When Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced plans to create the biggest urban park in Canada, the move seemed have a consensus but the following week, three developers who own part the land sent the city a lawyer’s letter demanding compensation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday he is promising up to $50 million to fund the project, which could settle the decades-long dispute.
“I’m very happy to announce that the federal government will be a partner to the important project that Valérie has been long talking about,” said Trudeau. “We believe in the protection of the environment and protecting the future for us all.”
The federal government has agreed to pay portion of the money the city needs to create a massive park in Montreal’s West Island. The estimated $125-million project called le Grand parc de L’Ouest is now one step closer to reality.
“Today is the investment of up to $50 million to support the project,” said Plante. “Today we are announcing our first partner, a partner we can count on.”
Plante made it official earlier this month. After three decades of opposition and uncertainty, the 30 square kilometres green space that includes l’Anse à l’Orme and Cap-Saint-Jacques will become the largest urban park in Canada — eight times bigger than New York’s Central Park.
However, the city was missing some of the money to buy back the some of the 3,000 hectares of land currently owned by three private developers.
“It’s been a long very long wandering in the desert,” David Fletcher, vice-president of the Green Coalition, said about the fight that started in 1988. “So today we’ve reached the promise land we hope.”
Environmentalists have made it loud and clear that they want the green space conserved at all cost and say this is the first step towards stopping the development of over 5,000 housing units.
“We’re very pleased. This is a leadership positioning being taken at a time when around the world biodiversity is increasingly in crisis,” Fletcher told Global News.
Plante has faced criticism for failing to consult the developers in question. All three sent her a lawyer’s letter last week demanding compensation and calling the move a “disguised expropriation.”
“We hope that they will be partners of this project,” Plante said, adding that she is planning to meet with the developers in the coming days.
Some are hopeful the new federal funding will ensure the proposed massive park sees the light of day.
“We do hope that the resolution of this will satisfy the developers and encourage them to step down from what lawsuits they’ve been threatening,” Fletcher said.
WATCH BELOW: Environmental activists applaud city’s move to preserve greenspace on the West Island of Montreal