Greenways: Linking it All Together
by Jeffrey Wagner
Many of us have heard of greenways, many may have
hiked or biked through one or more,
but for most of us, the concept remains broad and fuzzy. Part of the
confusion lies in the
multiple functions that greenways can serve. Another part of that
confusion rests with the
number of uses that greenways can accommodate and the many groups that
they may attract.
To begin, let’s define
“greenway”. There are numerous definitions but
one provided by the Pennsylvania Greenways Partnership combines many of
the essentials in
describing a greenway:
“A greenway is a corridor of open
space. Greenways vary greatly in scale, from narrow ribbons of green
that run through urban, suburban, and rural areas to wide corridors
that incorporate diverse natural, cultural, and scenic features.
Greenways can be land or water based, running along stream corridors,
shorelines or wetlands. Some follow old railways, canals, ridge tops,
or other features. They can incorporate both public and private
property. Some greenways are primarily recreational corridors, while
others function almost exclusively for environmental protection and are
not designed for human passage. Greenways differ in their location and
function, but overall, a greenway network will protect natural,
cultural, and scenic resources, provide recreational benefits, enhance
the natural beauty and the quality of life in neighborhoods and
communities, and stimulate economic development
The natural landscape, development patterns, and
available opportunities go a long way
in determining how a greenway will function and who will use it.
Forested corridors along
rivers and streams are obvious cores for greenways; development is
cover exists, and the corridor is well defined. Greenways associated
with rivers serve to
reduce sediment, control erosion, and provide wildlife habitat and
opportunity for animal
and plant migration and movement. If a railbed, old road or other
these areas can also serve as premier recreational corridors. River
greenways may extend
beyond the riparian zone and the steeper slopes along the river to
upland fields and
forest. The upland areas within these corridors serve some of the same
functions and by
providing buffer and additional habitat, greatly expand the ability of
the greenways to
serve as important conservation areas.
A local example of a river greenway that
incorporates both strong recreational and
conservation functions is the Montour Greenway. This corridor follows
Montour Run from the
Ohio River at Coraopolis to the Allegheny-Washington County border near
follows the abandoned rail line through to Clairton on the Monogahela
River. The Montour
Trail Alliance has led the effort in establishing the trail running on
the abandoned rail
line. The Hollow Oak Land Trust (HOLT) has led the effort to protect
the corridor along
the stream and trail. Another group – the Montour Watershed
Alliance – works on
watershed-wide issues for Montour Run. Together, these groups are
coordinating efforts to
provide regional recreational opportunities as well as to protect the
natural values and
functions of the stream and watershed.
In other locations, greenways may be pieced
together from patches of woodland, utility
right-of-ways, school grounds, industrial sites and a miscellaneous
other grounds. Put
together these individual “greenspaces” can become
a greenway. The concept is
still the same although the emphasis may be different. Terrain may
allow only a simple
walking trail and the corridor may not provide direct protection to a
management of the corridor can provide functional value for wildlife,
birds, and native
plants. The Seldom Seen Greenway in Beechview and Mt. Washington is an
example of an urban
greenway that takes advantage of difficult terrain and undeveloped
patches to build a
ribbon of open space.
The larger and more continuous the greenway, the
more functions and uses it may
provide. By linking together natural areas, parks, and other public
conservation value of the greenway corridor can be many times
linking together destinations – towns, parks, boating
accesses, regional trails
– enhances the aesthetic and functional value for those who
use the corridors.
In Upper St. Clair, we have opportunities to
establish a number of greenways. The
Chartiers Creek corridor, the Mayview Spur of the Montour line from
Ravine Park corridor, and the McLaughlin Run corridor are some of the
large greenways that could combine numerous uses with high conservation
values. Also, all
these potential greenways would extend outside of the township, several
Allegheny County, and create regional linkages.
CLS sees the tremendous opportunity for Upper St.
Clair residents and people throughout
our region. We will promote greenways, natural areas, and open space as
for conservation of our living natural heritage as well as for building
a sense of
community in our township and region. We will encourage the township to
greenways. We encourage all of our members to seek out more information
on greenways and
their conservation value. Please speak with your neighbors and ask the
township to begin
planning for greenways.
Additional information source: Creating
Connections, The Pennsylvania Greenways and
Trails How-To Manual, The Pennsylvania Greenways Partnership,
Economic Benefits of Greenways
Real Property Values
Many studies demonstrate that parks,
greenways and trails increase nearby property values. In turn,
increased property values can increase local tax revenues and help
offset greenway acquisition costs.
Expenditures by Residents
Spending by local residents on greenway
related activities helps support recreation oriented businesses and
employment, as well as other businesses which are patronized by
greenway and trail users.
Greenways are often major tourist
attractions which generate expenditures on lodging, food, and
recreation oriented services. Greenways also help improve the overall
appeal of a community to perspective tourists and new residents.
Evidence shows that the quality of life or a
community is an increasingly important factor in corporate relocation
decisions. Greenways are often cited as important contributors to
quality of life.
Public Cost Reduction
The conservation of rivers, trails, and
greenways can help local governments and other public agencies reduce
costs resulting from flooding and other hazards.
While greenways have many economic benefits
it is important to remember the intrinsic environmental and recreation
value of preserving rivers, trails and other open space corridors.
Adapted from: Economic Impacts on
Protecting Rivers, Trails, and Greenway Corridors, National
Park Service, 1990.