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Michelle Ellison

Greenbelts and greenways are a means by which communities can control the quality of life within their area. “Greenbelts,” a chain of park or natural areas usually determined by topography and natural conditions, are boundaries that halt the progression of urban sprawl. Sprawl leads to a decentralization of communities -- instead of centering around a downtown commercial and cultural center, communities spread out along, say, a highway, and become decentralized. The identity of the area is lost. Some communities have opted to bound their communities, using nature as the guide. Portland, Boulder and numerous California towns can be looked to as models.

Greenways – pedestrian pathway systems – provide numerous advantages for a community. First and foremost, they provide an area for recreation and transit where a pedestrian does not compete with the automobile for space. Greenways provide a ribbon of trees and green plants in an area that might otherwise be developed. This ribbon provides an area for wildlife and vegetation where people can come into contact with nature. Numerous studies have shown that the productivity of workers improves, the healing rate of patients increase, and the stress level of, well, everyone decreases when they have access to natural areas. From an environmental standpoint, the vegetation in these greenways can help reduce the airborne dust and pollution particles we release into the air. Increases in vegetation masses within a city can also help cool the city, and the unpaved areas within the pedestrian areas allow for water infiltration and subsequent recharging of groundwater.

One of the major objections to greenway projects, one that has been voiced in every community in which greenways have been proposed, is the question of safety and security. People are concerned about public areas running adjacent to their property. I can only say that in communities where the planning was good, there was not a problem with security. If the pathways are planned correctly, then people use them and are proud of them. If they use them, then there is a constant stream of surveillance on the site. It works.