FOREST IN THE CITY
Although sandwiched between an awkward mass of commercial development and residential property, the 97-hectare Angrignon Park still manages to be a significant natural retreat. Situated in southwest Montreal, Canada, access to the park is assured for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers by the presence of a metro station (subway), bike path, and several parking lots. This accessibility is important in designing green spaces in urban areas; the simpler it is to get there, the more the space will be used. Outdoor exercise groups find it easy to meet up here, and many different communities use the facilities regularly during the warmer months for concerts and barbecues.
Main avenues provide cyclists with a quick and safe thoroughfare. In the spring and fall, the park is more suited to long walks under canopies of new blossoms or falling leaves. In the winter, the snow and ice transforms the light of early morning and late afternoon into a magical, tangible substance. During this season, you can cross-country ski on over 11 kilometres of trails.
The park is also home and host to a wide range of wildlife, especially waterfowl. A grand pond shaped like a river flows through the centre for more than a kilometre. People can walk beside this pond, but there are several banks where the paths are set farther back from the shore. This, combined with the variety of wetland plants, encourages communities of mallard ducks to thrive. Larger birds, such as Great Blue herons, can also be seen resting among the cattails. It isn’t a long flight for these creatures, which likely hail from the nearby Heron Island bird sanctuary in the St. Lawrence River.
You don’t have to go far into the park to forget the city you just left behind. The noise of traffic fades, to be replaced with the music of songbirds and children’s laughter. Four Seasons Park would perhaps be a more suitable name, as the place is as beautiful and easily reached at any time of the year. Living nearby allows you to follow its transformation as it unfolds from week to week. You could spend a decade exploring this park, and it would never be exactly the same each time you return. In fact, it has housed a zoo, a farm, and a children’s fort during the many years that have passed since its beginnings in 1926.
On a bike, you can access the park from various directions, but make a point of leaving via the south gate, riding over the aqueduct (built in 1856), and travelling through the Douglas Institute grounds, where you will glimpse a wall of post-war architecture beyond the fields that occupy the easternmost part of the estate. These districts grew up quickly after 1933, earning the former city of Verdun in which they are found the well-deserved reputation of “bedroom” community. Wind your way out onto Lasalle Boulevard and the extensive bicycle path that runs the length of the southern shores of Montreal. From here, you can ride east toward Nun’s Island or west toward Quenneville Bay and finally Lachine.