What would a good question be for an urban railway corridor that has been handed to the care of residents almost two decades ago? Starting at the platform of the former Olympic Line near Granville Island, it was another warm summer day, to be out enjoying the city. It is immediately evident that the landscape throughout this walk is unique. On Saturday August 9 I’ve participated (part way) in the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) walk. On the one hand we were required to occasionally cross heavy traffic; we were constantly surrounded by various types of human built structures. On the other, the natural/wild and cultivated growth along the way serve as a softening setting that has an undeniable charm that might even be considered magical.
The invitation to the walk seemed alarming: “The CP deadline for removing gardens and other structures along the tracks was July 31. … We’ll be on the look-out for any changes that have been made since the deadline passed.”
The community gardens along the way that I had the chance to walk through were still in place. The CP Rail deadline must have been an official notice without much intention to be enforced strictly. But the discussion in Vancouver will no doubt become complicated and confrontational. There has already been some media coverage of the topic (see bottom of this page).
We all seem to want our city to be a great place to live in. What makes it great is an ever changing set of components, naturally occurring and manufactured. Following are just a sampling of phrases, each with their own implications:
Leave It As It Is: hearing this is very common when residents are asked about their neighborhood.
Enhance Its Public Character: interpreting each of these innocent words entails a world of controversy.
Re-introduce Railway Traffic: is it at all possible that such an option makes sense?
Who are the stakeholders in this story? We were probably not more than ten interested individuals participating in the walk. Even if we can imagine that any resident of Vancouver benefits from the Arbutus Corridor as it is today, what would make us engage and participate in determining its fate?
A walk along the tracks is a natural step in experiencing the play-field. I find this urban space charming and unique. However, my feeling is that a significant vision for its future is needed; a significant vision that is strongly inspired by the nature of the corridor at its current state. Could it reflect the interests and needs of Vancouver residents? What is the critical mass required to actually generate and fulfill that vision?
I had to leave the tour at an early stage: my ten year old daughter was naturally more inclined to following lady bugs and eating ice cream. One of the ideas that popped up at an early stage of the walk was using the tracks as an infrastructure for food, arts and culture carts. Would they be restricted to festivals or operate throughout the year? Well, that was just an idea. So many more are possible. What are yours?
A quick sampling of media coverage:
“CP Rail gets its gardening claws out” (Vancouver Sun, August 6, 2014)
“CP Rail’s deadline on Arbutus corridor comes and goes, but gardens remain” (Global News, August 6, 2014)
“Vancouver, CP Rail far apart on value of Arbutus rail corridor” (Globe and Mail, Monday, Jul. 28 2014)
Citizens involved in the debate have set up a Facebook page: Preserve The Arbutus Corridor