Talking the line: Visions for Arbutus Greenway at stakeholder workshop
Writing and photography by Naomi Wittes Reichstein, VPSN communications coordinator and Arbutus Greenway project lead
We’ve been following closely the latest developments on the Arbutus Greenway, Vancouver’s 9-km rail-to-trail corridor. On February 2, I was excited to attend the stakeholders’ workshop that the City hosted with the intention of formulating a vision for the greenway’s permanent design. Participants included representatives of Vancouver-based organizations involved with green space, human mobility and health, cycling and public consultation, with students of architecture and landscape design also present.
The intention of the meeting was high-level: to formulate overall “vision” and “values” for the greenway’s design, leaving specific recommendations and troubleshooting to further stages. The City kicked off the workshop with a clear emphasis on the greenway’s purpose as a transportation corridor, reminding participants that this formal status was in fact a condition of the original purchase. The long-range intention is to introduce light rail, though as we’ve described earlier, there’s no timeline for that because the streetcar isn’t funded. The City’s reminder was important, though, in framing the conversation.
After the City’s presentation, we split up into two tables to exchange ideas, then came back together for a discussion as a whole group.
With any major city project, residents will hold out a variety of hopes, some of which may be more compatible than others. Around the room, participants clearly agreed that the new greenway should represent a commitment to ecology, with indigenous plants, habitat for species including pollinators, preservation of quiet green space and the opportunity for non-motorized movement. Equally universal was the feeling that the greenway should both represent and enable social inclusion and interaction, allowing people of all ages and mobilities to come together within the community and engage in healthy physical activity in an accessible public space. Participants likewise agreed on what I call the attractive duality between the quiet seclusion available on parts of the greenway and the relative busyness at neighbourhood hubs. People appreciated and expressed the wish to preserve the way in which the greenway traverses tranquil green areas while occasionally coming upon larger gathering hubs interspersed (such as 6th, 41st and 57th), offering variety and interest over its long course. Supported too was the idea of incorporating plenty of benches for resting, plus cultural elements from street art to preserved railway markers.
Unsurprisingly, certain values were somewhat at odds. There was a bit of tension between the vision of Arbutus essentially as a green space needing conservation versus its status as a transportation corridor including a streetcar. One view expressed was that a streetcar could eventually reduce the greenway’s appeal as a walking and bike route and its ecological qualities. Other participants advised that designing with the streetcar in mind should play a role from the start so that improvements made now wouldn’t have to be ripped up and redone later should funding for rail come through.
What you can do
The public consultation is happening now. You can participate by taking the survey and dropping in on one of the City’s open houses on February 9 (tonight) or 11. In March, the City will report out on the results of the consultation, including this workshop.
We’ll keep you posted.