Saturday, September 6, 2008

LaFontaine Park

Lafontaine Park
The pond in Lafontaine Park





Lafontaine Park is Plateau Mont-Royal’s biggest park. A 40-hectare gem of traditional park landscaping, it includes two linked ponds with a fountain and waterfalls, the Théâtre de Verdure open-air venue, the Centre culturel Calixa-Lavallée, soccer and baseball fields, pétanque, a dog park, picnic areas and playgrounds, wading pools, several pieces of memorial statuary and many trees including numerous imposingly huge poplars. Bike paths run along the park’s western and northern edges. In wintertime a large section of the pond is cleared for skating with the park chalet functioning as changing room and snack bar; there’s also a hockey rink. The park has a lot of squirrels, including occasional albino ones, but it’s so much a true city park that there’s absolutely no semi-wild forested areas left.

On old maps, the terrain of the park is sometimes marked as Logan’s Park. In 1845 James Logan rented

some of the land to the federal government, which used it for a military shooting range, but in 1889 the city started working on landscaping and layout. Gradually acquiring neighbouring pieces of land, by 1909 the city had created a sizable park which it named after Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine (1807-1864), an author of many of the political reforms that led to the confederation of Canada after his death.

Marshy reeds in the pond

In the 1950s, a modernization of the park saw the removal of the park keeper’s house and the greenhouses and the installation of the open-air theatre. For many years one of the park’s most noted attractions was the Jardin des Merveilles children’s zoo, but it was closed in 1989. The 1990s saw the addition of two new belvederes and a very beautiful colonnade running southwest from Rachel Street.

Lafontaine Park remains a tremendously popular spot, especially on weekends in the summer. Although the Plateau has become a prosperous neighbourhood, many of its houses and flats have no yards or gardens; the park affords a lot of people a chance to sit on the grass and stroll under the trees.

the fountain

Most of the park’s neighbouring streets are residential, but on the south side, Notre-Dame Hospital and the main municipal library hold out an institutional boundary along Sherbrooke Street. Rachel Street, on the north side, has a few small businesses including the Maison des cyclistes, well positioned at the axis of two bike paths; it has a caf챕 open to all. But the park is close enough to Saint-Denis Street and the Gay Village to ensure that no visitor has to languish long without a drink, a coffee or a bite to eat.

To get to Lafontaine Park you can take the 14, 24 or 29 or walk east from Sherbrooke metro station. It is also very accessible to cyclists. There are some small parking lots near the Centre culturel, accessed via Calixa-Lavall챕e, but this is really not a destination most people will need to drive to.



sharon_starr MSN said...

I used to bring my oldest daughter to Lafontaine Park when she was a little girl. There was a small zoo there too at that time (about 20 or so years ago), does anyone remember that and/or know if it is still there?

sharon_starr MSN said...

Oh heh....shoulda read a bit further, the zoo was closed in 1989...

les__f MSN said...

I remember going to that park as a little kid, my Aunt worked there for like 20 years or something,  & it was always a great adventure to take the journey to Lafontaine Park, it was / is a fantastic oasis & escape from the big city......             hf&rv