Today I want to talk about something I’ve been involved with that has me super-jazzed. A few months ago, the city bought the Arbutus Corridor, a 9-kilometer Canadian Pacific train track cutting the entire north–south stretch through the heart of the Westside. The idea: to turn it into the Arbutus Greenway, a path for pedestrians, cyclists and eventually a streetcar. Think the New York High Line, but much longer, running at ground level away from people’s living rooms. In other words, a combination of park and fully functioning active transportation corridor. When finished, it’ll let you walk or bike your commute to work, enjoy time alone in secluded spaces, push the stroller or walk the dog.

As a huge fan of rail beds converted to trails, I was so excited about the city’s purchase that I decided to become involved. The beauty of this greenway is that it takes you through a cross-section of Vancouver’s communities in a backyard kind of way, offering perspectives that the ordinary sidewalks don’t provide. For many years, residents have territorialized miles of the rail bed (I mean that in a good way – think “terra” meaning “earth” in Latin), developing long swathes of urban gardens both culinary and ornamental. The track’s conversion into a greenway is promising for the continuance of these gardens, which have given character to our community for many years.

The rail bed and its banks have unkempt, improvised characteristics that I hope the developed greenway will retain: straggly blackberry bushes mounded up, views into industrial and retail back lanes, informal access paths trodden by generations of residents, gardeners’ equipment piled up, scarecrows grinning at you as you pass by. Plus many remnants of the railway days: decommissioned train crossing signs and lights, short stretches of track still embedded in snatches of asphalt, wooden poles marking where fences used to stand. I’d really like the greenway to retain this “as is” quality rather than getting over-prettified.

More on all this, and what some good folks and I are doing about it, in an upcoming post.