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Publication Date

2010

Abstract

Greenway planning has a short tradition in Sweden compared with other European countries (Von Haaren & Reich 2006) or the United States (Walmsley 2006). In Sweden, there are still relatively large natural areas, the population density is low and public access to the countryside is comprehensively provided in legislation. These factors have contributed to the fact that greenway planning with few exceptions has been very little developed until recently. However, the need for greenway planning in Sweden has been recognised in the last decade (e.g. Sandström et al. 2006), especially in areas with accelerating urban sprawl into intensively used agricultural land, for example in the most southern part of Sweden, Scania. The rapidly increasing population, in particular in the greater area of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, has led to a large expansion of residential and commercial areas as well as new transport infrastructure. The surrounding agricultural land is intensively used, since the soils there are the most fertile in Sweden and Scania is one of the most important areas for cereal production in Sweden.

The intensification of agriculture has led to decreased access to the countryside. Over a long period, most pastures and meadows have been converted to arable land, which is inaccessible for most of the year. In addition, land units have been enlarged, the number of farm tracks has been reduced to a minimum and other linear landscape elements have been removed (Ihse 1995). This means that the increasing population has very limited access to the surrounding countryside, particularly in terms of everyday recreational possibilities, despite the importance of green infrastructure in urban areas for health and recreation being widely acknowledged (e.g. Tzoulas et al. 2007, Matsuoka & Kaplan 2008). Another important aspect to mention is that Scania is one of the areas in Europe with the greatest density of horses per capita and horse riding therefore comprises a significant proportion of outdoor recreation in the area. The situation of increasing population, ongoing intensification of agriculture and decreasing access to the countryside has led to growing awareness among municipal planners of the lack of access to outdoor recreation in peri-urban areas.

The way in which greenways are designed in Sweden at present originates from a prototype created by an estate owner on his own initiative at the end of the 1980s (Regnéll 1994). At that time, farmers were required to have a certain amount of land set aside as fallow to receive agricultural subsidies. Instead of having these set-aside areas as large blocks, this particular estate owner suggested forming them into strips around fields for walking and horse riding. He created a network of 14-km long greenways by sowing 4-m wide strips on arable land along the margins using a grass seed mixture. He named these ‘beträda’, a term which combines the Swedish words beträda, meaning to walk on/enter, and träda, meaning fallow. The Swedish Board of Agriculture refused to pay subsidies for this type of set-aside, but the municipal authority liked the idea of providing access for walking and horse riding and paid the farmer compensation – actually up to the present time. Thus when using the term greenway in this paper, we refer to a linear feature with a width of at least 2 metres, sown with a seed mixture including grasses and usually established on agricultural land. As discussed later in this paper, such greenways can be varied in terms of seed mixture and planting depending on their intended function/s. Paved paths, gravel paths or simple walking paths are not included in the definition.

The objective of this study was to explore challenges and possibilities in implementing multifunctional greenways that improve access, recreational possibilities and biodiversity in intensively managed agricultural areas (e.g. Von Haaren & Reich 2006). The study was carried out within the project ‘Multifunctional greenways as a tool for strategic landscape planning - proposals for design and implementation in peri-urban landscapes’ and was conducted in Scania, southern Sweden.

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