Mount Royal Park (in French: Parc du Mont-Royal), one of Montreal's largest greenspaces. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York's Central Park, and inaugurated in 1876, although not completed to his design.
Olmsted had planned to emphasize the mountainous topography through the use of vegetation. Shade trees at the bottom of the carriage path would resemble a valley. As the visitor went higher, the vegetation would get more sparse to give the illusion of exaggerated height. City officials wanted a reservoir atop the mountain instead and Olmsted planned a grand promenade around it. However, Montreal suffered a depression in the mid 1870s and many of Olmsted's plans were abandoned. The carriage way was built, but it was done hastily and without regards to the original plan. None of the vegetation choices was followed, and the reservoir was never built.
The park contains two belvederes, the more prominent of which is the Kondiaronk Belvedere, a semicircular plaza with a chalet, overlooking downtown Montreal. Built in 1906, it is named for the Huron chief Kondiaronk, who signed a major peace accord with the French regime in 1701. As of 2009, the Kondiaronk chalet's snack bar is being shuttered, with plans to replace it with healthier fare.
Other features of the park are Beaver Lake, a small man-made lake used for outdoor skating in the winter; tobogganing runs; cross-country skiing trails; a sculpture garden; Smith House, an interpretive centre; and the George-?tienne Cartier Monument. The park hosts athletic, tourist, and cultural activities.
The lush forest was badly damaged both by mayor Drapeau?s morality cuts (to remove any opportunity for people to have sex in the bushes) of the mid-1950?s and by the Ice Storm of 1998, but has since largely recovered. The forest is a green jewel rising above downtown Montreal, and is known for its beautiful autumn foliage as well as extensive hiking and cross-country ski trails. Biking is restricted to the main gravel roads.
From 1885 to 1920, the Mount Royal Funicular Railway brought sightseers to its peak. After it ceased service, Montreal's No. 11 streetcar brought visitors to the peak. A roadway named for longtime but controversial former mayor Camillien Houde?jailed during the Second World War for his opposition to Canada's war effort?now bisects the mountain. Ironically, Houde had been opposed to the idea of putting a road through the park.
The park, cemeteries, and several adjacent parks and institutions have been combined in the Arrondissement historique et naturel du Mont-Royal (Mount Royal Natural and Historical District) by the government of Quebec, in order to legally protect the rich cultural and natural heritage of this region. It is the only place in Quebec to have the combined status of an arrondissement naturel and arrondissement historique.
In the summer time, Mount Royal hosts a popular activity known as the "Tam Tam Jam", where a number of Montrealers and visitors play hand drums ("tam-tams" in French) such as djembes on the east slope of the mountain, at the George-?tienne Cartier Monument. The Sunday gatherings attract people of various backgrounds, and often dozens of tam-tam players perform their art at the same time, encouraging others to dance. In addition, many children and adults participate in a continuous mock medieval battle with foam-padded weapons.
The Tam-tams began in the late '70s with a workshop on African drumming at a jazz bar on Ontario Street. It is not organized by the municipal authorities. Despite initial resistance by participants, the city now intervenes in the event, restricting commercial activity to registered members in designated areas and assigning police and first aid technicians to ensure the safety of those present. Although initially controversial in light of the event's communal and countercultural vibe (and permissive attitude towards marijuana use) the police presence has not led to conflict.