Gardens to be demolished as part of Hydro One upgrade

Residents of a neighbourhood where residents have tended to vegetable gardens established in the Hydro One right of way since the 1980s say they will fight the power company's plan to clear out the vegetation.

'I don't understand why they don't just put the tower up and let us work the rest,' says one resident

Geoff Radnor gestures to one of his neighbour's gardens, planted in the mid-80s in the transmission line right-of-way. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Residents in the Riverview neighbourhood say Hydro One is taking a "scorched earth" policy to their community vegetable gardens.

The electricity provider plans to upgrade the towers and twin the existing, single 115 kV transmission line between the Overbrook Transformer Station on Coventry Road and Balena Park in the Riverview neighbourhood next April.

Hydro One regards the hedges, shrubs and elaborate vegetable gardens planted by residents in the 33-meter wide right-of-way as "unauthorized encroachments" and "incompatible vegetation" that could interfere with the power grid.

The power company says anything left after March 31 of next year will be bulldozed.

That isn't sitting well with Geoff Radnor and his neighbours.

'They are not going to use it for anything anyway'

"We've kept it up, now Hydro wants to destroy everything that has been done over the years. And we're going to fight it", said Radnor, who has organized a community meeting scheduled for Thursday to the 50 nearby households.

Louis Comerton has been growing fruits and vegetables on Hydro One's power line right-of-way since the early '80s.

His garden contains tomatoes, beets, rhubarb, parsley, chard, carrots, beans, strawberries and raspberries. 

"Well, it's called 'scorched earth'. It's totally uncalled for, it exceeds their own guidelines in terms of maintaining their hydro easement," said Comerton.

Brian Golden says he's worn out three lawnmowers keeping the right of way tidy since moving here 31 years ago.

"We kept it always nice for Hydro 'cause they were good to us, they let us use the property for privacy," he said.

But the power company says residents like Golden won't be allowed to garden — or mow — once the upgrades are finished next year.

"I don't understand why they don't just put the tower up and let us work the rest, you know? 'Cause they're not going to use it for anything anyway," said Golden.

Greenspace to be used for 'passive recreational use'

Hydro One will hold public information sessions about the power grid upgrades September 21 and 22.

"We are trying to strike a fair balance," said Hydro One spokesperson Nancy Clark.

Clark said the removal of the neighbourhood gardens was necessary to allow construction work on the towers and emergency access to the transmission lines in the future.

"We are committed to working with the community to find a way forward," said Clark. "This is why we are consulting."

A list of answers to frequently asked questions about the project on Hydro One's website says, "While Hydro One has allowed encroachments to exist on the corridor over the years, going forward, unauthorized plantings, structures or other items will not be permitted on the corridor."

It concludes, "A corridor free of encroachments will also provide the opportunity for all members of the community to enjoy this green space for passive recreational use."​