Gardeners along the Arbutus rail corridor are concerned about how their plots will fare beyond the end-of-month deadline imposed by CP Rail for encroachments to be cleared from company property.
Maureen Ryan, a spokesperson for the Cypress and Maple community gardens, said the gardeners who work plots along 6th Avenue are hoping they can “coexist” with trains if the rail line is reactivated.
Ryan noted that in the ’90s, gardeners would wave to the train engineers as they passed by the plots. The Maple Community Garden has been around since 1989, and the Cypress Community Garden since the mid ’90s.
“We feel that green space and community gardens serve a very important function in urban spaces,” Ryan told the Straight by phone. “We would hope that if there are trains, if that’s what CPR decides to do, that we could coexist, and we hope that the city and CPR continue their negotiations.”
Although some gardeners have indicated they plan to remove special plants or transplant some vegetables, Ryan said the members do not plan to remove the gardens.
“We want the gardens to stand as a record of the amazing beautification of what was unkempt property in this area,” she said.
Gardeners recently delivered to the mayor’s office about 3,500 petition signatures calling for the preservation of the green space; they have since collected another 1,000. Another online petition has drawn more than 1,300 signatures so far.
“We are simply asking for the mayor and city council and CPR to sit down, show leadership to preserve both the transit corridor, certainly, but the important green space and community gardens alongside,” Ryan said.
In a recent letter to community members, Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city is prepared to pay “full market value” for the land.
Ed Greenberg, a spokesperson for CP Rail, said the railway’s approach on August 1 isn’t to begin “immediate dismantling” of community gardens.
“But we do have a plan in place of how to continue track improvement in this area and will handle the removal of the encroachments as work progresses,” he told the Straight by phone.
Ryan noted the gardens are an attraction not only for locals but for tourists.
“We want the biodiversity—the bird and the bee habitat that we have created from this area that we’ve been trying to detoxify—to continue,” she said. “It’s an important environmental asset.”