British Columbia

CP Rail begins clearing Arbutus corridor

Only weeks after demanding residents remove property from its right of way, CP Rail has begun clearing the tracks and erecting 'no trespass' signs along the Arbutus corridor.

Railway posts 'No trespass' signs as it continues to assert its rights over rail corridor

CP Rail workers trim vegetation along the Arbutus rail corridor under newly erected 'No Trespass' signs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

On Wednesday, the sound of falling rain was overpowered by the whine of weed whackers along the disused tracks of Vancouver's Arbutus Corridor.

Only weeks after demanding residents remove property from its right of way, CP Rail has begun erecting 'no trespass' signs along the corridor and trimming vegetation.

But it still hasn't touched the community gardens.

As well as warning of danger from potential rail traffic, this CP sign also includes a No Trespassing notice. The railway has posted the signs as it moves to assert its rights over the rail corridor. (CBC)

CP Rail says brush clearing will continue this month as part of its plan to bring the rail line up to federal operating standards.

People were asked to move everything that encroached on CP land by the end of July, including all plants and gardening sheds. But that deadline came and went without incident.

Today the gardens remain and CP seems to be taking a cautious approach to them.
Local resident Claire Cameron says residents are "very disturbed" both sides have been unable to compromise despite years of negotiations. (CBC)
At this point, CP seems to be sparing the flowers. Clearing has begun, but CBC News found it stopped where the gardens or flowers began and then continued where they ended.

Trains haven't run along the line in more than a decade and some gardeners have spent 20 years or more, trying to create an urban green space there — an oasis of flowers and trees.

Many are frustrated the city and CP haven't been able to reach an agreement to protect it.

"We're very disturbed that there hasn't been mediation, or that there hasn't been a compromise; that the parties haven't been able to meet at a middle ground and find a small piece of property that is not used for the community that could be given to CP," said resident Claire Cameron.

Flowers line the tracks encroaching on the CP right of way. The railway has begun to clear away vegetation from the tracks. (CBC)

The city says it doesn't want freight trains running down the line, and has offered CP what it calls fair market value for the land. CP says the offer isn't what it considers fair. It says the railway shouldn't be faulted for behaving like one.

"What we really need to emphasize is the Arbutus Corridor is CP property," said CP rail spokesperson Breanne Feigel. "It is property we own and we are acting lawfully as a landowner and as a railway in running operations there and choosing to use that property."

Talks between the city and CP have been ongoing for years. Some neighbourhood residents say it should never have gone this far.

On mobile? Click here for an interactive map of the whole Arbutus Corridor line

Follow our web reporter Steve Lus as he travels the Arbutus Corridor Rail Line in his blog below:

On mobile? Click here to follow Steve Lus' Arbutus Corridor blog

With files from the CBC's Tim Weekes