Opposition party fighting Montreal plans to transform Lachine Marina into a park
MONTREAL -- Alan DeSousa, the mayor of Saint-Laurent and member of opposition party Ensemble Montreal, is throwing his party’s weight behind the boaters in Lachine and asking the City of Montreal to reconsider a decision to shutter the Lachine Marina and create a waterfront park.
DeSousa, armed with a petition signed by more than 10,000 people, is presenting a motion at Monday's municipal council meeting. He wants the marina plan put on hold so public consultations can be carried out.
"For almost 100 years, the Lachine Marina has been an urban, tourist and sports center of attraction for Montreal," reads a news release from the official opposition party.
"The marina is also the playground and the gathering place for more than 450 families who, year after year, forge links and contribute to the commercial vitality of Lachine."
The opposition party says around 400 boaters will be left without a place to park their crafts should the plan go ahead.
Lachine borough Mayor Maja Vodanovic has said damage caused by the 2017 floods would cost millions of dollars to repair and she wasn't comfortable using taxpayer money for private boat owners.
She did the math, saying it added up to “16.5 million dollars... which is about 20,000 per boat.”
Vodanovic said the marina loses money and the city knows it.
The city's plan is to spend $25 million to transform the marina into a waterfront park that will allow swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
It will also include a new preserved wetland for local wildlife.
Ensemble Montreal called the decision "cavalier" and said it lacked transparency.
"The surprise announcement, in the middle of the summer, in the midst of a pandemic, was made without regard for boaters, leaving them very little time to react," reads the release.
A petition from the Association des plaisanciers du Port de Lachine on change.org says that the marina has been part of the Lac St-Louis as a tourist attraction for nearly a century.
The July 8 announcement, they say, came as a shock.
“It's deplorable to see the (Mayor Valerie) Plante administration pitting Montrealers against each other," said association president Josee Cote.
"I am a Montrealer, I live in Lachine, I sold my car to have a boat, and I think that in 2020, when we talk about expropriating 450 families from their vacation spot, the least thing is to do a public consultation."
DeSousa said the decision is part of an ongoing trend with the Plante administration of ignoring dissenting citizens' voices.
“It seems obvious to me that in the case of the Lachine Marina, we are still in the presence of a case where Projet Montréal is turning a deaf ear to citizens," he said.
"We have decried this anti-democratic way of doing things several times over the past three years."
He cited the Camillien-Houde redesign, a parking policy in Outremont and COVID-19 safe zones deployed throughout the summer as examples.
"Lachine boaters should not be treated like second-class citizens," said DeSousa.
But some in Lachine are in favour of the new plan, and they say they believe they're in the majority.
Richard Cabana has been rowing in the Lachine basin for 20 years and told CTV that most of Lachine's citizens are in favour of the park. He said the erosion caused by flooding in 2017 and 2019 is clearly visible and a park would solve the problem.
"We've seen the erosion both on the Montreal Island side, where the edges of the land are disappearing -- you can see it on parts of the bike path as well as the retaining walls of both Rene-Levesque Island and the marina itself," he said.
Cabana said that in addition to solving the erosion problem, the park would "democratize the marina and bring it back to access for all sorts of people."
Cabana moved to Lachine in 1991 because of its location on the water, and he feels the needs of the many should supercede those of the few.
"There's 45,000-people-plus that live in Lachine, and this is 450 boaters where 250, approximately, aren't even Montreal citizens," he said.
"It's hard for the local Lachiners to feel a lot of sympathy for these folks."