Protesters gathered outside Montreal city hall Monday afternoon to voice their opposition to plans that would see the Lachine Marina transformed into a waterfront park.
The city expects to spend between $25 and $30 million over five years to convert the area into a bigger green space and to increase public access to Lac St-Louis.
The creation of the park was announced at the beginning of July and came as a surprise to local boaters.
“We have families that live there five months out of the year. It’s like being evicted without any warning,” said Martine Rochon, vice-president of the Lachine Boaters’ Association.
The marina is the largest one in Quebec, and finding a new space to dock could prove difficult.
“In Quebec there’s a waiting list of 2,200 for spots,” Rochon said.
Monday’s protest was about being heard.
“We want public consultations,” Rochon said.
Over 10,000 Montrealers have already signed a petition asking the city to reconsider the decision that will impact 450 families.
“There’s still time for people to talk and find mutual beneficial solutions,” said Alan DeSousa, borough mayor for Saint-Laurent and member of the official opposition at city hall.
Opponents of the waterfront development project argue the marina contributes to the local economy with direct and indirect benefits estimated at $10 million.
Lachine borough mayor Maja Vodanovic, supports the project and argued the marina is too costly to maintain because a sort of embankment protecting the marina is badly eroded.
“To keep a marina on this ‘digue’ is way to expensive, it is not viable,” she said. “We cannot keep putting public money into it.”
Local environmentalists also support the new project.
The nautical activity lets oil and gas into the water so we’re facing an issue of quality of water,” said Catherine Houbart, interim director at GRAME.
“”It also contributes to land erosion on the shores because of the waves created by the nautical activity and there’s also problem’s of cohabitation with some faunic species.”
Vodanovic added that the new project will also allow all Montrealers to enjoy the waterfront, not just those who own boats.
“Let’s invest it and so that we have something durable. So that we have we have a project that is socially beneficial that is environmentally beneficial and that is economically beneficial,” she said.
Protesters, however, say the waterfront is already being shared fairly and residents aren’t lacking space to gather in nature.
“Lachine has seven kilometres of beautiful waterfront accessible to all,” Rochon said, adding the marina is less than one kilometre.
The petition, backed by the official opposition, Ensemble Montreal, is being formally presented to Montreal city council.
Opponents of the project hope to come to a compromise through public consultations in a bid to save the decades-old marina.
— With files from Global’s Brittany Henriques and Phil Carpenter