A movement to save a cherished wooded area in Pointe-Claire, Que., from future development has been growing.
The citizen-run group, Save the Fairview Forest (SFF) has nearly amassed its goal of 25,000 signatures in an online petition.
The group hopes to stop a proposed development project which would see the majority of the forest along Highway 40 next to Fairview shopping centre cut down.
They argue that the project in its current form doesn’t do enough to protect the 26-hectare forest which sits just west of the mall, bordered by the Trans-Canada Highway to the south and Brunswick Boulevard to the north on the western edge of the city.
Spokesperson and resident Geneviève Lussier says the space is one of the last untouched greenspaces in Pointe-Claire
“To clear-cut a forest in one of the worst heat islands in Montreal is atrocious,” Lussier said.
“The city needs to take a step back and put a moratorium on this greenspace and do proper studies.”
Heat Islands occur in urbanized areas, where structures such as buildings and roads absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat, creating pockets or islands of warmer air.
In the fall of 2020, Cadillac Fairview — the current owners of the land — made public a proposal to build a 50-hectare development west of the mall.
Described as the “West Islands downtown” the project according to officials would include a variety of townhomes, condominiums and shops as well as hotels and restaurants, all at walking distance from the new REM light-rail transit station and bus terminus.
“Sustainable development is at the core of this vision,” a statement from Cadillac Fairview read.
“The creation of pedestrian and bike-friendly streetscapes, new parks and public plazas, as well as the protection and enhancement of all existing wetlands and 10 acres of the forest, which will include walking and bike trails.”
Those opposing the project say preserving 10 hectares, out of the 26 isn’t enough and want development to be limited to the mall parking lot.
The group Save Fairview Forest says the loss of greenspace used by residents will be detrimental to the area. They want to see the city turn the space into something similar to the popular Terra-Cotta park.
“We have Terra-Cotta park known as the jewel of the south, we could have Fairview Forest the jewel of the North,” Lussier said.
In response to the petition and demonstrations, the city says it has already committed to having part of the wooded area protected.
“A part of this wooded area and natural environment will be preserved and incorporated into the overall plan,” spokesperson Marie-Pier Paquette-Séguin said in a statement.
The city says the project is still under review from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Fight Against Climate.
The chosen section of protected greenspace for the project will first need to be approved then submitted to the city for study. A completion date for the project was not given.
In the meantime, Save Fairview Forest demonstrations will continue to be held on a weekly basis.
“Every week we do a protest and we get more honks, more support and people asking more questions,” Lussier said.
“People want to protect this forest.”
–With files from Phil Carpenter