As Canadian Pacific crews clear dozens of community gardens from an 11-kilometre area of unused railway, the City of Vancouver has offered to relocate mature fruit trees along the way to save them from being killed.
The offer, disclosed Tuesday, comes as the city and CP remain at odds over the fate of the Arbutus corridor. Last week, the transportation company moved to reclaim the area for possible future rail use in an action the Mayor has deemed a "bullying tactic" to get more money from the city for the land.
In a statement released Tuesday, Mayor Gregor Robertson's office offered the replanting measure without details, but also repeated its offer to take part in a mediated discussion with CP to come to an agreement on the future of the corridor. "We are hopeful [CP] will agree," said the statement.
The statement also said the city has limited legal options because CP owns the right of way, which has sat idle for more than a decade.
Mr. Robertson has been otherwise unavailable for comment since CP crews began their work last week, uprooting plants and plots and bulldozing tool sheds as it began the job of eliminating 350 plots in gardens along the Arbutus corridor between False Creek and the Fraser River.
CP is moving to revive the corridor for possible train use, it says.
Scores of local gardeners and their supporters have been reeling at CP's action, which wiped out plots used to grow food and other plants – many for area residents who live in condos and apartments, so do not have their own lawns.
Paul Kendal, a gardener in the Arbutus Victory Garden, welcomed the replant proposal on Tuesday, noting it would save dozens of trees in the garden, which is 70 years old and previously co-existed with CP trains until they stopped running through.
Mr. Kendal, who has had a plot in the garden for about four years and grows potatoes, raspberries, wild arugula, herbs, peas and fava beans, said the garden yields "piles of food" that could not be grown at the apartment where he lives.
"I'm thrilled the city is going to be able to help," he said, noting that the trees highlight the longevity of the gardens now under threat by CP.
Mr. Robertson has touted a "fair-market offer" for the land, reportedly about $20-million, although CP is looking for $100-million for the land.
In May, CP indicated that it would begin clearing the corridor for rail traffic for the first time since trains moved in 2001.
In a statement Tuesday, CP said it will continue working on the corridor this week, but has no estimate on how long it will take to deal with the vegetation and clear it away. "It depends on a number of factors, including crew and equipment availability," said the statement from Breanne Feigel.
Ms. Feigel said she had no further comment on talks with the city.
CP has previously said it is not prepared to have the railway asset unused for another decade when it can be used to support its Vancouver operations.