Hops, Bees and Honey in Mile End

For the last couple of weeks, bees have been buzzing around flowers growing wild in a former industrial space that may become an unusual urban park — or a municipal heavy machinery yard.

The land is located between de Gaspé and Henri-Julien streets, immediately south of the Canadian Pacific rail tracks, with a spur jutting west between the tracks and Bernard Avenue. Its southern boundaries are marked by big buildings put up for light manufacturing in the mid-1950s to 1970s which, for the most part, are no longer used for that purpose. The rail line also gets much less traffic: CP is getting rid of its switching yards to in nearby Outremont, where housing and a new health science campus for the Université de Montréal are scheduled to be built.

For more than 20 years, the vacant land has seen more and more people cross it to get from the Rosemont metro station to the software companies and artisan space now located in the old buildings. The land is also used for dog walking and some late night revelry. Increasingly, too, the wonders of nature in an urban setting have come to the attention of people living in the surrounding area. In the summer time, the overgrown fields are full of blue-flowered chicory, tall clover, Queen Anne’s lace, wild oats and other lovely plants that flourish on the edges of development.

Even though the Metro and thousands of people live just steps away, the Champs des possibles is an island of peace early in the morning

The weekend of May 22 volunteers cleared up a mountain of trash that had collected on the vacant land over the winter. The sign board includes pictures of flora and fauna found on the land, as well as a sketch of what might be done to perserve its unique qualities as an urban wild park

Last summer the city of Montreal acquired the land, and now wants to build a garage on a good portion of it. But citizens’ groups are protesting and have begun claiming it for public use. The main portion they’re calling the Champs des Possibles, and the western bit, Jardin Roerich. The local borough council thinks the idea is interesting, but appears for the moment not to have jurisdiction over the space.

That didn’t stop a team of volunteers two weeks ago from cleaning up the trash which had accumulated over the winter, doing some guerrilla gardening by planting hops and other tough-but-lovely plants, and setting up the beehives. The sign explains in French and English that the bees living here are making honey from the surrounding flowers, and will continue happily as long as they are not disturbed. If they are, however, watch out!

Actually, that could be said about much of nature…

Volunteers have installed a beehive where bees are industriously making honey after checking out the flowers

Mary Soderstrom is the author of The Walkable City: From Haussmann’s Boulevards to Jane Jacobs’ Streets and Beyond and of Green City: People, Nature and Urban Places, both from Véhicule Press.

This entry was written by Mary Soderstrom , posted on Wednesday June 02 2010at 03:06 am , filed under Canada, Environment, Public Space and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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