Much of the shared pedestrian and cycling path that runs adjacent to the railway tracks along Kent Avenue near Jellicoe Street is so overgrown with weeds it's become a narrow strip of packed dirt. It's hardly wide enough for a single jogger.
So longtime resident Gillian Lunde decided to weed a small section across from her home.
"We own across the street and when I looked out all I saw were dandelions," Lunde told me last Sunday afternoon while standing by the path during a brief appearance of the sun. "So that first year I went out and dug for about an hour before I gave up."
Lunde says the next year she was once again sitting by her window looking out at nothing but weeds and dandelions.
"So I said, OK, I'm going to do something about this."
That was five years ago and slowly, but surely, Lunde is enhancing the stretch of path leading east to Jellicoe Street with plants and flowers she's purchased and is reclaiming the path for cyclists and pedestrians on her own time and at her own expense. To date, Lunde has weeded and planted along 27 lengths of the fence that divides the pathway from the railway track that run adjacent to Kent Street.
Lunde says while working on what today has become a colourful strip of garden, she's had the opportunity to meet neighbours.
"People come up to me and say thank you," Lunde said. "And others have donated flowers."
Lunde says the park board sometimes mows the grass along the path, but that doesn't stop it from growing back. Pulling the long grass out by the roots is labour intensive, but it's a mission she's not giving up.
Her effort wasn't lost on neighbour Mima Wilson, who started helping clear and plant the path from the east side of the block towards Lunde's stretch of garden three years ago. It's not exactly guerrilla gardening, considering the women have permission from the park board, but it is a true community effort. Wilson says other neighbours are paying attention. Recently a woman cleaned along four fence lengths, leaving a note simply signed "Cathy."
The women got a small grant from the Vancouver Foundation to buy flowers, but Wilson notes the money they've invested far exceeds that amount.
Wilson organized a community cleanup June 16 in which 20 neighbours took part, a huge turnout considering the torrential rain that day. Together the group cleared several fence links. "It took 20 people three hours to clear three fence lengths," Wilson said. "And Gillian has done 27 on her own. She's the real hero in all this."
The day I visited the women, Lenore Tan was lending a hand with the weeding for the first time, inspired by the work of her neighbours. Neighbour Byran Quam stopped by to check out the ornamental beans he recently planted on the south side of the fence.
Lunde and Wilson hope that's a trend that continues to grow.
They also hope their efforts catch the attention of the park board. The women want to start a community garden in the closeknit neighbourhood. All they need is the space.