Parc Oxygène was created in 1989 in a laneway between Hutchison Street and Park Avenue, just north of Prince Arthur Street in Montréal. In the dense city centre neighbourhood of Milton-Park, the laneway was used by local children as a place to play. Unfortunately, it was also used as a short cut by drivers, creating a danger to the children and a source of disturbance for the neighbours. So one night, the local residents equipped themselves with some pickaxes and other equipment and transformed the laneway into a park, Parc Oxygène. Ever since that night, for over 23 years now, people from the neighbourhood have looked after Parc Oxygène and protected it from proposed developments. Supporters have repeatedly asked the city to buy back the land (sold to the current private owner in 1989) and formally recognize it as a park. It is currently threatened by a proposed condominium development.
Parc Oxygène is small but very important. With its now mature and diverse vegetation, it is an oasis in the city centre. Walking through it is restorative--because of the proximity of nature and because it feels ‘loved’. It borders a much-used cycling route (leading to an intersection also transformed--from a former interchange that cut Montréal off from its mountain) and is a daily source of hope for the many people riding by. Here on Hutchison Street where space has been made for bicycles and for Parc Oxygène alongside Canada’s largest cooperative housing project, one gets a sense of what a City for People can look like.