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The west-end edition of The Chronicle ran a story about the falaise last week, by Martin C. Barry.

A Montreal environmental group fears that the Falaise St. Jacques — which is a densely-wooded linear green space hanging down a cliff on the south side of St. Jacques Street in NDG — could be endangered when a plan to restructure the Turcot Interchange is implemented a few years from now.

According to a brief submitted by the Green Coalition to a recent hearing of the Montreal Agglomeration’s transportation and infrastructure commission, Transport Quebec has proposed placing the Ville Marie Expressway and Canadian National’s rail line up next to the little-known Falaise.

“Presently this green area is almost inaccessible and is bombarded by the din of turbulent automotive traffic 24/7,” stated the coalition’s members. “If Highway 20 and the CNR are moved even closer, how do we square transportation policy with the public’s right to access a natural space?”

“There is no clear policy regarding the Falaise and the surrounding area,” says Avrom Shtern, a coalition member. “On the one hand, you have Transport Quebec announcing the highways and the railways being moved up close to it, and on the other hand you have Montreal announcing last year or the year before that this is a jewel that has to be protected and integrated.”

The article – click here to read the whole thing – also includes interesting comments by NDG-CDN borough mayor Michael Applebaum (who thinks the falaise would be unsafe for public use) and former local city councillor Sam Boskey (who thinks it is safe for public use).

The Sud-Ouest borough (which takes in most of the falaise) also likes the idea of turning the falaise into a park (see its 2004 proposal here).

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The Westmount Examiner ran a story about the Otter Lake project last week.

It includes interesting spin from the promoters. Under their plan, Highway 20 would be moved from an industrial zone (the Turcot Yard) to the foot of the falaise St. Jacques, near a residential area in N.D.G.

Great news for N.D.G., promoter Allen F. Mackenzie told the Westmount Examiner: … “Our proposal requires the highway runs next to the falaise. This is very positive because the cliff creates a natural sound barrier for NDG residents,” Mackenzie said. …

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 A reader emailed to say those pipes sticking out of the ground on the falaise are probably “for decontamination testing. They take a core sample and leave the vent pipe to mark the spot…”

Which makes more sense than what I thought: that they were vents of some sort.

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After my article about the falaise ran in The Gazette, I got an email from John Fretz, who has done some very interesting research into the St. Pierre River (the pdf is here, on the Green Coalition website).

Fretz helped fill in a few of the gaps in my falaise research:

* Fossils and calcium deposits confirm the falaise is a geological formation dating back to the Champlain Sea, he writes.

* Otter Lake definately graced the location of the Turcot interchange. “It exists on early maps of the city easily available at Westmount Library,” Fretz says. “In fact, there is a park of that name in French at the bottom of Coursol Avenue (Lansdowne), far away from the Turcot. It relates to the St. Pierre River. The last tributary of that stream flows through Meadowbrook Golf Course.”

* In the story, I mentioned I didn’t meet much wildlife. “Try early morning, or late afternoon,” he writes. “Foxes and coyotes have been spotted in the Glen Yards before the devastation.”

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The article I wrote about my walk on the falaise is in today’s Gazette.

Andy Riga
The Gazette

It was an inauspicious start to a hike through a jungle in Notre Dame de Grace.

As I lost my balance and my sandalled feet slipped down the hill, I grabbed for a branch, any branch – the wrong branch, it turned out. It was covered in thorns, one of which remained wedged in my right thumb.

The good news: The searing pain – plus the scratches, bruises, mosquito swarms and fallen-tree obstacle courses to come – helped me block out the roar of Highway 20, a few hundred metres away.

My mind could focus on the mission: exploring remnants of the long-lost park of legendary Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau.

Click here for the rest.

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