It delights me every time I discover a hidden gem buried in Montreal’s less well trodden neighbourhoods. The latest such example was the result of a random bike ride, in which I just happened to intersect an ex-quarry turned landfill turned rather nice park. You can read about Parc Frederic-Back at the official site (French), or on the 375th Birthday page (English). But, I went in with few expectations. What I found was impressive.
It’s full of nice lookouts, hiking paths, playgrounds for children, and even an outdoor theatre and soccer stadium. The layout of the landscape gives you the delightfully mistaken impression of not being in the city, but altogether somewhere more heathy and moor-like. And if you like plane spotting, it’s right underneath the landing approach to Montreal’s airport.
I ended up doing a circuit on my rented Bixi bike. There was conveniently a dock on the southern end of the park, so it gave me 45 minutes to make the loop. Stopping for the odd spontaneous photo where I could, here’s what I saw.
It looks like a lot of work and investment has gone into this park. But it was surprisingly quiet. Aside from a few locals, the odd cyclist and a few runners, why so few people?
Firstly, the land apparently used to be contaminated. Montrealers have a long memory in my experience, so this association might be hard for people to shift. As a relative newcomer, I have no such qualms in enjoying this open space.
Secondly, whilst it’s not exactly a million miles away from public transport, it feels a little too far from the Metro to be easily reachable. Sitting between Papineau Avenue and Saint-Michel Boulevard, it is right by two reasonably high-frequency bus routes. But, for many people who don’t know the neighbourhood, there’s a tendency to avoid these kinds of journeys into unknown parts of the city.
But, it’s pretty easy to cycle there if you have a Bixi pass. And once you’re there, keep hold of your bike as you can use it to explore the trail around the park’s perimeter. It’s just lovely, and I’ll definitely be going back.
Since I’d had this blog post in the backlog for a while, I’ve since been back to the park during the Winter months. If this doesn’t look like the set of a sci-fi film, I don’t know what does!
Lots of ways to get here, but I found the easiest in terms of access is to take the 94 bus from either Frotenac (Green Line) or Iberville (Blue Line) Metro stations, as it takes you into the front of the park for easy access.
You also have the option of taking the 45 bus from Papineau (Green Line) or Fabre (Blue Line), or the 97 / 497 from Joliette (Green Line) or St Michel (Blue Line), but these options involve a more of a walk once you get off.
Alternatively, you could travel up the Orange Line to Sauvé Metro, and walk East until you hit the edge of the park. Or drive, as there seems to be a lot of parking. If you like to cycle, the park is within the Bixi network, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a nearby dock.