Here to stay

TMR Mayor Peter Malouf says fence will remain in place

The fence was installed in 1960 when Boulevard de l’Acadie was widened to six lanes. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST

The fence separating the two communities of Parc-Extension and the Town of Mount Royal has been a contentious issue for many years now. But after turning into a hot-button topic in Montreal’s municipal election, the newly elected mayor of the Town of Mount Royal said the fence was here to stay.

In an interview with La Presse, Mayor Peter Malouf said that the fence would not be taken down during his mandate. “What fence?” quipped the Mayor, adding “I see a hedge and trees. After that, I see six lanes for cars.”

“There are openings in the fence, and we are going to rearrange them to ensure the safety of cyclists,” added Malouf, pointing to the many sections of de l’Acadie Boul. that do not provide enough sidewalk or landing space for pedestrian crossings.

The fence became a major electoral issue and point of contention among parties in the last municipal campaign. Ensemble Montréal mayoral candidate Denis Coderre had promised that if elected he would refurbish de l’Acadie Boul. and work to have the fence removed.

Long history

Erected in 1960, the fence was put in when de l’Acadie Boul. was widened. The rationale for the barrier was to keep children and families on the west side of the fence safe from traffic on the six-lane artery.

Up until the early 2000s, it was a common occurrence for many of the gates in the fence to be locked shut on Halloween night. Many saw this as a tactic to keep the less fortunate, immigrant residents of Parc-Extension from trick or treating in the affluent neighbourhood next door.

After a groundswell of criticism, the neighbouring municipality put an end to the practice in 2002. The fence is still occasionally locked shut by individuals still unhappy with the situation. 

The fence became a major electoral issue and point of contention among parties in the last municipal campaign. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST

Enclaved neighbourhood

Although the gates now remain for the most part open, many Parc-Extension residents point to the fence as another example of how the neighbourhood is physically separated from the rest of the city, with train tracks to its south and east, highway 40 to its north and a fence to its west.

For many residents, the two-kilometre stretch of road has epitomized the inequality experienced by some Montrealers, with the affluent, lushly tree-lined streets to the west and the densely-populated, concrete jungle of Parc-Ex to the east. The physical separation is both visible from street level and satellite imagery. 

This was an important topic over the last election period, with Ensemble Montréal mayoral candidate Denis Coderre promising to remove the fence. Borough mayoral candidate Guillaume Lavoie had also called the separation a “blatant social divide.” 

Although commended for their intentions to green de l’Acadie, the plan was criticized by Mayor Valérie Plante and her party for proposing projects that aren’t in the City of Montreals’ jurisdiction. The fence and much of the boulevard fall on the territory of the Town of Mount Royal. 

The physical separation between the Town of Mount Royal (left) and Parc-Extension (right) is visible from satellite imagery. Photo: Satellite imagery (2019) via Google Earth.

Potential for a bike lane

With the election now in the rearview mirror, City Councillor for Parc-Extension Mary Deros hopes the borough and the city will be able to work with the neighbouring municipality to address some of the security issues surrounding the fence and its adjacent footpaths.

“What they need to do is redo the entrances and make them safe,” said Deros, adding that the municipality of the Town of Mount Royal needs to “make sure that there are adequate sidewalks for the people crossing when they’re waiting for the light to change, to give them ample room with their bikes, with their children, to be able to cross.” 

Deros also feels that TMR should accommodate the City of Montreal by helping it complete its bicycle path network. Building a bike lane down Chemin Selwood, the street that runs parallel to de L’Acadie, would ensure a safe and accessible north-south bicycle artery.  

“A bike path north-south can be created on the inside of the TMR fence and make a safe cycling path for our cyclists,” said Deros, explaining that it would connect much of the district to Beaumont and the Université de Montréal MIL campus to the south. 

There are no official plans or propositions at the moment to implement such a bike path in the Town of Mount Royal, but Mayor Malouf said he would look at making crossings on de l’Acadie Boul. safer. 

“What fence? I see a hedge and trees. After that, I see six lanes for cars.”

Peter Malouf was recently elected as the Mayor of the Town of Mount Royal. Photo: Équipe Peter Malouf via Facebook.