Thursday, September 1, 2016

The asphalt greenway

Vancouver's so-called "transportation greenway" on the old CPR line looks to me like an Alberta highway, not a greenway of any description.
This looks more like a greenway. It's the Arbutus Corridor with the railway line removed. Why not touch it up a bit and leave it alone?

Some of the surviving gardens along the corridor. They were on city land, not the CPR's, so weren't among the many ripped out by the railway when it was trying to put pressure on the city.

A bench and another garden plot that survived the CPR's tactics.

I crossed the CPR tracks almost every day on my walk to work: I knew the decaying wooden ties, the well-trodden footpath, the good chance of stepping in dog poop. But it was also a breath of wilderness in the midst of a manicured, very concrete and expensive city. There were untended trees and bushes growing however they liked; there were raggedy grasses and amazing stands of weeds; there were community gardens bursting with colourful flowers.

No trains had used the rail line's Arbutus Corridor for at least 15 years, so people like me got used to walking, jogging, dog-walking and gardening along those nine kilometres of nature, ignoring the "no-trespassing" signs. Meanwhile, the city and CPR battled over the land; the city refusing to pay the CPR's $100-million price tag. There were court fights and pressure tactics, including the CPR ripping out community gardens and threatening to start running trains along the line again.

When the city finally bought the land for $55 million this spring -- to use it as a "transportation greenway"-- I was relieved. Greenway sounded good. I envisioned a slightly improved version of the pedestrian-made pathway that once ran beside the tracks, bordered by trees, grasses and community gardens. Something meandering and slow, where kids and dogs and families could run and play as they walked somewhere.

I was away on holidays when I heard that the city's version of a greenway was a four-metre-wide asphalt strip, straight as an Alberta highway. The city said the asphalt was temporary, but some people were angry enough that they protested, waving "stop paving paradise" signs. The city agreed to use gravel instead on sections that hadn't yet been paved.

It was a hot day when I got my first look at the asphalt. The sun was blasting down on that bare, unforgiving strip of black, and I couldn't imagine it looking any more cheerful in the rain. It was not a place for people to meander. It was a place for things with wheels to go really, really fast.

A machine tears out the railway ties along the corridor earlier this year. 

The gravel alternative to the asphalt. While some people liked the asphalt, the protests against it were strong enough that the city agreed to put gravel on sections not already paved. It's all supposed to be temporary, while the city does consultations on long-term plans for the corridor.
This is not the Arbutus Corridor, but rather the entrance to the Camosun Bog in Pacific Spirit Park. It's my idea of what I'd like a "transportation greenway" to look like. 

1 comment:

  1. Well, the asphalt certainly got people talking!

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