The new beach in Verdun was packed Saturday, the first day it was open to the public.
Though it wasn’t as warm as it might have been in the Caribbean, people were thrilled.
“The water is a bit cold,” smiles Verdun resident Paul Cornett, “but that’s gonna get better. We used to go to Pierrefonds just to go to the beach at Cap-Saint-Jacques and it’s nice that we can just walk to something right here.”
READ MORE: Verdun beach finally set to open
Gabrielle Cardinal, who also lives nearby, agrees.
“I’m really happy,” she tells Global News. “We live near here and there was no beach close by that we can go, and now there is one.”
The beach is located just behind the Verdun auditorium and Arthur Therrien park.
The project is $2 million over budget at $7 million, and is two years behind schedule. Plans were to have a beach open in Verdun in time for the Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017, but multiple hurdles — including environmental considerations, funding issues and even a change in location — caused delays.
It’s something city councillor Sterling Downey says isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I’m actually glad we had slight delays,” he tells Global News. “It forced us to do it respectfully and properly.”
He says, though, that despite efforts to protect nature, trees had to be cut down and wildlife was displaced. To compensate, the city plans to plant more trees and species of plants so wildlife has a place to go.
Although people are happy with the result, some were expecting more.
“I was expecting a bit bigger,” says Cardinal.
Jordan Lembo, who lives near the beach, agrees, saying he expects the beach to become popular.
“Definitely, there’s going to have to be more space.”
Downey says it’s not as small as people think — there’s space for 500 swimmers.
“The beach itself, including the swimmers, can accommodate about 1,600 people,” he adds. “You can probably bump that up to around 2,000 and then you’re good.”
He says if people think it’s too crowded there’s a pool and many other facilities in the park that visitors can use.
Some users worry about the swift river current, because while there are deflectors to block the current close to the beach and barriers to stop swimmers from going too far, they say people, especially kids, will take risks.
“They’re bound to venture off beyond the little buoys over there,” Lembo says.
Montreal firefighters showed up to survey the area, worried that someone would sneak under the barriers and get swept away. One who didn’t want to be identified told Global News that they are worried.
Downey says there are lifeguards and that the area will be patrolled after hours.
The beach will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., except when there’s risk of contamination due to heavy rain.