Arbutus Greenway paving halted for more consultation: Compendium of coverage, a great case study

Arbutus Greenway route Google Maps Aug 20216

Google Maps version showing Arbutus Greenway route

This post is to pull together some recent coverage on the status of the “Arbutus Greenway.”

This is an interesting case study for multiple reasons:

  • The history of the Vancouver and CP Rail and Arbutus rail line.
  • The $55 million settlement between City Hall and the huge corporation.
  • The vision of a green corridor.
  • The City’s promise of extensive consultation.
  • The rapid progress of rail removal.
  • The rapid paving with asphalt four meters wide (without consultation).
  • The quick action of a small group of citizens (including video, social media, and risky sit-down protest to block heavy equipment) to halt the paving.
  • The quick response by City bureaucrats to halt work and modify plans.
  • And the multiple users/stakeholders and interest groups.

Many groups of stakeholders (e.g., neighbours, gardeners, cyclists of various styles, persons with mobility issues, young and old, ecologists, and many more) have different expectations and hopes for this public space. It is up to the government, public servants, and elected officials to understand them all and develop the best possible plans — short term and long term. An interesting case study, and a test of the various groups to be able to respect each other’s views and needs.

Below is a compendium of media coverage of the past couple weeks on the paving and consultation of the Arbutus Greenway.

The “Greenest City” news from the Mayor’s Office on August 15 reports, “In March, the City reached a historic agreement with CP Rail to secure the future of the Arbutus Greenway – 42 acres of land that connects the Fraser River to False Creek. A section of the Greenway is temporarily paved so residents of all ages and abilities can walk, bike and enjoy it before the City undertakes a full public engagement and visioning process this fall.”

Two-minute video by Mark Battersby comparing before and after paving with asphalt. Entitled “The Arbutus Greenway: Paving Paradise” and set to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.”

Official contact for comments/questions/input: 

Official webpage (City of Vancouver):

CoV arbutus-greenway-illust city webpage Aug 2016

One concept for future design of Arbutus Greenway


Cyclists prepare to weigh in on Arbutus Greenway path: HUB Cycling organizing Bike the Night Ride for Sept. 16 (Naoibh O’Connor, Vancouver Courier, 12-Aug-2016)
Excerpt: Jeff Leigh, a spokesman for HUB Cycling, is encouraging members to get involved in consultation for the temporary pathway and final design for Arbutus Greenway…
Jeff Leigh was looking forward to Arbutus Greenway being paved with asphalt between the 10th and 37th Avenue bike routes before the end of August — just in time for HUB Cycling’s Bike the Night Ride on Sept. 16. The family-friendly ride will take participants through the streets of Kitsilano and Shaughnessy, as well as along that part of Arbutus corridor. The city had promised the section would be paved by month’s end, according to Leigh, until protesters convinced the city to stop work until consultation is held to determine what the temporary path should look like. A date or dates have yet to be set. [Consultation on the final greenway design, meanwhile, is expected to begin in September] At this point, asphalt has been put down on Arbutus Greenway from 16th to 33rd, with loose gravel laid on either end between West 10th and West 41st. City staff, however, have promised HUB the gravel surface will be improved. “Now it’s a soft gravel and they’ll be putting a hard-packed gravel on over the next few days on the sections [between 10th and 41st] that are not paved,” said Leigh, a spokesman for HUB. “We’ll then test that and make sure it’s a safe and adequate route for our event on the 16th.” Reaction to the city’s decision to halt paving has been mixed, both online and through official city channels.

Comment: The above article seems to indicate that HUB had privileged consultation with the City regarding the original plans to put asphalt down on the entire length of the greenway.

Arbutus Greenway asphalt paving put on hold: City of Vancouver agrees to further consultation about temporary pathway (Naoibh O’Connor, Vancouver Courier, 5-Aug-2016)
Excerpts: The City of Vancouver has agreed to hold off on further paving of Arbutus Greenway to allow time to consult on the best path forward. Asphalt has already been laid down from 16th to about 32nd and the plan was to lay asphalt along the entire corridor. The asphalt was meant to be temporary while design plans for the greenway are worked out over the next year or two. But critics, some of whom garden or regularly walk along the corridor, argued the public should have been consulted before paving started. They also questioned whether asphalt is an appropriate choice based on concerns about possible run-off problems, as well as the potential for accidents between pedestrians and cyclists or skateboarders speeding down the corridor. Others felt the asphalt changed the “rural ambience” of the route. Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s general manager of engineering, agreed to stop paving at 33rd and put a gravel, all-purpose path from 33rd to 41st and from 16th to 10th. He also plans to set up a consultative process to discuss overall plans for the interim greenway.

City halts paving of Arbutus corridor (Matt Robinson, Vancouver Sun, 5-Aug-2016)
Excerpts: The City of Vancouver has backed down in a fight over the future of the Arbutus Greenway. The fracas began after city crews — with little warning — laid an asphalt path along a section of the former rail corridor. The city recently purchased the land from Canadian Pacific Railway. But the move to temporarily pave the popular green space angered some residents who organized, confronted workers, and even blocked the path of heavy equipment. Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s general manager of engineering, met with two groups of residents over the issue on Thursday evening, and later decided on a few concessions. “As we talked through it, we agreed that we could pause on the construction,” he said on Friday..
… Earlier Thursday, Diana Davidson sat in the path of a wheeled excavator preparing a patch of the corridor for asphalt. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m 76, and I don’t want to die, but on the other hand, I’m not going to … just run away’,” said the Vancouver resident. She estimated the machine came within five metres of her before workers said they were going to leave the site.

City of Vancouver agrees to stop paving Arbutus corridor following complaints: Nearby resident Mark Battersby said groups opposed to the paving met with city Thursday night
(Maryse Zeidler, CBC News , 5-Aug-2016)
Excerpt: Dobrovolny sent them a message saying they would finish off the paving to W. 33rd Avenue but otherwise the process would stop until further notice. “Based on the feedback and concerns that have been expressed by this group, the city will start consultation regarding the design of the temporary pathway and use of temporary asphalt,” he wrote. Battersby said he’s pleased to hear the city heard their concerns. “We’re extremely pleased, even slightly amazed,” said Battersby of the city’s response. “I have great respect for a person who can admit that they made a mistake and changes their strategy. It’s not been my experience generally interacting with city bureaucrats.” Battersby said while he’s not opposed to a multi-use greenway, he and the others preferred a more natural look. “What I would like is that there’s a chance for a semi-wild experience and a friendly place for a place for walkers as well as cyclists,” he said, adding that although the paved corridor was touted as temporary, he felt paving it would unduly influence the outcome of the long-term consultation process.

Arbutus Corridor paving raises ire of some residents (with video, Paula Baker, Global News, 2-Aug-2016)
Excerpt: In 2014, CP crews started clearing away community gardens in preparation for train traffic. In March 2016, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made the announcement the city had bought the Arbutus Corridor for $55 million. At the time, Robertson estimated the cost to turn the rail right of way into a greenway to be between $25 to $30 million. But some local gardeners are not only upset over the lack of consultation before the pavers arrived but also about the asphalt itself. “It is not green, it’s actually toxic,” Adrian Levy said. “If they are going to do what most pavers do, they’re going to spray a very toxic herbicide to keep the growth of plants coming up through the asphalt. So it’s not going to be green, it’s not going to be safe, it’s not going to be cost effective and it’s going to be toxic. The city plans to begin a public visioning process this fall, which is expected to take about one year to complete.

City paves way for Arbutus Greenway (Naoibh O’Connor, Vancouver Courier, 2-Aug-2016)
Adrian Levy, chair of Cypress Community Garden, said members have an appointment to meet with city staff Aug. 8. He’s hopeful they can convince the city to finish the path using a different material. “It will be less expensive, it will be safer, it will be cleaner and it will be green — not black,” he said.

Vancouver and CP Rail settle dispute over Arbutus corridor (Ian Bailey, The Globe and Mail, 2-Aug-2016) (Note – the article doesn’t actually give any news about settling with CP.)

Temporary trail eyed for Arbutus Corridor (Eric MacKenzie, 24-Hours Vancouver, 2-Aug-2016)

City of Vancouver starts consultation on future of the Arbutus corridor
‘The sky’s the limit,’ says the city on what the greenway could look like
(Farrah Merali, CBC News, 2-Aug-2016)
Excerpt: Concerned Residents and Corridor User Group released a statement saying the path was installed “without consultation and no notice to residents.” The group raised environmental concerns about the use of asphalt.

Price Tags blog, with interesting comments and alternatives for asphalt paving

Reddit discussion



3 thoughts on “Arbutus Greenway paving halted for more consultation: Compendium of coverage, a great case study

  1. I live a block away and grew up in the area. I loved walking along the railway tracks in the summer. It’s nice to walk on grass. I won’t be walking along the corridor now though, it’s not nice anymore and no-one uses it. Used to be such a nice area with pretty gardens. Now oversized houses and even the pretty “greenway” gets paved and turned into ANOTHER bike path (right beside East Blvd which is paved and quiet and can be cycled on, used by people in wheelchairs and people with strollers). ???

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s