Greenways are protected areas of linear open space offering a variety of benefits to the local community. They were first established to control flooding along waterways, but are best known for providing recreational opportunities as well as an alternate way of getting from one place to another. Typically, these multi-use trails are developed along streams and rivers, railroad corridors, utility easements and / or along existing roads. Greenways have well-documented environmental and economic benefits and they can help promote a community’s identity, history and character. Because of their value, communities across North Carolina and the US are investing in developing greenway systems.
Greenways provide opportunities for safe walking, jogging, and biking as well as a way for residents to access natural areas for bird watching, photography and educational activities. Providing these recreational opportunities to the community can have a significant positive impact on the overall health of residents.
Trails within greenway systems provide an alternate means of getting from one place to another within a community, such as neighborhoods, parks, libraries, retail centers and schools.
Greenways protect water quality, fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitat. By providing a natural buffer between development and waterways, greenways help filter pollutants and reduce sedimentation that affect water quality.
In addition to protecting properties from flooding, greenways make a community more appealing and improve property values. Trails and open space consistently are cited as critical amenities that attract home builders and home buyers.
Greenways contribute to preserving and providing access to a community’s important cultural and historic resources in addition to preserving a community’s overall aesthetic character.