While not an entirely new idea, the concept of a beach in Verdun in it’s current form was given impetus by Projet Montreal in 2009. I didn’t like the idea then and am still not too crazy about it. But the city of Montreal is handing out “375” goodies ( celebrating Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017) to the boroughs and they have decided to roll with the beach idea.
The proposed beach would be built with a capacity of 2000 people. It is hoped that the beach will draw many people people from the Montreal area which will mean an increase in traffic through Verdun (possibly good for business, possibly not good for locals).
While the borough first proposed 4 locations it has come down to the beach being either by the Auditorium in the east (plenty of parking) or the Natatorium in the west (parking would have to be built). Both locations are controversial.
The location behind the Auditorium would also be part of Therrien Park. This park already features baseball and soccer fields, a small baseball stadium, a basketball court, playgrounds, a public swimming pool, and a new skatepark is in the works. The Verdun General Hospital will also be part of the dynamic as it’s large parking lot could be expanded slightly. The Auditorium itself is in for a major renovation which will make it one of Montreal’s premier venues for hockey, figure skating, concerts and many other types of events. Parking for the Auditorium could be used for the beach in the summer months.
And the rumoured bridge from Nun’s Island to Verdun has usually been suggested as also being behind the Auditorium so that could give Nun’s Islanders a chance to use the beach right there by bike or on foot. A beach and a bridge together could be a great symbol of the relationship of mainland Verdun and Nun’s Island.
The Auditorium beach would also be accessible by Metro and beachgoers from out of town would be no more than a 5 minute walk from Wellington street (which would be closer than the beach to begin with).
And environmentalists have suggested that the Auditorium location would have a negligible impact on the local wildlife. This section of the waterfront is not landscaped.
If we have to build a beach in Verdun the Auditorium location makes the most sense in terms of existing facilities, commercial benefits with the proximity to the Metro and Wellington Street’s stores, restaurants, and bars (yes, we now have bars in Verdun!). The beach, the Auditorium, the new skatepark, and Therrien park (and a possible bridge) together raise the bar for Verdun to have an exciting future where visitors will love the variety and diversity of places and things we will have to share.
This is the Natatorium.
The Natatorium, opened in 1940, and like the Auditorium, is a part of Verdun’s heritage. The official capacity is 1150 and the beach would raise that to 3150 provided there was some kind of integration between the two. The small restaurant that serves the pool and the boardwalk and bicycle path would have to be expanded. Otherwise all facilities for the beach would have to be built from scratch.
There are beach volleyball courts on the east side of the Natatorium and this area is used and enjoyed largely by local residents though visitors can take part in all these things as they are accessible along the bike path which is integrated with the Lachine Canal bike path system.
There is a contaminated former dump site just west of the Natatorium though both proposed locations would require some decontamination.
This stretch of the waterfront is home to ducks, brown snakes, countless species of birds, and over 40 documented species of fish. And it connects to the nature park at the old hydro dam site in Lasalle, a beautiful and uniquely restored natural area close to the Lachine Rapids.
Bus service during the day to this area is good but not great and slower on weekends. The 58 bus could leave people at the Natatorium or they could enjoy what would be a roughly 40 minute walk from the Metro. Parking is almost non existent except for a stretch of Lasalle boulevard that fills up fast. There are no commercial facilities in the area (not even a close by depanneur) aside from the small restaurant at the Natatorium.
Some say the current is not as fast at this location but it will be a fixable situation at either location.
When you consider this area for a beach it easily brings up certain questions about the impact on wildlife, transit accessibility, and how much parking should be built on an already very nice and functional park. Verdun could make the mistake of investing in a bad reputation by destroying one of it’s greatest assets which is thoroughly enjoyed by thousands upon thousands of people who drive through there along the bike path system every summer.
It’s the Saint Lawrence river and while it does appear to be much cleaner than it was when I was growing up, I am not sure I would want my hypothetical grandchildren swimming in it. But the wheels are in motion and it appears Verdun will get a beach for 2017
If you visit both sites there is no doubt that the beach should be built at the Auditorium location. So why are we even having this conversation? Because this project is political like everything else that involves considerable amounts of public money and politicians know things that the rest of us don’t, especially when real estate is involved.
Perhaps it is just a simple matter of believing that Nun’s Islander’s don’t want to have to see the beach at the Auditorium (“Verdunner’s on a beach? Gross!). We have gone down this road before seeing two boat clubs get turfed because of their offensive presence in the Nun’s Island view. Or perhaps it is former Mayor Georges Bosse (who ended his public political career on the Executive Committee of Gerald Tremblay’s Union Montreal party) not wanting a beach near his legendary double penthouse on the west side of the Auditorium?
It may not be important what they are really up to but if the decision to build the beach at the Natatorium site goes down, well, it’s just going to be lose lose for the environment and the residents of west Verdun who do not want an influx of a potential 2000 more people, and their cars, intruding in their neighborhood.
I like Jean Francois Parenteau, Verdun’s Mayor, he seems like a nice guy who doesn’t mind interacting with citizens. I just hope he has the courage to make the right decision.
The beach should go behind the Auditorium!
If you do not want the beach to be built behind the Natatorium there is an online petition you can sign here.