Whether you call it a “sponge park” or an example of phytotechnology in practice, Montreal’s Brewster Park is due to be transformed into a serious contributor to the city’s flood control effort—and a better place for kids to play.
The park in Lachine borough is to be renovated “using concepts from the realm of phytotechnology,” namely, “the application of plants to solve engineering and science problems,” reports CBC News. When the work is complete next fall, the park will perform very much like a sponge when heavy rains come.
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The announcement of Montreal’s intent to turn the park into a catch basin for stormwater came just days after the city was hammered by a two-hour downpour that delivered a month’s worth of rain. The extreme weather event overwhelmed the city’s sewer system and many homes were flooded.
Chloé Frédette, president of the Quebec Society of Phytotechnology, said no one should dispute the wisdom of seeing and using “green living infrastructure” like plants and plant ecosystems as infrastructure—a term typically associated with human-made constructions that typically involve a great deal of concrete.
She added that flood control is hardly the only benefit of plant-based infrastructure. “You can deal with heat island effects, promote biodiversity, and [have] effects on mental and physical health,” she said.
“The park is going to act like a huge, natural air conditioning,” agreed Catherine Houbart, director-general of Groupe de recommandations et d’actions pour un meilleur environnement (GRAME), a Lachine-based environmental non-profit.
Houbart said the move to embrace the concept of a “sponge park” demonstrates a clear—and sustainable—“change of mind” in the city’s attitude to water. “Water is not something we want to evacuate from the city,” she said. “It’s something we want to retain, and this project is a clear contribution to that.”
CTV reports that Brewster Park will be able to retain up to 10,000 cubic metres of water once the ecological renovations have been done. It’s one of three Montreal-area parks scheduled for upgrades.
Lachine Mayor Maja Vodanovic said she’s excited to see Brewster transformed, and not only as a flagship piece of city infrastructure. She is also determined to “make it fun”, especially for kids. A bridge may be in the cards, she hinted, or something else “special for the basin”.