Five Ways Greenways Impact Communities Beyond Recreation

By Lisa Battles on June 12, 2013 at 7:00 am CDT

Pedestrian bridge crossing the Cumberland River on the Shelby Bottoms Greenway in Nashville, Tenn. Pedestrian bridge crossing the Cumberland River on the Shelby Bottoms Greenway in Nashville, Tenn.


Confession: About 15 years ago, I would not have been able to accurately explain what "greenway" means.  But as it turned out 10 years later, getting closer to a great one eventually drew me to my neighborhood. Most people define a greenway as a corridor of land set aside primarily for recreation, usually offering people trails for walking, hiking, biking and other non-motorized transportation. Almost seven years ago when I moved back to Nashville, I already knew about the fun watering holes and music venues, great restaurants, and other independent businesses slowly growing in East Nashville since the early 2000s. Yet, what cemented my decision to move there was the three to four times a week I found myself driving half an hour to exercise on the Shelby Bottoms Greenway, part of Nashville's 52 miles of multi-use greenways and 200 miles of trails. While recreation and exercise seem to be the most obvious purpose of greenways and trails, a recent update from Fort Worth's Trinity River Vision Authority about the city's Trinity Trails led me to consider the other benefits they can offer communities. Here are five:

  • Raise funds: Fort Worth's  TRVA estimates that the Trinity Trails' use as a venue for community events raised more than $25 million over 10 years for charitable organizations.
  • Connectivity: Greenway trails usually connect homes, schools and retail destinations, giving residents a healthier, more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly transportation alternative to driving cars. In south Minneapolis, Midtown Greenway users often find cross-town trips to be faster than in a car.
  • Preserve habitats: In the unincorporated Hansville community of Kitsap County, Wash., the Hansville Greenway exists mainly to preserve and protect wildlife and natural systems, but the community encourages nature-loving hikers to respectfully explore its trails.
  • Education: The City of Whittier, Calif.'s award-winning $15 million Whittier Greenway Trail incorporates several interesting stations along its 4.5 miles, including public art, displays interpreting local history and exercise equipment.
  • Economic impact: Studies show that greenways and trails draw development interest to adjacent property, especially when it comes to residential real estate. The Carolina Thread Trail group reports several economic impact studies indicate a 4 to 20 percent value increase in homes located near trails, supporting recent National Association of Homebuilders and National Association of Realtors surveys ranking proximity to trails among the top amenities homebuyers seek.



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