WATCH ABOVE: There is heated reaction to CP Rail’s ongoing dismantling of community gardens along the Arbutus corridor. Jas Johal reports.
VANCOUVER – There was lot of commotion Thursday afternoon down the Arbutus Corridor as CP Rail began clearing it’s long decommissioned rail line. The demolition continued on Friday.
Residents sent us tweets and photos of the excavators moving in to demolish gardens and clear debris and structures from the line. They say they are shocked and heartbroken by what has happened, with some shouting “shame, shame” at operators who came to clear the gardens and trees.
However, residents were warned this could happen. CP Rail says this is private property and they want to reactivate the line. They gave residents a deadline of July 31 to vacate the abandoned rail line.
There has not been a train down the tracks since 2001, but CP does own the property and have a right to clear the line.
Residents were still hopeful a deal could have been struck between CP and the City of Vancouver before the excavators and trucks moved in.
“I never expected this,” said one resident. “I’m really upset that I’m losing all my vegetables before the season ends.”
Resident Lorraine Fralin said what CP is doing is not logical. “Yes, I understand again that it’s private property,”she said. “Give the people a chance to harvest what they’ve grown. They’ve given them an extra two weeks. But don’t come in like this. You’re coming in like a terrorist. This is a rape of the land.”
Most believe CP is clearing the rail line to sell it to the City of Vancouver, who reportedly recently offered $20 million for the property.
Mayor Gregor Robertson sent a letter to CP late last month asking the company to hold off on destroying the community gardens as the negotiations continue.
In a statement released on Thursday, CP said:
“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.
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.”
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called CP’s actions “a bullying tactic.”
“CP’s removal and destruction of long-standing structures along the Arbutus Corridor is completely unwarranted, and these actions are simply a bullying tactic,” said Robertson in a statement. “The City made a fair market offer to CP to buy the land, which they turned down. There is no business case to reactivate cargo trains along the Corridor, and the City’s right to control the zoning was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.”
Robertson says CP is being disrespectful to residents and the city.
“The City offered to purchase the land at fair market value, which CP rejected. I wrote to the head of CP last month requesting a facilitated discussion to reach a long-term solution, which has been ignored. The actions by CP are counterproductive, unnecessary, and disrespectful.”
VIDEO: CP Rail spokesperson Breanne Feigel on the company’s plans for the Arbutus Corridor.
The options include running lighter trains or storing equipment and Feigel said the company has a need to use the rail again, if it’s not in a position to be sold at fair market value.
Updates on the current state of the negotiation couldn’t be given but Feigel says the door is still open to sell.
CP has made their position clear but, Feigel points out, they’ve been in conversations for more than a decade and “we’re not seeing negotiations have progressed in a positive manner, we need to utilize these assets and unfortunately that’s the work we’re doing today.”
Work on the clearing the land and getting it ‘rail ready’ will be continuing throughout the rest of the month.
POLL: Let us know what you think about CP Rail’s decision to tear out the community gardens.
WATCH: Raw footage of the excavators moving in: