Photos posted on social media Thursday revealed Canadian Pacific has started removing community gardens and structures at the south end of Arbutus Corridor.
The photos were taken near West 70th and Barnard in Marpole.
In late July, CP told residents they had to remove "encroachments" such as sheds, structures, storage containers and gardens, on CP property by July 31.
Breanne Feigel, CP's spokesperson on the Arbutus Corridor file, was not initially available for comment but she emailed a statement from CP late Thursday afternoon. She noted gardeners were given a deadline, so the clearing work wasn't a surprise.
"CP is doing what it said it would do; complete the necessary work, which includes the safe removal of vegetation and obstructions, to begin to get the track and infrastructure in the area up to federal operating standards. We approached the work today carefully and were respectful to our neighbours along this corridor. CP Police and other officials were on the property today to ensure public safety as machinery was being used," Feigel said in the statement.
"Work will continue tomorrow and into next week. We ask that the public respect that the corridor as CP private property and stay out of the area for their safety and the safety of our crews."
An emailed comment from the mayor's office attributed to Mayor Gregor Robertson stated: "It's very disappointing, given there is no business case for reactivating cargo trains. We've asked CP to respect the wishes of the local neighbourhood, and to continue to work with the City towards a long-term solution."
About 10 Marpole residents — some of them gardeners — looked on unhappily as CP crews pulled up vegetables and garden fencing along the rail line west of William Mackie Park by West 71th Avenue. The material was piled on the side.
A City of Vancouver police officer ordered onlookers to get off CP property, for safety.
CP had stated that the gardens were too close to the Arbutus Corridor railway tracks and posed a safety hazard. Despite residents being warned of the deadline for removal, structures and gardens remained on CP property. Some residents thought it was a bluff. But they were mistaken. The Courier was on the scene as neighbours watched the clearing crews.
Amy Wexler, a resident of an apartment building by the tracks for 30 years said: “I think it’s very sad. We worked very hard out here and it’s just all gone. It was beautiful. This was particularly good growing space. We planted vegetables and some ornamental plants we were very fond of, and we loved it. They say it’s all for the good of the economy, but the plants can’t speak.”
Rita, who's lived in an apartment nearby for more than 10 years, looked a bit distraught.
“It’s terrible. I planted sunflowers, grapes, blackberries. When trains came through before here, our building would shake,” she said.
Chua, an elderly nearby resident for eight years, added: “This is too bad. I planted beans, lettuce, squash, tomatoes and more. It makes me unhappy.”
Parker Cook, another Marpole resident, was also troubled by the latest development.
“I'm not a gardener, but I helped those who were. It's CPR’s land, and I think land rights are what make our country great, but on the other hand I’m not sure if what’s going here is actually what we’re being told. I understand that if they are going to run trains, it’s probably necessary for safety. But are they actually going to run trains here? A commuter train would be interesting, but we were told it’s a track for storage and training purposes, which sounds like a bunch of public relations BS to me.”
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