By Monique Beaudin, Gazette environment reporter April 23, 2013

MONTREAL — Bike paths, lookouts with views of Mount Royal and Lac Saint-Louis, silver maple forests, community gardens, cross-country ski and snowshoe trails.

That is how two Montreal environmental groups envision a new nature park they say could be built on the west-end Meadowbrook golf course.

“We think Meadowbrook has a beautiful future as a park for all Montrealers,” said Coralie Deny of the Conseil regional de l’environnement. “We want to make people dream. But we are convinced that this is a dream that can become reality in a few years.”

The 57-hectare golf course is privately owned by Groupe Pacific Inc., which in November filed a request to the city for a residential project on the property. Montreal had previously rejected its plan for a 1,500-unit housing project on part of the site because the infrastructure costs were too high.

The golf course straddles the city of Côte St. Luc and the Montreal borough of Lachine.

The area around the golf course has a dearth of green spaces, which is why the golf course should be converted to a park, Deny said.

Although the land has been used a golf course, with strategic planting it could become a preserve of biodiversity for the island of Montreal, said Patrick Asch of Les Amis de Meadowbrook. The site has different habitats — meadows, forests, wetlands and the Little St. Pierre River and is located on a bird migration route.

The city of Montreal will study the proposed park project, said Josée Duplessis, the executive-committee member in charge of sustainable development. Duplessis applauded the two groups for coming up with the plan, which was the result of a workshop held in December with urban planners, environmentalists, municipal officials and citizens.

“We have a new generation of ecologists who, instead of just demanding projects from public officials, present real, concrete projects that can be worked on,” Duplessis said.

The opposition Vision Montreal party called on the city to prioritize the project, and require all city departments to study it, party spokesperson Olivier Lapierre said.

“For years now this dossier has been stagnating,” he said. “We want all those city civil servants to have a copy of this document in order to find solutions … that can benefit Montreal taxpayers, but also benefit Montrealers who need access to quality green spaces.”

He pointed to the fact that other parks — such as Maisonneuve and Lafontaine — were once golf courses, so his party believes that Meadowbrook has a good chance of becoming a new park.

For nearly 25 years, debate has swirled over a series of plans to build houses on the golf course.

In 2009, a committee of Montreal’s agglomeration council recommended that Meadowbrook be turned into a nature park as part of a greenbelt that would include the Falaise St. Jacques in southern Notre Dame de Grâce.

In November, Groupe Pacific filed a building-permit request with the Lachine borough for a residential development, Duplessis said. But Montreal maintains the infrastructure costs are too high for that project.

Turning the golf course into a park does not necessarily require the city to buy the property, Duplessis said. There are issues about whether it could actually be built on, she said, pointing to the fact that it is in a flood zone and located next to the largest train yards on the island, Duplessis said.

“There are many things to look at,” she said.

Twitter: @moniquebeaudin

See the comparative map and drawings:  Two visions for Meadowbrook Golf Course