New England Greenway:
Greenway Significance


Greenways and green spaces are significant for at least three reasons:
1) They maintain environmental quality, 2) they can provide us with great economic benefits and 3) they can increase aesthetic values, livability and quality of life.
  1. Environmental quality derived from greenways and green spaces. Greenways and green spaces that are properly planned include from one third to two thirds of most landscapes of the United States and the entire globe. This is the magnitude of landscapes that planners need to identify or target for inclusion in greenway and green space networks. The greater the environmental sensitivity of a landscape (e.g. mountainous, like Vermont or one dominated with lakes and wetlands like Maine), the greater the percent of the landscape that needs to become part of greenway and green space networks. For example, the northern portion of New England is mountainous, defined by severe glaciation. This results in steep and fragile wetland networks that need the highest level of protection to ensure the maintenance of acceptable environmental quality.

    Scientists, planners and even legislators have recognized these needs. For example, legislators enacted legislation to fully protect all landscapes higher than 2,500 feet in Vermont. Legislation also protects 200 feet of land on both sides of rivers and streams in Massachusetts from development. This means that approximately 20% of the Massachusetts landscape falls within this zone of protection. However, this protection may be insufficient in places, for example, where floodplains or wetland systems are wider than the 200 foot-wide corridors. Such protected corridors along rivers and streams provide a natural greenway network, where water and land meet. These protected land corridors provide the most significant protection of water quality, hence environmental quality, while also providing logical linkages for wildlife and recreational trails within these corridors. Interestingly, some 90% of the historical and cultural resources are also located along these rivers and streams as demonstrated by Lewis (1964) and Dawson, (1996, pp. 27-43). In summary, properly planned and maintained greenways and green spaces are essential to maintain environmental quality.

  2. Economic Benefits of greenways and green spaces. A recent study by the United States Department of Interior National Park Service lists three sets of significant economic benefits (1995, 150 pp.).
    • Economic benefits of tourism, e.g. "in 1992 travel generated visitor expenditure in California (alone) reached approximately $52.8 billion (p.5-3)";
    • Residents' expenditures on outdoor recreation, In Pennsylvania (alone) residents spent approximately $11.8 billion, or 12.6% of their total personal consumption dollars in leisure pursuit, in 1981, (p. 2-3); and
    • Increased property values, e.g. the selling price of residential housing in Amherst, Massachusetts was $17,000 higher along public green spaces or around 10% higher than in conventional subdivisions in 1989, (p. 1-4).
    • In addition, another study concluded that the average house value increased from 10% to 20% of the selling price when view/setting potential was maximized (see Fabos et al, Research Bulletin 653, UMass Experiment Station, 1978, pp. 61-68).


  3. Increased aesthetic values, livability and quality of life. As it is shown above, economists have attempted to place economic values on the visual or aesthetic quality of the landscape. In addition, planners and designers have recognized the intangible aesthetic, livability and quality of life values provided by greenways and green spaces. Italian villas were located on hilltops around cities providing their residents with great views and ideal topoclimatic benefits. Hill tops and proper orientations have been the places for the best urban neighborhoods around the world.
Similarly greenways and green spaces have enhanced livability and quality of life. The livability of parks has been recognized since the beginning of the park movement of the early 19th Century. Today, many people seek out developments around golf courses. The majority of these people are non-golfers, who settle there primarily for the open space aesthetic. Many of these intrinsic values, such as aesthetics, livability or quality of life issues are recognized by planners, but not yet proven like many economic values are proven through studies of market forces. In summary, greenways and green spaces do significantly increase aesthetic values and contribute greatly to livability and the quality of life.