Plante announced her intention to close the Camillien-Houde route to cars starting in 2027 and reopen it as a new pedestrian path and cycle path two years later. Only emergency vehicles will still be able to use the street, indicated the mayor, for whom
the mountain is not a shortcut but rather a
A simultaneous public consultation on the future of access roads to Mount Royal Park conducted in the summer of 2018 resulted in a recommendation aimed at keeping them open to cars.
However, the Plante administration maintains that the closure of the Camillien-Houde route is necessary to protect the biodiversity of Mount Royal and to make the park more accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and people with reduced mobility, who could use the new trail. suitable for wheelchairs.
Mount Royal, insisted Ms. Plante,
belongs to everyone.
First a place of contemplation
Creating a destination universally accessible to all city residents was also Mr. Olmsted’s goal, according to researcher Charles Beveridge, whose 2009 study was published by the City of Montreal.
The idea was that the park would be detached from the city, a quiet place of contemplation where people of all social classes and origins could meet.
On the Mount Royal lookout at the beginning of the 20th century
Mr. Bérubé suggests that this ideal was at odds with the location of the park as well as the desires of the local bourgeoisie, who used the carriage trails designed by Mr. Olmsted on Mount Royal to escape the hustle and bustle below.
People from the working classes could not access the park because at the time it was quite far from the urban core and the working-class neighborhoodexplains Mr. Bérubé.
Having easy and inexpensive access to Mount Royal Park has therefore become an important political issue.
The Mount Royal funicular around 1900
Photo : Domaine public
Although a funicular connected the mountain’s summit and its base from 1885 to 1920, there was no public transportation connection leading from the east to the mountain’s summit until the opening of a tram, in 1930, according to Ms. Caron’s account.
The Mount Royal tramway on what would later become Chemin Camillien-Houde.
Photo : Archives STM
opposed any rapid ascent that short-circuited the visual experience he had organized for pedestrians and for horse-drawn carriage riders who climbed the mountain, Mr. Beveridge’s study said in 2009.
Professor Bérubé maintains that the construction of the Camillien-Houde route further undermined Mr. Olmsted’s vision.Berube. So the park, instead of being this oasis outside of the city, essentially became an obstacle to the development of the city.”,”text”:”It was really a way to cross the mountain, to cross the park, underlined Mr. Bérubé. So the park, instead of being this oasis outside of the city, has essentially become an obstacle to the development of the city.”}}”>It was really a way of crossing the mountain, of crossing the park, underlined Mr. Bérubé. So the park, instead of being this oasis outside of the city, essentially became an obstacle to the development of the city.
Central Park suffered a similar fate when its old walkways began to accommodate cars, Mr. Rybczynski recalls. New York City banned vehicle access to these trails in 2018, although four lower roads remain connecting the road networks to the east and west of the park.
The difference with Mount Royal, he adds, is that Camillien-Houde Way is largely on the edge of the park, partly on land acquired by the City after the death of Mr. Olmsted.
It’s hard for me to say that [la voie Camillien-Houde] est intrusive, raises Mr. Rybczynski. Instead, the professor admits that he enjoys the experience the course offers visitors.
For Mr. Bérubé, eliminate automobile traffic on the Camillien-Houde route
would perhaps take the park back to its beginnings, to this idea of a park that should be outside the city.
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