Vancouver gardeners feeling railroaded over corridor
Cheryl Carruthers has been gardening in the Arbutus corridor for a decade. (JEREMY NUTTALL)
On one side of a footpath at Maple Street and West 6th Avenue in Vancouver, grass and a brick pile hide railway tracks unused for years. On the other, a collection of vegetables, flowers and a Margaret Atwood novel rest. The Canadian Pacific Railway wants them gone.
CP rail has given community gardens and other establishments until July 31 to vacate the land along their Arbutus corridor rail line, which hasn’t been used in more than a decade.
The railway company said it doesn’t know quite yet what it wants to use the tracks for, but needs gardeners to dig up their plots and move out, causing a sense of fear that was palpable among those interviewed on Thursday.
“I’ll just wait and see,” said Cheryl Carruthers, adding she’s been gardening her plot for 10 years. “It’s their land, that’s the bottom line, they can do that. But it won’t be without heartache and protesting from people.”
There are 75 plots at this Carruthers’ location, but community gardens run along the rail line for many blocks.
But Ed Greenberg of CP Rail said the city had its chance and talks have been unsuccessful.
“You have to remember that for many years CP was involved in conversations to convert the Arbutus corridor into a number of combined uses,” said Greenberg. “Greenway, community gardens and eco-density developments were some of the options.”
And with none of those happening, Greenberg said, the company intends to explore whether the line can be used as part of the company’s operations, but doesn’t yet know how.
The options could include its use as a training ground or train car storage and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson recently wrote a letter to CP asking them to keep is as a greenway.
“Our position remains that the corridor should be maintained as a greenway until such time that a business case is viable for light-rail transit along the route,” wrote Robertson.
Meanwhile, Carruthers said the fate of the corridor holds more in consequences than the loss of a few rows of carrots.
“We need to let CP Rail know that this is a community and it’s important to us,” she said.
Should gardeners be allowed to stay in the Arbutus corridor, even if it's not their land?