Greenways provide many community benefits including recreation, alternative transportation, improved water quality, habitat conservation, and flood control. Greenways have been shown to increase adjacent property values by providing an important amenity to residential and commercial developments. These and other benefits of a greenway network are described below in greater detail.
In order to provide relief from congested streets and highways, future transportation planning and development should be concentrated on providing a choice in mode of travel to local residents. Greenway corridors can serve as extensions of the road network, offering realistic and viable connections between origins and destinations such as work, schools, libraries, parks, shopping areas, restaurants, and tourist attractions. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) two thirds of all vehicle trips are 5 miles or less in distance. FHWA surveys have also shown that Americans are willing to walk as far as two miles to a destination, and bike as far as five miles.
Greenways offer numerous economic benefits to the country, including higher real property values, increased tourism and recreation related revenues, and cost savings for public services. Greenways have been shown to raise the value of immediately adjacent properties by as much as 5 to 20 percent. For example, in a new development in Raleigh, North Carolina, new lots situated on greenways were priced $5,000 higher than comparable lots off the greenway.
Many homebuyers and corporations are looking for real estate that provides direct access to public and private greenway systems. Greenways are viewed as amenities by residential, commercial, and office park developers who, in turn, are realizing higher rental values and profits. Tourism can also play an important role for the county…and the development of greenways can work to enhance this industry.
Health and Recreation Benefits
Greenways encourage more people to walk or bike to short distance destinations, which improves the health of residents. Studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise (such as bicycling, walking, in-line skating or cross-country skiing) can significantly improve a person’s mental and physical health and prevent certain diseases.
Providing opportunities for participation in these outdoor activities, close to where people live and work is an important component of promoting healthy lifestyles for residents. Trail systems could be developed not only for alternative transportation, but also to serve as primary recreation and fitness resources. Additionally, greenways can help meet the passive recreation needs of a growing population of older residents.
Greenways can be a valuable outdoor classroom. Students in various classes can use greenways to study nature and plant and animal life. Greenways also offer opportunities to interpret natural, historic, and cultural resources along the pathways.
Greenways often preserve wooded open space along creeks and streams, which absorb floodwaters and filter pollutants from storm-water. As a flood control measure, greenway corridors serve as a primary storage zone during periods of heavy rainfall. The protected floodplain can also be used during non-flood periods for other activities.
Greenway corridors also serve to improve the surface water quality of local rivers and creeks. Greenways as alternative transportation corridors could serve to reduce traffic congestion, helping to improve local air quality.
Greenways can be targeted as a primary habitat for many species of plants and animals. Programs can be established to not only protect the valuable existing forested and wetland areas, but also to reclaim and restore streams to support higher quality habitat.