While most of the grass in Westmount remains a snowless, muddy green-brown, a big swath of Murray Hill stands out as a winter wonderland.
That’s because the city invested $30,000 to manufacture snow in King George Park, to create a toboggan run, similar to the one at Mount Royal Park.
“This is giving people an opportunity to get together, be social but be at a distance and to do it safely,” said Westmount Mayor Christina Smith. “Hopefully the kids can also be spread out and they can be outside.”
For two days, snowmaking machines filled Murray Hill with snow. Then a tractor groomed it down, creating several dedicated snow lanes for children to slide down. In other years, children would slide in the park, but there were no runs sectioned off.
With no snow on the horizon, Smith said the manufactured snow is imperative to getting children outside.
“I love it, I love it, and it looks like it will be a green Christmas, so anything we can to do to provide them a little bit of normalcy and a little bit of fun in a really tough time, these kids have given up a lot,” said Smith, as a dozen children slid down the hill behind her.
It’s all part of a COVID-19 spending plan the city has for encouraging people to get outside.
Westmount also spent almost $100,000 on building a refrigerated outdoor rink in Westmount Park for the first time. The rink was built in November and will remain until the spring. It was supposed to be a temporary measure during the pandemic, but Smith says so many people are enjoying the use of the rink, the city will consider making it a permanent winter fixture.
Parents frustrated with a lack of activities for their children say the toboggan run is a welcome distraction.
“I think it’s amazing, the more outdoor activities the better. Our kids are dying for stuff to do,” said Anthea Dawson.
Westmont resident Mortimer Freiheit plans on encouraging his 17 grandchildren to use the hill.
“I think it’s a good idea. Bring a little joy into kids’ eyes over this winter holiday. They need it,” he said.
And while it may very well be a green Christmas, in this slice of Westmount, holiday magic is alive and well.