Time is of the essence to prevent further degradation of woods
By Kevin Woodhouse
“The longer we wait, the more Angell Woods loses in its ecological value,” Georges Bourelle said.
The mayor of Beaconsfield was talking about the need for negotiations to happen between the owners of the woods and the city of Montreal since Beaconsfield does not have the economic means to purchase the land outright.
And while the city is seeking protection of some of the woods as important ecosystems, its contingency fund for the woods, that was recently upgraded with a $250,000 transfer, is not a sufficient amount for purchases “from this reserve for small lots or along with a transaction with the city of Montreal,” Bourelle told The Suburban.
The Suburban spoke to Beaconsfield Councillors David Pelletier, Wade Staddon, Pierre Demers and Karen Messier who were all in agreement with the city of Montreal handling the negotiations for the land acquisition. Councillor Roger Moss deferred his opinion to Bourelle while Councillor Peggy Alexopoulos did not return calls by press time.
Pelletier thinks that the contingency fund, established within the last ten years, should be used in reserve for eventual maintenance costs should the city of Montreal acquire the land.
Demers, who was the sole vote against using taxpayer money for the contingency fund, campaigned on the very issue. “During my campaign, I heard an overwhelming support for saving the woods but not at taxpayers’ expense so I will continue to take the mandate from my constituents.”
During Messier’s campaign, most residents were in favour of protecting the woods while others agreed with some development in the area. “It will be up to the owners to sit down and negotiate,” said Messier.
Staddon has noticed a decline in the woods over the last decade from dogs, owners and nature lovers in general. The woods have become a popular spot with dog bloggers lauding the open spaces where canines can romp around leash free.
“The woods have taken a hit from overuse,” said Staddon. “Eleven years ago I used to take my dog there when there were smallish paths to get around. Nowadays those tiny paths are almost street wide and dogs and owners can scare the natural wildlife and trample things.”
Staddon does not visit the woods anymore in an effort to reduce one less visitor. “The woods are dying from a proliferation of users and dogs,” said Demers. “Trespassers are basically killing the woods.”
Réal Ménard, Montreal’s executive committee member for sustainable development, the environment, parks and green spaces, told The Suburban that acquiring the land in Angell Woods “is a priority for the city of Montreal” and should be completed by the completion of the current administrative mandate.
Sarah Blustain of Seda Holdings Inc., one of the principal owners of the woods, along with her mother Diana Shahmoon, have still not heard from either Beaconsfield or Montreal.
Blustain noted that their lawyer might be getting into contact with Ménard to discuss possible negotiations.
Ménard told The Suburban “by autumn, we will have the meetings to conclude the transactions.”
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