- Greenways and green spaces are significant for at least three
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
- 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