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Laval Nature Center
The Laval Nature Center is an urban park, which sits on 50 hectares of land or at least 100 football fields combined. Huge!
This absolute gem of a nature center hit me late last summer while I was doing some research. I saw the photos and read the site’s online offering.
I didn’t even know of the Laval Nature Center’s existence. When I discovered it, I was skeptical and delayed my visit for months, even though the trip to Laval is relatively short (30 minutes) from where I live.
I figured, if it’s free to get into this nature center, it must cost a lot to park. And it does, but it’s optional. There’s plenty of free parking on Park Avenue. Unless there is a special children’s event or a festival or other. I’ll have to update when I discover more.
After we had parked, around the middle of the length of the park, we found an opening into the gardens and strolled downwards along the path which lead to three other paths. Way down to the left was a big lake, and straight ahead of us the mystery road would wait. We went right, upwards to a tiny make-shift village.
The village is a small town with tiny buildings for little people, namely, children. There’s the church, the schoolhouse, the general store, the candy store and the post office. It is a perfect place to take fun photos of your kids. And even for us bigger kids.
Some of the Little BuildingsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Lots of Animals
First I saw the birds. I hadn’t seen such a varied collection of birds since the zoo at Park Lafontaine, when I was a kid.
Remember the first thing you saw upon entering Park Lafontaine zoo? There was a blue whale with its mouth open. And you would walk inside its mouth to look at the fishes in the aquarium.
Well, at this Laval Nature Center there are dozens of large and clean cages housing all kinds of birds. Many varieties of chickens, peacocks, birds of prey and so many more. I was astonished by their vitality.
Low and behold the horses, the ponies, the donkeys. All of which could be fed, petted and photographed. I didn’t see a single cow!
The Farm AnimalsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Long & Winding Paths
The BeautyClick thumbnail to view full-size
Amusement For Kids
To be a kid again!
The train travels the paths all around the play center. The play center is awesomely huge and packed with delightful physical toys. Toys like crazy swings, slides, climbing ropy things to high heaven. The people with youngsters who reside in this area are in kingdom come.
Kids Amusement ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
The lake looks great right in the middle of this nature center. It’s clean, and has a beautifully tiled path all around it. There is a place where you can rent a canoe and go on the water for an hour at a time. There are benches to rest upon and soak in the atmosphere, and picnic tables for chowing down on your own fried chicken and creamy potato salad.*
Check out how this Lake came to be where it is in the History section of this hub. You will be surprised! The entire history of this urban park is quite revealing!
*If you desire a restaurant, there is one nearby, nothing fancy, just a bite if you’re hungry, need a snack or if you desire a beverage.
Peaceful & Refreshing
This was the crown jewel!
The endless flowery paths were so beautiful, I really didn’t expect more. So when I came upon the greenhouses, I thought it wasn’t possible. Upon entering the building, it was like a visitor’s center; with bathrooms, pamphlets… and then, further back, The Greenhouse!
Try to imagine a greenhouse of bridges and waterways filled with large colorful fish, paths with lovely birds in cages at every point, plus countless species of plants, many you may have never seen in your life. I loved it!
In the Greenhouse
More Greenhouse PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Outside the end of the greenhouse I expected a path which would return us to the lake. But there were two other paths in front of us, so we forged onward.
What we saw were gardens upon gardens and fabulous tree-topped hills. A beautiful expanse of well appointed land which seems surreal so close to the city of Laval and Montreal. But it is real!
As we strolled downward, back toward the lake we came upon ducks and geese and tasteful statues. Would this loveliness ever end?
The Lilly Pond
The loveliness only increased when we come upon the lily pond. A huge pond of thrush, reeds, cattails, and more ducks and geese who nest there each year.
At the ending path, small bridges, more paths and alcoves, little gazebos where lovers can talk of love. I was jealous there wasn’t a free one that day. So private and cozy.
The crazy lilies-on-water… I have never seen so many. You should remember that different seasons, different flowers, even the water flowers. So you may have to go at each season of the year to catch the various stages of this fabulous place. Even in winter.
*Please Note that bicycling, pets and BBQs (all fires) are not permitted. See The LNC site for details and other prohibitions.
Pathways & GazebosClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Brief History
The site of the Laval Nature Center is situated on old farm land which was sold in 1915 to create a rock quarry, and which in 1932 went bankrupt.
In the mid 1940s the Marist brothers Congregation acquired the site to build their juniorate in the southern part. In 1961 the unused portion of this land was sold to the City of St. Vincent de Paul who constructed a swimming pool and baseball fields. Long before its transformation into an urban park , the quarry site was frequented by young people who were attracted to the spring-water lake created by the excavation.
1968 saw the beginning of the Nature Centre (of the [new] City of Laval), which now covers an area of just under 100 acres.
The park opened to the public in 1970. The administration building is now named the Maurice Blain Pavilion, in honor of the founder of the Nature Centre.
In 1971, the construction of a stable was completed. Educational tours attracted large crowds who came to see farm animals. A greenhouse was added in 1972 which was drastically upgraded in 1990.
Between 1975-78, the development of the area around the big lake included; summer huts to house cultural activities, the Village of the Arts, many trees to form a vegetation screen along Park Avenue, and the establishment of numerous outdoor activities. It was during this period that the site hosted its first major popular events such as the Festival of neighbors, the festivities of the Saint-Jean Baptiste celebrations, and the 10 days of the “10 years” of the founding of the City of Laval.
The modifications and ameliorations to the Laval Nature Center continue on a yearly basis. This year, 2015. the swimming pool is getting all of the attention. (I’ll add to this later)
Now the second largest city in Quebec, Laval is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The parties will go on!
WildlifeClick thumbnail to view full-size
2015 Photos after the video
2015 Photos on a Sunny AfternoonClick thumbnail to view full-size
More 2015Click thumbnail to view full-size
© 2015 Carol Houle