Good afternoon, everyone. I'm very happy to be here today to talk about an environmental project.
This project was carried out in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. It has to do with schoolyards. We wanted to enhance urban areas. So we chose a schoolyard and decided to improve it. The schoolyard was previously completely paved. We developed an environmental project with students, partners and community members.
On the slide, you can see what kind of an idea we had for the project. We met with students. We met with everyone to get ideas, which we used to draw up a plan. That is what's currently on the screen.
The Sacré-Coeur school park is a project to ecologically enhance a paved schoolyard where several partners—institutions, industries, businesses, community organizations, teachers and students—worked together for the first time to create an appealing area that respects the principles of sustainable development.
The miraculous transformation of the Sacré-Coeur school park is a concrete and remarkable initiative in terms of environmental management and local resources—air, soil and water. The project also protects, restores and enhances ecosystems in all its aspects. It is innovative in its participation-based approach, and its scope, appearance and long-term sustainability. It's an example to follow, as the process respects the wishes of every student and member of the public to have a better place to live, more recreational opportunities, and a healthy environment for future generations. The school park is also a great example of a successful partnership with a focus on ecofriendly management and environmental protection from a sustainable development perspective.
The project had a number of goals. One of them was to improve water quality in the Saint-Charles river by preventing runoff. I should mention that the school is located on a St. Lawrence tributary, the Saint-Charles river. We also wanted to improve the well-being of the community. The neighbourhood where the school is located is disadvantaged and had no park. We also wanted to improve on that aspect of the neighbourhood.
Our goal was to create an accessible park for the neighbourhood, and thus decrease school dropout rates. As the children had nothing to do at their school, they did not like it very much. Since the schoolyard was enhanced, the children have been loving their school. That's a good thing. We wanted to bring the community and municipality onside and make them work together. That was a way to increase awareness of environmental problems among the student body and the community. So we have educated young people about protecting the environment.
By the end of the project, we had planted 38 deciduous trees, 34 deciduous bushes and 4 coniferous trees. We had laid down 28,200 ft2 of grass, 805 m3 of wood chips in play areas and 940 m3 of cedar mulch in bioretention areas used to reduce water runoff. Altogether, we ended up with 2,850 m2 of greened space.
You can see what the schoolyard looked like before the work began. As I mentioned, there was previously only asphalt and nothing else in the schoolyard. There were no games for the children. You can now see the bird's-eye view of the plan. It was a very big yard, but it was completely paved.
So we began the work. We created seven bioretention basins for rainwater. I should point out that this was a bit of a delicate operation because we were working in an elementary schoolyard. The school board was concerned that the water would accumulate in the basins and children would drown. So we connected the basins. You can see that drains were installed. All the basins are connected by drains. If one basin absorbs less water, it will be diverted towards the other basins.
We filled the areas with sand, soil and membranes. We did what the architect asked us to do for runoff. We planted trees. We also had help from students. They provided a lot of assistance in the planting of shrubs, trees, flowers and native plants. Fifth-grade students worked on that with us. They really enjoyed the experience. In addition, by using children, we are sure that the plants will stay there longer than a year.
Essentially, by reducing the amount of asphalt and concrete, the heat island effect was reduced. In 10 years time, we estimate that over 50% of the existing area will be covered in vegetation or shaded. We often say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Look at the photos on the screen. Previously, there was nothing but asphalt here. On the left, we created a park and, on the right, you can see that, at the back, we created a small hill using the soil from the bioretention basins we had dug. It's used for sliding during the winter.
We also built a soccer field for the children. On the left, there was asphalt and on the right, with one of the seven bioretention basins, we built a small amphitheatre where children deliver musical performances or stage plays. The outside area is also used for landscaping and shows.
It's often said that, when we work together, we can accomplish great things. This project is a true community success. Several regional industries participated in the project voluntarily, and members of the community helped us out, as did many organizations and all the committees. Salaberry-de-Valleyfield has 148 accredited organizations. We reached out to them, and they helped us raised funds.
Here, you can see the park. Nothing was there before and now, children can have fun in that area. There is a lot of green space. Volunteers from the Grace Canada plant were given a day off to lay down turf. As I explained earlier, the projet included an information component. We explained to them what a bioretention basin was, why trees were being planted and what the issues related to heat islands were. They were educated about the project and about the environment. Here, we also laid down a lot of cedar mulch to help water accumulate.
The children had never seen grass in their yard. On the first day, we were surprised to see children rolling down the hill. That's a game for them, and it's nice to see. Here, you can see the yard and the play facilities from different angles. We have a few other photos. For the winter, we bought crazy carpets for the children because this is, after all, a disadvantaged area. The children use up all their energy on sliding during lunchtime. They have a lot of fun.
Thanks to this project, in May, we received the Joseph-Beaubien award, the most prestigious prize awarded by the Union des municipalités du Québec. We also received a prize from the Réseau québécois de Villes et Villages en santé last September thanks to the green school park initiative. The project has inspired others to action. Last year, two schools undertook a similar project in Beauharnois following my presentation. I have made a number of presentations for certain organizations. The volunteers have worked on two schoolyards in the cities of Salaberry and Beauharnois.
People from Longueuil, Quebec, called me. They came to visit the Sacré-Coeur schoolyard. They have begun working on a project, which will be finished next year.
There are two schoolyards in my sector. I have started working on the second schoolyard. I have already raised funds and found volunteers. These projects lead to others. People are very interested, and their participation is the best aspect. The school board cannot do all this on its own, and neither can the city. Having the help of people from the region is fantastic. Assistance is often most needed in the beginning.
Architects have to be hired to develop a plan. The most difficult part, at first, is having the money needed to draw up a plan. Once that's done, finding sponsors becomes easier.
That was my presentation on the planned green school park project at the Sacré-Coeur school in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield's Champlain neighbourhood. Thank you.