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NDIP residents rally to save woods

By Jules-Pierre Malartre and Carmen Marie Fabio


PHOTO BY JULES-PIERRE MALARTRE

The proposed housing development in a wooded lot in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot – one of at least four developments slated for the town in 2021 – has area residents expressing their dismay and concern over the dwindling amounts of green space.


On the morning of Tuesday, February 9, on the doorstep of Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot’s Town Hall, a small but dedicated group of Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot (NDIP) residents and sympathizers braved the cold and pandemic to protest the city’s decision to greenlight a housing development project that will see the partial destruction of an area that has affectionately become known as White Oak Forest.

The wooded area of approximately five acres is located north of Boulevard Perrot near 68th Avenue. The green peaceful haven is highly prized by local residents, but it will soon make way for a swath of new homes. The small forest is home to a number of White oak trees that, according to the protesters, are important in the fight against climate change because of their resistance to drought. Protesters also maintain that the forest is home to some endangered animals, including a species of tree frogs.

The group planned to deliver an online petition it sponsored to Mayor Danie Deschênes during the protest. By Tuesday evening, the change.org petition was close to gathering the 5,000 signatures that the organizers hoped for.

Protest and petition

“We’re here to ask for the project in White Oak Forest to be put on hold until we can discuss alternatives with the city,” says David Lemieux-Bibeau, a biologist from Valleyfield and one of the organizers of the protest. The project has already been given the go-ahead by the city, but Lemieux-Bibeau and his group are hopeful that the protest and petition will help convince the city of the importance of preserving that green space.


(Left) PHOTO COURTESY GOOGLE MAPS

The ‘before’ overhead shot of the existing canopy of the wooded area on 64th Avenue that’s slated to become a housing development with 17 homes.

(Right) PHOTO COURTESY THE VILLE-DE-NOTRE-DAME-DE-L’ÎLE-PERROT

The ‘after’ shot of the proposed development which has already begun.


Green spaces are disappearing

“Year after year, we see that more trees, more forests are being cut down,” says Sandra Gajdos, a resident of NDIP and one of the organizers of the protest and petition. Gajdos feels that promises made to retain some green areas are insufficient. “Given climate change, it’s extremely important to protect our remaining green spaces. Year after year, when I look at satellite images, I see that green spaces are dwindling to small green spots. They’re disappearing fast, and we want to preserve what’s left.”

“When Sandra invited me to come and visit White Oak Forest, I thought it was exceptional; it is home to rare species of trees,” says Alex Tyrrell of the Green Party. “We want to protect that wooded area and we are calling on the city to re-examine its decision and to consult with residents because there are clearly a number of people who are opposing the destruction of that forest.”

One of many developments

According to the NDIP website, this housing development is one of five scheduled to begin in 2021 with others projected near Rue Michel-McNabb, 1280 Boulevard Perrot, 1210 Boulevard Perrot, and Rue Charles-Lemoyne. A Facebook group of concerned citizens has formed to protest the development and potential loss of the White oaks and Oval hickory trees and are imploring elected officials to listen to the opinions and concerns of their constituents.

“We expect each municipal councillor to cooperate and be transparent on this issue,” reads their mission statement.

“Elected officials are citizens' representatives; it is their duty to inform us before going any further.”


PHOTO BY SANDRA GAJDOS

Quebec Green Party leader Alex Tyrrell came to visit the forest and described it as ‘exceptional’ and is lending his voice to call on the city to re-examine its decision and to consult with the residents.


Grassroots movement

Grassroot movements to oppose the destruction of green spaces in favour of development projects are gaining traction given the evolving understanding of their importance in fighting off climate changes. Rousseau Forest in Pincourt was recently saved from a planned development project and a very vocal debate against development on Mont Rigaud continues.

Mayor Danie Deschênes addressed the issue at the onset of the February 9 city council meeting, the evening after the protest on the doorsteps of city hall. Deschênes feels she has listened and responded to the residents who oppose the project, but she states that the issue is very simple. “It’s private property that has been in a residential zone forever,” she states. She acknowledges that the area is recognized as “quality forest” by the Ministère de l’Environnement, and that some of the wooded area will therefore be preserved. Deschênes feels that processes were followed to the letter by the promoter and the Ministère de l’Environnement issued authorization to proceed with construction of 17 houses while maintaining 56 per cent of the wooded area. Gajdos feels that preserving only part of the forest is insufficient and still leads to many animals being killed and many much-needed trees being needlessly cut down. She feels that the best option would be for the city to purchase and preserve the forest.

‘This project starts tomorrow’

“The council could have certainly purchased that land,” Deschênes says. “However, when we get down to the numbers that state that eight per cent of our territory can be used for construction and we factor in the costs, we consider which wooded areas we are going to purchase.” Deschênes feels that purchasing White Oaks Forest would cause a precedent and the city would have to foot the high cost. Deschênes states that the council’s vision is to prioritize high quality wooded areas that also serve the entire community. “We need to maintain a balance between preservation, improving certain wooded areas, making investment toward the quality of life of our residents, and also, take into account when we have to manage a city, (and) revenues. For all these reasons, this project starts tomorrow.”

The petition at Change.org can be signed at http://chng.it/P7hGNHpSNh


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