A “Greenway” is usually defined and promoted as an area or strip of land which is preserved for recreational use or environmental protection – though in most cases other benefits are publicized, as well. Typically, Greenway land consists of underdeveloped or vacant properties which are acquired by municipal or other government entities through condemnation proceedings or private donation. Greenways usually connect separate city neighborhoods through a series of pedestrian walkways and trails.
While there is legitimate opposition to some aspects of Greenway expansion, more and more studies conclude that the preserving of this type of park-land area serves to benefit cities and their citizens and is well worth the investment of time and other resources. Three benefits of Greenways that are often cited by their advocates are ecological benefits, economic benefits, and mental and physical health benefits.
The ecological benefits of Greenway conservation stem from the fact that Greenways (commonly adjacent to waterways) create a natural buffer for rivers and streams from the residential and commercial use of surrounding properties. These natural areas serve as a filter for refuse and other run-offs which help protect waterways from some pollution. These park-land areas also serve as wildlife refuges which are otherwise rare in an urban environment. Further, the open space created by Greenways aids in storm water management which, in turn, can prevent larger-scale property damage due to flooding.
The economic benefits of Greenway projects are easily measured in increased tax revenue as well as business and consumer spending. Commercial and residential investors often see Greenway expansion as opportunities to develop undervalued or underutilized land. City blocks which lack the vitality they may have possessed in previous decades can be replaced with the more dynamic utility attributable to Greenways. Properties along Greenways which are purchased by investors are done so to create housing or mixed use developments. These enterprises create jobs and result in improvements which generate higher property tax values and, consequently, higher tax revenues. Businesses located along the well-trafficked Greenways generate consumer spending, widening the beneficial economic footprint of the park-land areas. Additionally, well planned and managed Greenways have been factored into “quality of life” considerations used by some companies when relocating their businesses to a particular community.
Finally, ardent supporters of Greenways regularly cite improved emotional wellbeing and improved physical health as benefits associated with those who partake in activity along Greenway walkways and trails. The Greenways provide inexpensive avenues for the enjoyment of open spaces and regular exercise in urban settings.
Private and public sectors have come to agree that well-maintained Greenway systems serve to benefit their communities in a number of ways. The popularity of Greenways among these sectors is evidenced by the proposition and approval of local bonds and the issuance of federal grant programs. Whether the benefits of Greenway systems are identified by positive environmental impact and economic growth or, more subjectively, by “civic pride” and “quality of life,” it is clear that these park-land areas will continue to be a chief topic on community agendas.
Published by John F. Renger on March 15, 2017