This is an open letter I have written to my fellow Arbutus gardeners yesterday with regards to CPR's current maneuvers along the old Arbutus line train tracks, which have been dormant for more than a decade and have since become a treasured greenway through Vancouver's West Side and home to several community gardens.
Hi All, I am a homeowner between 52d and 54th on East Blvd and our family, along with another family from Kerrisdale, work the garden plot across from our garage. As some of you may know I am running for City Council under the Green Party of Vancouver banner.
I attended an "information" meeting put on by the CPR in April and have seen other correspondence from the CPR including the July 31 Deadline Notice. I must say, I'm quite amazed by how far the CPR seems willing to pursue this thinly veiled strategy to stir up discontent among community gardeners to force the city's hand to let them develop the Arbutus corridor. It is reminiscent of the tactics used by railway companies in old western movies and is certainly not going to play well for them in today's environment where corporate social responsibility is considered paramount.
For the record, I am one sod buster who is not going to comply with the CPR request to tear down my fence or dig up any of my pumpkins, cucumbers, or tomatoes that grow beyond the line that the CPR "surveyors" have drawn through many of the gardens. If the CPR wishes to send out their agents to dig them up I suppose that is their right---they do have title to the land. Like much of Vancouver (and Western Canada) it was gifted to the CPR long ago. The mansions in Shaunessy are monuments to the beneficiaries of that gift.
My personal preference would be to see a negotiated solution on a regional scale, but perhaps starting with Arbutus Corridor, where all parties can win. Rail transport in cities is obviously not what it once was and the CPR has title to significant under-utilized land throughout Greater Vancouver, including up and down Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River, as well as the Arbutus Corridor. I would like to look into the possibility of rezoning select neighborhood-appropriate portions of that land for responsible development in exchange for the development of off- street bike and walking routes which would not increase traffic congestion. By "neighborhood-appropriate" I mean that commercial development should only be considered in locations of existing commercial development and higher density residential development should likewise only be considered in locations where it currently exists. I would certainly not be in favour of construction of new high-rise complexes such as are planned for Oakridge and Marpole. This is a plan which would also be consistent with our ongoing usage of the adjacent land as self-managed community gardens. I have read several emails from you all today and agree that we should let the City of Vancouver and the CPR know our views.