Centre culturel Calixa-Lavallée
|Lafontaine Park is Plateau Mont-Royal’s biggest park. A 40-hectare gem of traditional park landscaping, it includes two linked ponds with a fountain and waterfalls, the Théâtre de Verdure open-air venue that offers a summertime program of dance and other shows, the Centre culturel Calixa-Lavallée, soccer and baseball fields, pétanque, a dog park, picnic areas and playgrounds, wading pools, several pieces of memorial statuary and many trees including numerous imposingly huge poplars.
Bike paths run along the park’s western and northern edges. In wintertime a large section of the pond is cleared for skating.
The park has a lot of squirrels, including occasional pale champagne quasi-albino ones, but it’s so much a true city park that there are no semi-wild forested areas left and thus no space for bigger wildlife.
On old maps, the terrain of the park is sometimes marked as Logan’s Park. In 1845 James Logan rented some of the land to the federal government, which used it for a military shooting range, but in 1889 the city started working on landscaping and layout. Gradually acquiring neighbouring pieces of land, by 1909 the city had created a sizable park which it named after Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine (1807-1864), author of many of the political reforms that led to the confederation of Canada after his death.
In the 1950s, a modernization of the park saw the removal of the park keeper’s house and the greenhouses and the installation of the open-air theatre. For many years one of the park’s most noted attractions was the Jardin des Merveilles children’s zoo, but it was closed in 1989. The 1990s saw the addition of two new belvederes and a handsome colonnade running southwest from Rachel Street.
In early summer 2011, the park's old and rather disused park chalet reopened as a café, Espace La Fontaine, which has received positive reviews for its offerings.
Lafontaine Park remains a tremendously popular spot, especially on weekends in the summer. Although the Plateau has become a prosperous neighbourhood, many of its houses and flats have no yards or gardens; the park affords a lot of people a chance to sit on the grass and stroll under the trees.
Most of the park’s neighbouring streets are residential, but on the south side, Notre-Dame Hospital and the old, colonnaded municipal library building (now the headquarters of several cultural institutions) hold out an institutional boundary along Sherbrooke Street. Rachel Street, on the north side, has a few small businesses including the Maison des cyclistes, well positioned at the axis of two bike paths; it has a café open to all. There are more cafés and other businesses westward along Rachel and the park is close enough to Saint-Denis Street and the Gay Village to ensure that no visitor has to languish long without a drink, a coffee or a bite to eat.
To get to Lafontaine Park you can take the 14, 24 or 29 or walk east from Sherbrooke metro station. It is also very accessible to cyclists. There are some small parking lots near the Centre culturel, accessed via Calixa-Lavallée, but the park is so centrally located that it isn't a destination most people will need to drive to.
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