Due to a lack of a plan to guide development, Parc Jean-Drapeau has long suffered from a paradox of chronic neglect and intense, one-off modifications that failed to respect its essence as an insular urban public park. Over previous decades, the natural areas and heritage buildings degraded, and the park became more fragmented as private uses took hold of public spaces.
The Parc Jean-Drapeau Master Plan 2020-2030 is the result of a massive public outcry against a plan to develop a large open-air amphitheatre on Saint Helen’s Island in 2017. This major project, implemented without any public consultation process, included the removal of approximately 1,000 mature trees in the heart of the park and the destruction of an ecological water feature. The result, an expansive, mineralized surface that can accommodate up to 65,000 spectators, opened in November 2019.
The development of the Espace 67 amphitheatre in 2018 galvanized one of the most extensive public consultation processes in Montreal’s history and raised awareness of the park’s current state: the degraded condition of its green spaces due to a combination of overuse and neglect, the disconnection between residents and the park as a public place, and the lack of a shared vision or identity for the park. The Parc Jean-Drapeau Master Plan responds directly to the recommendations from this public consultation process and commits to regenerate, reconnect, and reinvent the park in a way that puts people and nature (and their relationship) at the centre of all its discussions and actions.
The Master Plan is much more than a vision for future park development. It embodies a commitment to transform decision-making processes and to update the practices and operations of the organization in a way that is both people- and nature-centred. The strategic framework of the Master Plan – comprised of guiding principles, design principles, development axes, and strategic orientations – provides a comprehensive structure upon which all processes and actions are based. The six strategic orientations are designed to function in a transversal manner throughout the SPJD and serve as an anchor for decision-making. Sustainable development is a central hub to the other orientations: innovation, citizen experience, conservation, open governance, and reconciliation.
The SPJD has put the strategic framework into practice through many recent initiatives, including establishing a partnership with a non-profit organization, the Ecological Transition Campus, to serve as a citizen engagement hub and research lab and the creation of an Indigenous Advisory Committee mandated to ensure that the SPJD honours its commitment to reconciliation. The advisory committee is currently developing Indigenous design guidelines to inform the design-thinking and implementation for future projects.
As a result of the Master Plan and the lessons learned from the Espace 67 project, the SPJD is committed to working in partnership with many stakeholders, including residents, community organizations and Indigenous communities, to ensure that the redevelopment of the park honours the Indigenous presence and respects sustainable development practices while reflecting the needs and desires of the many histories and communities that constitute Montreal.