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Oct 2001 / from the source :: email this story to a friend

Greenways, Here We Come
By Ted Curtis

Ted Curtis Trailnet is perceived as a trails and bicycling organization, but in reality that is only part of what we do. With income now over $2,000,000 per year and a staff of 14, we are probably the largest and most successful regional developers of public open space and greenways in the country. Public open space — that's "parks" to most of us. But what are greenways?

Greenways are linear parks or open space along corridors such as rivers and stream valleys, ridge lines, abandoned railroads, canals, or even scenic roads. They include bike trails, streams flanked by forest preserves, and parks along lakefronts. These linear corridors often link parks, nature reserves, cultural features, or historic sites with population centers so more people can enjoy them. They are great places for active and passive recreation, birding, hiking, biking, canoeing or fishing along streams and rivers, but they provide other benefits and characteristics:

  • Economic: Greenways enhance property values and community image, increase spending on recreation, support commercial uses, attract visitors, and create tourist destinations. Because of their narrow linear structure they service more population with fewer acres to be maintained.

  • Increased Educational Resources: They provide adults and children limitless opportunities for observing and exploring a region's natural environment.

  • Center for Events: Greenways are a perfect setting for walks, runs, and bicycle rides. Bridges can be closed to traffic for events such as walks, festivals or simply viewing fireworks on holidays such as the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.

  • bikers on the Riverfront Trail Accessible and Diverse Recreation Opportunities: Walking, running, in-line skating, bicycling, fishing, wildlife/bird watching, and even cross county skiing on greenways are convenient, inexpensive and often accessible by public transportation. Most modern urban trails are handicapped-accessible, paved and wide, encouraging heavy use.

  • Environmental Improvement: Greenways keep natural systems connected, providing plants and animals the space they need to move between larger tracts of land. Greenways along waterways trap sediment and pollutants that can damage water quality. The vegetation in greenways also helps remove pollutants from the air, reduces noise and moderates summer heat and winds. Greenways provide space for streams and wetlands to function naturally to accommodate stormwater run-off. By protecting floodplains from development, greenways provide natural flood reservoirs that protect people and property from flood damage.

  • sunflowers and industry Brownfield Reclamation: Some abandoned industrial areas are incorporated into greenway plans. Recycling these areas of urban decay aids in stemming urban sprawl and improves the overall quality of life for those who live in downtown areas.

  • Transportation Options: Not only do greenways invite bicycle and pedestrian transportation, in some cases water ferries offer options for sightseeing as well as commuting between homes, schools, parks, offices, and other community facilities.

  • Public Art: Greenways are a great place for locating public art. Large pieces, sometimes called "follies" in Europe, can provide the surprise of discovery to those exploring new territory. Interactive art, like that found in the City Museum, provides the "WOW" factor that can be unique to St. Louis.

Greenways do a lot and because of their linear design provide benefits to a large number of people for a reasonable cost. They are fun and a bargain in the process.

Ted Curtis is Executive Director of Trailnet.

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