Environmentalists laud city’s purchase, but worry that the area’s natural area could suffer from too much human contact

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For the woman who has spent seven years fighting to ensure the Falaise St-Jacques will be maintained as a stretch of wilderness in the heart of Montreal, news that the city is spending nearly $2 million to create a new entrance to the region comes as both a blessing and a worry.

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“I’m so happy to hear they’re moving forward with the work on the Falaise and with getting the entrance started and actually stating to put a park together on the city side,” said Lisa Mintz, founder of the Sauvons la falaise conservation group dedicated to preserving the St-Jacques escarpment. “Once we have a really good way for everyone to get in, that will mean more people will start coming.”

While she hopes more access will provide greater appreciation for the natural environment of the narrow band of dense forest that runs between St-Jacques St. W. and Highway 20, she’s also hoping it will remain a mostly untouched strip of walking trails through the woods. that has made it a quiet refuge for local wildlife that includes foxes, birds and butterflies and snakes.

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“What I would like to see is that the Falaise gets left alone and that most people use the Bande Verte at the bottom, and perhaps the Dalle-Parc, once that gets built.” Mintz would like the Falaise area to be used as an environmental teaching ground, and a place that school groups could visit to give urban kids a taste of nature.

Mintz said meetings have been scheduled between her and other environmental groups and the city in the coming months — a good sign, she said.

“I don’t want to see this turn into Jarry Park,” she said. “It needs to be wild.”

David Fletcher, vice-president of the Green Coalition, said the plans for a proper entranceway are welcome, because it will take the pressure off other parks and green spaces that can get overcrowded, taxing their ecosystems. At the same time, he noted that while the addition of 60 hectares of protected green space that the Falaise represents is appreciated, the city still needs to conserve another 1,500 of protected natural spaces to meet its promise to protect at least 10 per cent of its territory.

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“This is welcome news to us, but we can’t wait any longer, because green spaces are increasingly becoming less available to us, and there is a growing pressure for development.”

City councilor Stéphanie Valenzuela, the environment critic for the opposition Ensemble Montréal party, called the announcement “a step in the right direction. The Falaise needs to be developed and this purchase to make an entrance to the park was necessary,” she said. “We have a long way ahead of us, however, and we will work with the Plante administration in order to secure the proper funds from Ottawa and Quebec.”

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