"I like to camp because I don't like sleeping at home. It's boring," says Ilyes, 6. Her family jumped on the occasion to camp for the first time.
On the site, there is little space between the tents and the traffic nearby, but nothing can discourage the campers. Nathalie, who brought her two daughters, loves the scene. "The Lachine Canal is already magnificent, and it contrasts with the workshops behind it which are very urban. It's very beautiful," she exclaims.
But more than anything, it's the proximity that seduces many. Many campers have arrived via mass transit, like Hassan and his family. "I think that if this place were transformed into a real camp site, people would be lining up," says the father of the family. "No need to leave the island to camp, access to the river, that would be perfect!"
He is not the only one dreaming about it. The urban camping developer Vincent Leger has stepped up the effort since 2011 so that Montreal can have its own camp site, like Brooklyn or Berlin. For him, the Old Port, facing the river, would be the ideal site.
"Montreal is a city with good water quality, good air quality," he emphasizes. "There is no reason why we would not be able to come up with a plan that does not cost a fortune and that would be profitable and create jobs. It's not rocket science." He has met with the City to discuss his new project, which includes pools floating on the river for bathing.
Studies by the City
According to the mayor of the South-West arrondissement, Benoit Dorais, the idea behind urban camping is interesting. Sites are under study, especially in the Ville-Marie arrondissement, where the Old Port is located, and in the South-West. "Our arrondissement is very much in support of this idea. The mayor of Montreal is also in favor on the condition that it is well-organized. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are optimistic," he said.
The metropolis would like to take advantage of its 375th anniversary in 2017 to plan sustainably, says Mr. Dorais.
The city especially sees a tourism potential. "We want to attract a base that does not currently travel to Montreal. We are looking for that tourism niche that exists throughout the world in large cities, like in Europe. There are also people all over Quebec who could stop there and spend their money in the surrounding businesses," he says.
There is still a size issue: for the time being, the Old Port grounds are managed by the federal government, through the intercession of the Canadian Real Estate Company. Mayor Denis Coderre has indicated several times that he wants to take over the management of these assets, but the case is far from being settled. The banks of the canal are a Parks Canada site as far as he is concerned, an organization that likes to organize temporary camping activities rather than to develop infrastructure.
How would you like to be able to camp in the urban environment on a designated site? Have you ever camped in an urban environment? Is there camping or opportunities to enjoy outdoor spaces available in your community? Share your thoughts and your community's stories in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in French on Ici-Radio-Canada, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.