Earlier this year, we promised that the Alliance would undertake one of the most compelling and engaging gatherings in its 30-year history. In late May we think we delivered on that promise! Thank you Montreal! And thank you delegates!! You contributed to the largest gathering of Alliance members ever on the occasion of its milestone anniversary!!! Through the presentation of papers and field sessions, we looked at balancing and integrating heritage conservation practices and historic preservation treatments with environmentally-sustainable activities.
2008 conference group photo
The conference began with the traditional ’round table’ at the Chateau Versailles Hotel on the Wednesday evening. It provided a suitable warm-up for the days to come.
Thursday morning found us at the Masonic Temple near to the hotel where the theme of the conference was introduced. Ron Williams provided the appropriate introduction to Montreal, and to Canada, by providing examples where good landscape planning and design has resulted in long-term benefits to the respective communities and users.
Following an enthusiastic overview of its unique natural and cultural designation by the Quebec Ministry of Culture (Chantal Grisé, André Chouinard), the group divided into two distinct tours of Mount Royal. Daniel Chartier led one group up the mountain as only Mr. Olmsted himself would have appreciated. Wendy Graham and Myriam Cloutier led a second group on a tour of the equally fascinating Mount Royal Cemetery. When the tours had re-convened at the Smith House, in a valley near the top of the mountain for refreshments, Jean-Francois Hallé of the Friends of the Mountain provided further insight.
Once the group had made its way down from the mountain to the campus of McGill University, and the intimate confines of the Redpath Museum, we were inspired by the keynote address of noted cultural historian, journalist, and environmentalist, Holly Dressel. Among her many accomplishments, she co-authored the book, Good News for a Change, with David Suzuki. Holly took us on an interesting journey across the globe to further our understanding of the importance of prudent environmental practices in all aspects of the work we do.
Friday morning continued with more papers and was capped off by an overview of the afternoon?s excursion of the Lachine Canal presented by Paul-Emile Cadorette and Pascale Arsenault of Parks Canada. Following another superb lunch, on our arrival at the canal, Paul-Emile and Pascale guided the terrestrial tours while Caroline Vézina entertained us on the boat explaining conservation challenges associated with the recent chapter in the canal’s long and storied history.
In spite of the turn in weather on Saturday morning, participants were treated to a tour of one of the liveliest sections of Saint-Laurent Boulevard, a multicultural urban vernacular landscape, led by Catherine Browne and Susan Bronson. A wander through the streets and lanes of the adjacent Mile End neighbourhood was rewarded with a phenomenal meal at La Khaima, a restaurant serving Mauritanian fare, hosted by the inimitable Atigh! We will not soon forget the warm hospitality and the delightfully refreshing hibiscus juice.
Next, Susan Buggey and Hugh Miller led a retrospective of the Alliance’s accomplishments over the last 30 years at the Mile End Library. Please see Susan’s paper (pdf) on the topic! The afternoon concluded with a lively group exchange about the challenges and priorities for the future of the Alliance.
On Saturday evening, we wrapped up the conference with a banquet at the Beaver Lake Pavilion overlooking the Mount Royal Park landscape. The attentive staff of Le Pavillon served us a memorable five-course meal which boasted the best of Quebec’s fine cuisine. With wishes of gratitude extended to all present and ice cider toasts hoisted in the name of the Alliance, we bid adieu to the stimulating City of Montreal and set our sights on St. Louis in 2009.