Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says the city aims to make the long-standing Black Rock memorial site more accessible to the public.
In a private meeting with members of the Irish community on Wednesday, Plante reportedly said the city is willing to discuss relocating Bridge Street to allow the creation of a memorial park.
At the foot of the Victoria Bridge between two lanes of heavy traffic stands a three-metre-tall boulder erected in 1859 known as the Black Rock.
The headstone honours some 6,000 Irish souls who lay buried in unmarked graves in the city’s Sud-Ouest neighbourhood.
For decades, Montreal’s Irish community has been fighting to make the rock more accessible.
“If we were to go and try to touch the stone now, we couldn’t because of the traffic, so it’s so important to give access to the Irish to this very important headstone,” said Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation director Victor Boyle, who attended Wednesday’s meeting.
In the meeting between members of the Irish community and the city, Boyle says the mayor showed enthusiasm towards the idea of a future park in the area.
The Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation’s ideal green space would see Bridge Street diverted around the park, giving pedestrians access to the stone.
“It’s not an easy thing to move a road, but she is committed to doing the move if it is at all feasible,” Boyle said.
“We take her at her word and we are very happy with the meeting.”
Plante, responding to the news, said the meeting was private and would not comment on what exactly was said behind closed doors, only saying: “Our goal as the city is to make sure that Black Rock is in a safe place that will be easily accessible. Right now it is not accessible.”
When asked about the possible reconfiguration of Bridge Street, Plante would not confirm but said: “There are different plans and different options — diverting Bridge Street was one of them.”
While optimism is high, nothing is set in stone surrounding the proposed park.
Hydro-Québec, which owns the land on which the memorial sits, has ceded 3.5 acres for the future green space.
Negotiations on costs and park layout have yet to be finalized.
“There are other considerations to bring into it, but we’re taking the steps and pushing down the blockade and we will absolutely have a proper memorial here,” Boyle said.