Montreal is an island, but residents have surprisingly little direct access to the water that surrounds the city. That's why one group is calling for the transformation of part of the Montreal Old Port into a giant urban beach where Montrealers would even be able to take a dip in the river. According to a statement shared with MTL Blog, "the AmiEs du courant Sainte-Marie, a citizens group wanting to improve access to the river in the downtown area, believes that a city the size of Montreal needs a larger river access to respond to the growing demands" and population in the Centre-Sud district.

Renderings of the group's proposed design imagine sweeping sandy plains wrapping around the Quai de l'Horloge and connecting to the small existing beach at its tip.

"In our proposal, a boardwalk around the perimeter as well as ramps would ensure a universal access. Beach volleyball courts as well as a sandy beach and green shaded areas would be equipped with picnic tables."

At the centre of the site, a huge public swimming area reaching a depth of 1.5 metres would replace the Montreal Yacht Club, which would be relocated.

The AmiEs du courant Sainte-Marie say there could even be a separate five metre-deep section for divers at the far end of Quai.

"Local or international competitions like (FINA) could be held with the Jacques-Cartier Bridge as a backdrop, a great selling point for our city."

The ambitious proposal comes as the riverfront undergoes significant change.

The AmiEs point to the upcoming transformation of the Molson site, construction near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, and the new "Quartier des Lumières" around the Radio-Canada headquarters as reasons for the Société du Vieux-Port, which oversees development in the Old Port, to revisit its plans for the area.

There are complications, however.

The Old Port is controlled by the federal government and Les AmiEs say that previous attempts by the Coderre and Plante mayoral administrations to expand public space along the water have stalled.

But as the east end of Ville-Marie fills in with office and residential construction, the group claims that additional public space, and especially access to the water, could be critical to make the area a more attractive place to visit, work, and live.

"Downtown residents and visitors deserve more than urban beaches where swimming isn't possible."

"The river is public, but access to it is not."

"Let's give the river back to the people!"

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