Residents of a Montreal borough whose lack of tree cover produces an increasingly dangerous heat island effect in summer, are taking matters into their own hands with an initiative to say ciao to concrete.
“Bye Bye Béton!”, an initiative to bid adieu to béton (French for concrete), was launched last December with an invitation for residents of the Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough to submit ideas for transforming patches of concrete or asphalt into green spaces.
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Promoted as a contest, the initiative to replace concrete with thriving swathes of green will help cool the borough while strengthening community engagement and increasing biodiversity.
Mitigating dangerous summer heat is the driving purpose of the “Bye Bye Béton!” initiative, but better rainwater management and reduced water pollution are also goals, the Parc-Extension News wrote earlier this year.
The contest, which closed on February 4, required participants to demonstrate need, equity, and community support for their ideas. Project pitches also had to adhere to environmental laws.
Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension Mayor Laurence Lavigne Lalonde (Projet Montréal) told CBC News the “fun project” grew out of a desire to help residents realize they can play an active role in making the borough a healthier, safer place to live.
The borough has secured C$100,000 per year to green its streets with flowers, shrubs, vegetables and, where possible, trees. Projects can range from 30 to 250 square metres.
Lavigne Lalonde added that project winners will be asked to take care of their plantings for “at least one or two or three years,” to help ensure that all the green things take root and thrive.
While most projects will be for public spaces, private property may also be considered.
Once a project is selected, the Montréal Urban Ecology Centre will provide expert assistance at every stage.