Friday, August 15, 2014

Community gardens ripped up by CP Rail

A Canadian Pacific Rail police officer, right, directs residents Sarah Myambo, left, and Mila Rakhmetouline off the property for their safety as they try to salvage items from their community garden. (Darryl Dick/The Canadian Press)
CP Rail brought in heavy equipment Thursday afternoon and began tearing down structures and removing the community gardens that local residents have nurtured for years along the disused Arbutus corridor railway in Vancouver.

On Wednesday, "no trespass" signs went up and crews moved in with weed whackers to cut back vegetation, but the community gardens remained untouched. By Thursday, however, the clearing of the rail line was underway in earnest.

Local resident Gerry Oldman stood helplessly by while the community garden he spent years building was destroyed.

"My son and my wife and I spent hours in that garden, you know, building the soil every year and planting," he said looking at the remains. "You know, not wanting to hurt anybody, not wanting to be in anybody's way, just quietly going about our ​business and planting food that we love. And now it's gone."

The community gardeners had lots of warning this could be coming. In May, they were asked to remove everything that encroached on CP land by the end of July, including all plants and gardening sheds. That deadline came and went with the gardeners refusing to remove anything.

In a statement, CP Rail said it is following through on what it had said it would do — remove vegetation and obstructions along the track to get it and the surrounding infrastructure up to federal operating standards for a rail right-of-way​.

Today's residents are caught in the middle of a decade's-old dispute between CP Rail and the city ever since the city refused to allow the railway to develop the land and insisted it remain a greenway.  

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