Greenways: interconnected corridors of land, primarily the riparian areas along both sides of water courses that are conserved as natural open space, and may include compatible public facilities.
Linear Infrastructure. Traditional urban infrastructure systems include roads, sewers, and potable water. All are necessary to support the population and economic activity of urban areas. A modern addition to this list of public infrastructure is greenway systems, because they are also part of the skeletal structure required to support life in urban regions and yield the following attributes.
Development Patterns. By identifying riparian greenway corridor systems for conservation, local governments establish a pattern around which development may occur. The greenway corridors can separate incompatible land uses across their width, and connect compatible land uses along their length. Also, the intersection of greenway corridors, transit, and thoroughfares may be considered for more dense or intense development. Collectively, all of the corridors create a mosaic that distributes its benefits throughout the region.
Flood Hazard Avoidance. Loss of life, structural damage, and economic disruption can be avoided through the conservation of flood prone areas. These riparian corridors will continue to serve as part of the public stormwater discharge system, as well as other purposes and functions including those of greenways.
Water Quality & Quantity. Naturally vegetated riparian corridors buffer streams by entrapping and synthesizing the pollutants in stormwater, thereby protecting stream water quality and downstream drinking water supplies. Likewise, stormwater and floodwater infiltrated and absorbed into the ground will be gradually released to streams, thereby reducing storm surge while maintaining the quantity of flow over time.
Air Quality. Most urban and urbanizing regions are air quality non-attainment areas. Naturally vegetated riparian corridor systems are air quality filters, that also moderate air temperature, and reduce the prospect of federal regulatory sanctions.
Exercise/Relaxation. Natural greenway corridors provide an attractive, close to home location for recreational exercise, weight management, and improved physical health. Likewise, greenway corridors provide diverse habitat types and natural areas that support passive recreational opportunities as a therapeutic counterpoint to urban life.
Greenway Trails. An extensive trail system within greenway corridors support recreational activities, and provide utilitarian connections among neighborhoods, schools, parks, and commercial areas. Likewise, greenway trails provide non-motorized transportation connections to on-street bikeways and transit.
Ecosystem Function. Urbanization disrupts ecosystems and their ability to function. Creation of riparian greenway corridors conserves the interface of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will be healthier and continue to function well in support of native plants, fish, and wildlife.
Environmental Education. The distribution and diversity of habitat types and natural areas protected within greenway corridors provide opportunities for both informal and formal environmental education.
Sewer Rights Of Way. Sewers are required to support dense urban populations, and they are among the multiple public purposes accommodated within riparian corridors. When well designed, both sewers and public trails can share a single right of way, thereby minimizing clearing within the naturally vegetated riparian corridor and reducing disruption of related ecological functions. Further, fulfilling multiple public purposes within the same public lands optimizes public costs.
Greenway Facilities. Public trails are the most frequent and expected facility found within greenway corridors. Parking lots support accessibility and comfort stations meet user needs. Information displays may be located to interpret historic, environmental, or cultural features. Public art may be located to enhance the users experience. Public access facilities for canoe and boating use of larger water courses are typically found within greenway corridors. In selected locations, canoe and kayak slalom courses, or other types of whitewater training facilities may be sited. Other types of facilities are routinely accessible within local, regional, state, and federal conserved lands that may adjoin or be interconnected by greenway corridors.
Economy. Natural public open space increases the value of adjoining land uses. Greenway systems with their included facilities are a stimulus for businesses that sell equipment and other goods used by recreational and utilitarian users. Further, the presence of extensive local greenway systems or regional network is an asset that can facilitate business retention and expansion, as well as decisions to relocate into the region. Such extensive systems and networks also become a feature that can increase tourism and extend visitor stays.
Community/Regional Image. Local greenway systems and regional networks enhance the image of those communities because of the multiple public purposes that result. That image can have a powerful influence on the local and regional population who benefit directly, as well as nationally from the attractive community characteristics that are projected.
Quality Of Life. Many factors determine the quality of life within urban areas and regions. Greenway systems and networks can be a substantial contributor to that quality because of the multiple purposes and functions they can provide. The higher the quality is perceived to be, the greater public satisfaction is likely to be, and the more appealing the area is likely to appear to non-residents. Collectively, the attributes described above will have more positive impact upon the lives of the urban population than almost any other infrastructure expenditure can have.