'Heaven forbid they should get their way,' says West Vancouverite of CN Rail seawall lawsuit

A breakdown in negotiations between CN Rail and the District of West Vancouver has led the railway to terminate the district's lease and file a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court.

CN Rail ends lease and files lawsuit against District of West Vancouver over Centennial Seawalk

CN Rail terminated its lease with the District of West Vancouver after negotiations over the future of Centennial Seawalk crumbled. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The relationship between the Canadian National Railway and the District of West Vancouver has gone off the rails, as the two butt heads over the future of the Centennial Seawalk. 

CN Rail is said to be seeking compensation of $3.7 million per year in rent  for public use of the seawalk between 19th Street and 24th Street, which is on railroad land. 

"We have negotiated in good faith since 2013, but the district has been unwilling to resolve the matter," said a CN spokesperson in an email. 

In its lawsuit, CN Rail alleges the district has constructed parking stalls, sidewalks, walking trails, a community gazebo and landscaping that encroaches on its railway corridor. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

After negotiations between the two crumbled, the railway company terminated its lease with the district and filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court on Feb. 17.

The district responded by filing an application through the Canadian Transportation Agency on Wednesday. It claims it shouldn't have to pay at all because of its long usage of the railway lands but is proposing to rent the land for $12,500 per year, indexed for inflation.

CN Rail said it hopes to settle the matter out of court and during the legal process it's not preventing people from using the seawall. 

But, if the dispute between CP Rail and the City of Vancouver is any indication, users of the seawall fear they're in for a bitter fight. 

"It would be a tragedy, really," said Elandra Chivers, who walks the length of the path almost daily.

"It's part of the reason why we live here, you know? It is fantastic. It is a lifestyle and it's healthy ... Heaven forbid they should get their way," she said. 

The popular 1.7 kilometre Centennial Seawalk is known for its scenic views. It's favoured by seniors and those with mobility issues for its even pavements and accessibility. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Lynne Brenegan fears losing access to the seawall will negatively impact her senior father's quality of life. 

"It's a really important part of our daily routine," she said, "It's a treasure for us. We find the levelness here is really important for ease of movement," she said. 

The seawall is not only frequented because of its even pavements but for its accessibility, wheelchair road racer Alistair Dutson comes down to the seawall multiple times a week. 

Wheelchair road racer Alistair Dutson said he would be disappointed if the seawall was no longer accessible He frequents it multiple times a week. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)
Dutson, who grew up in West Vancouver, said he has often come down to the seawall to clear his mind. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"I would be deeply disappointed. It would be unacceptable to me if it wasn't available for public use on a daily basis," said Dutson, who strongly believes in the mental well-being associated with walking the scenic path. 

Constructed in the late 1960s, the seawalk has a long ownership history with CN Rail leasing parts of the land from B.C. Rail. 

The District of West Vancouver said it shouldn't have to pay because of its long usage of the land. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

About the Author

Tina Lovgreen

Video Journalist

Tina is a Video Journalist with CBC Vancouver. Send her an email at tina.lovgreen@cbc.ca

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