Publication Date



A greenway is a linear open space established along either a natural corridor, such as a riverfront, stream valley, or ridgeline, or overland along a railroad right-of-way converted to recreational use, a canal, scenic rood, or other route. It is any natural or landscaped course for pedestrian or bicycle passage. An open-space connector linking parks, nature reserves, cultural features, or historic sites with each other and with populated areas (Little, 1995; Miller et al., 1998; Viles and Rosier, 2001).

A greenway is a connector; a pattern of protected lands linking other protected lands such as natural features or historic sites into a greater whole. According to Fabos and Ahern (1996), greenways are urban riversides, recreational paths and trails, ecologically significant natural corridors, scenic and historic roads and comprehensive regional green infrastructures incorporating elements from all the previous four. The system can be defined as a connected and integrated system of mostly linear, rear-natural and cultural areas which remained as almost undeveloped corridors passing through the human-altered landscape.

In the 1980’s, increased interest in open-space conservation converged with the growing popularity of outdoor recreation, resulting in many new greenway projects along with vigorous support across the country (Little, 1995). As the loss of open space has become increasingly apparent on the national level and particularly striking in many urban areas, interest in all types of land conservation has risen to an unprecedented level. At the same time, the cost of land in many places especially in metropolitan areas has continued to rise while federal funding for land conservation has plummeted. Land protection has thus become increasingly difficult in many parts of country.

Greenways are a partial solution to this problem because they often require less than traditional, non linear parks, especially when recreation is the primary focus. One estimate put the number of greenways existing in the United States at 1989 at over 250. The actual number of greenways may be much higher, since many protected linear open spaces that lack organized management, administration, or publicity often go unrecognized. The term greenway can usually be applied to many linear open spaces that have, not traditionally been so named.

Dozens of greenway projects are now under way across the country in urban, suburban and rural settings. Notable efforts with a strong recreational focus, but which also involve land protection, are taking place in San Francisco, where the Bay Trail and The Bay Area Ridge Trail trace concentric rings around San Francisco Bay; along the Chattanooga River in Chattanooga, Tennessee; from New York City to Albany and beyond along the Hudson River, and in Boston, where the Bay Circuit Trail encircles the metropolitan area much as Frederic Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace encircled the inner city over a century ago. Several coordinated urban greenway networks are now under way that stresses both recreation and conservation in cities like Boulder, Colorado; Davis, California; and North Carolina. The state of Maryland has launched a statewide greenways program that seeks to combine water resource and habitat protection. In Texas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to secure a major wildlife corridor along 250 miles of the lower Rio Grande (Smith and Helmund, 1993).



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.