Extending 650 metres between Wellington and Saint-Jacques streets, this “urban boulevard” is located at the site previously occupied by the raised Bonaventure Expressway, and now joins Griffintown with Old Montreal.
The boulevard, whose construction started in 2011, provides a total of 24,000 square meters of green space and features picnic tables and benches, areas for lounging, pedestrian paths, a “rain garden”, information panels on the history of the site, a children’s playground, ping-pong tables, an outdoor TrekFit gym, and some impressive public artwork.
Located closest to Rue William, the playground is *sort* of in the middle of the park. We left the car in front of Bureau en Gros on Rue Notre Dame Ouest, where there was plenty of street parking, BUT it was a holiday Monday, and there weren’t many people around. I wish you the BEST OF LUCK finding parking during the week on a normal day. Try to swear quietly, under your breath, so the kids don’t hear.
Anyhoo, after carefully crossing the street, the kids clambered up the Dendrites* stairs to look out and over the park, then ran down the winding path towards the playground that they’d seen in the distance.
Fully fenced and with two latching gates, this was the sort of playground where the kids had to stop for a few seconds to figure out. I love this kind of park. Unique, weird, and full of interesting and new-to-us equipment.
On an artificial grass base, there’s a small play structure geared towards kids 18 months-5 years, with an easy-to-climb staircase, slide, pods to balance on; and a delightful slope that’s great for rolling down on one side, and with super fun orange “stumps” to jump on and run through on the other side.
The section for older kids has a tall cable climber which both my kids loved. The older one climbed as high as he could to look around at the expensive Lamborghinis and Ferraris driving nearby (that’s Montreal in the spring!), while the little one puttered around underneath.
The playground is separated from the nearby road by the fence and a garden/treed area, and though you don’t feel that you’re right beside the road, there isn’t really any getting away from the traffic noise and buzz nearby. Once the trees grow it may provide more of a natural barrier.
After playing a while (they didn’t want to leave), we wandered along the paths, hopped across the granite blocks in the rain garden, and then did the crossings of the streets to see the rest of the park.
*I was originally going to write only about the playground, but the park as a whole is so impressive, that I wanted to put a bit about the two large-scale works of art, which were created for the 375th anniversary of Montreal.
South of Wellington Street, between Duke and Nazareth Street is “Source”, by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, on a 25-year loan from the Chrétien-Desmarais family. I’ve seen this 10-metre high work in pictures, where it looked interesting, but in person it’s amazing. The work represents a seated figure formed by interlacing letters from various alphabets including Greek, Latin, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, and Japanese. You can read more about the work HERE and HERE.
We walked around it, under it, and (tried) to take some pictures for next year’s Christmas card. Which of course has about 47 outtakes and one half-decent photo.
At the northern tip of the park is “Dendrites”, designed by Montréal artist Michel de Broin. Dendrites is a sculpture consisting of two separate ochre coloured staircases which the public can climb. I loved their whimsy and organic nature and thought they were beautiful, and make for some great photo opportunities with the Montreal skyline as a background. You can read more about the work HERE and HERE.
Since it opened I’ve read some mixed reactions to the park, though I think it’s a great addition to the city, here are a few things that I found awkward:
-There’s zero shade anywhere along the whole expanse. Unless you sit UNDER a table or chair, you’re going to roast. There are many trees planted throughout the park, but they’re not going to give any shade for another couple of decades.
-Parking will be a nightmare.
-Crossing the four(?) streets to get to the next section of park was a bit nerve-wracking, even with the crosswalks. But I suppose it’s unavoidable without digging up the streets or putting overpasses. It also breaks up what should be a relaxing walk. I can see people just saying “aw, forget it.” and not visiting the whole space. Which would be a shame.
-What will the air quality be like in the playground since it’s surrounded by roads and cars?
-There needs to be some sort of public bathroom, or at least a nicely disguised porta potty.
-It needs more water fountains.
My husband and I both agreed that we really liked how the play areas and the urban areas merged together to form one park, but wondered about the user groups the park is meant to attract, given its non-traditional location.
If you’re looking for a relaxing, nature-filled outing, this isn’t the right park. But if you want some touristy-views, something unique, and to show the kids something new, then try to plan an outing here. Preferably with a side trip to a local resto or café. We walked west to McGill and had iced tea and hamburgers at one of the sidewalk terraces.
It was a perfect morning of exploring and trying something new!
You can read more about the Bonaventure Legacy Project HERE.