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Publication Date

2016

Abstract

Greenways historically have been highly valued for their benefit to human health and wellness as linear recreational corridors and as a product of interconnected walking and bicycling trail networks. With the threat of accelerating global climate change, greenways offer a more important and strategic landscape for the protection of coastal and shoreline communities, mitigating the impacts associated with urban flooding, and providing landscapes that protect the health, safety and welfare for millions of coastal and shoreline residents around the world.

Each day millions of residents worldwide are exposed to the impacts resulting from global climate change, primarily from urban flooding. In 2003, 3 billion people lived within 200 km of a coastline or shoreline. (Figure 1) By 2025 that number will double.9 In the United States, 39% of the population, an estimated 123 million people live in counties directly on a coastline or shoreline. This population is expected to increase by 8% from 2010 to 2020.10 These shoreline residents are being impacted more frequently by flood events.

The full impact of river flooding on urban areas has also been realized in Western and Central European cities during 2002, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Historically significant rain events have swamped cities along the Elbe and Danube rivers with excessive rainwater, specifically in Austria, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, and Switzerland.11 The 2013 floods coincided with one of the wettest weather patterns of the past 156 years. Additionally, the frequency of the rain events, with significant floods occurring in three consecutive years, makes it imperative to consider broad regional and systemic solutions to the problem of “main stem” river flooding. How can the implementation of watershed oriented greenway systems lessen the impact of urban flooding, resulting in more sustainable and resilient communities?

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