The Vision Plan:
Introduction

 

This New England wide vision plan for a network of greenways and green spaces is built on the continuation of a great tradition of planning in New England (see above, History of Greenways and Green Spaces). This report will show the impressive results of New England's existing green spaces and greenways and the current great planning efforts in each of the six New England states.

Prior to presenting these results, however this chapter will give the readers an overview of New England. First, the chapter will highlight the natural and cultural landscapes of New England and show how the superimposition of the two - the natural and cultural landscapes, has created a single magnificent landscape to live in and to visit as a tourist. Then this chapter will present the reasons why a New England wide greenway vision plan is both logical and useful for this region, at this time.

 

The Landscapes of New England

As the eighteenth and nineteenth century communities, farms and early industries settled onto New England's rolling hills, lake country and river valleys, a most unique and beautiful landscape resulted. Tourists have long since discovered these natural and cultural resources. As a result, the tourist industry has become the second most important industry after the health industry. Throughout New England, tourism comprises approximately twelve percent of the domestic product of New England.

The great majority of the combined natural and cultural resources of New England have not been fully used. However, good planning combined with the protection of environmentally sensitive areas can provide safe use of these great New England resources.

 

The Natural Landscape

The New England landscape has a beautiful and varied topography and a spectacular coastline especially the coast of Maine. More than a third of the landscape is covered with mountains and steep hills, the rest of the landscape is dominated by rolling hills. Flat landscapes are found only as a narrow strip along the coast, in southeast Massachusetts, and Cape Cod.

New England hydrology is typical coastal hydrology, consisting of smaller watersheds ranging from three to six million acres in size. Among the ten major drainage basins, the largest and longest is the Connecticut River Watershed, which is approximately six million acres and over 400 miles long. The entire New England landscape evolved during the glacial period, creating an extensive landscape dominated by glacial lakes and wetlands. This lake country covers more than half of Maine and the southern third of New Hampshire. Glacial Lakes are also common throughout the other New England states. In conclusion, the natural factors alone make New England one of the most significant recreational landscapes of the United States. Its temperate climate provides an additional variety of recreational opportunities and great diversity throughout its four seasons.

 

The Cultural Landscape

Native American settlements are numerous throughout New England. Unfortunately those settlements have been either destroyed or abandoned. As archeological studies increase, the story of the Native Americans is emerging. The remains of the European settlers, however, are common, especially along the river networks. Since 1867, mill sites, covered bridges and thousands of village centers have been found throughout the coastal landscapes and most river corridors (Reps, 1965, p. 115).

Colonial New England settlements were dominated by town centers organized around the commons (Reps, 1965, pp. 115-146). These New England townscapes are one of the most valuable assets for the rapidly growing tourist industry. Another significant cultural resource of New England is the remains of the industrial revolution of the 19th century. Hundreds of industries were built to harvest hydropower in Rhode Island and Massachusetts along the Blackstone River Corridor, Connecticut and New Hampshire. The Blackstone River Valley was identified recently as the first industrial region in the United States (Fabos, Ahern & Lindhult, 1993, pp. 1-9). The Connecticut and the Nassau Rivers were also significant for industrial development. Now, each of these rivers is part of nationally or regionally significant heritage river corridors. These recent designations will aid the preservation and appropriate use of these significant cultural resources.

A third dominant cultural resource from 18th and 19th century New England is the remains of agriculture. Efforts are being made now to protect farms as unique agricultural landscapes. The 19th and 20th century migration of farmers to the rich agricultural acres of the Midwest demonstrated that the majority of agriculture in New England was subsistence level farming. These farmed areas however, contribute significantly to the visual, aesthetic values of New England (Fabos and Caswell, 1977, p. 124).

 

Reasons for a New England Greenway Vision Plan at This Time

There are at least three major reasons for creating this greenway vision plan at this time: to make connections among resources; to create a logical and mappable region; and because a greenway network has New England wide significance.

1.) Make Connections among Resources. The planning of greenways and green spaces evolved from the protection of recreation areas and trail segments to create larger networks. These networks make connections among the many green spaces, creating opportunities for additional recreation, nature protection, and cultural exploration. The first two international trails and greenways conferences organized by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the first in 1998 in San Diego, California and the second in 1999 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania both had the theme "Making the Connections". This is the most appropriate thing to do in New England because it has been a leading region in greenway planning.

2.) Create a Logical & Mapable Region. New England is a unique region. It's landscape, people, traditions and resources make it a logical and mapable planning unit. The six states range in size from tiny Rhode Island (less than 700,000 acres) to Maine, which is just a bit over 21 million acres. The other four states are five to six million acres in size. Together, five of the six states (CT, MA, NH, RI, and VT) are equal in size to the one state, Maine.

The total size of New England is the same as the size of an average state in the America, both are around 42 million acres. New England's population is approximately 13 million, which is about twice as dense as the American average state. Close to half of New England's population live in Massachusetts. The population of the largest state, (Maine) and the smallest, (Rhode Island) is approximately the same, each around or a bit over one million.

3.) A Greenway Network has New England Wide Significance. The governors of New England meet regularly to deal with issues of mutual concern. Aspects of greenways have been already dealt with at multi-state levels. For example, the Connecticut River was selected as one of fourteen American Heritage Rivers. This designation effects four of the six New England states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The New England Council of Governors has also discussed regional trails in recent years. It is hoped that this project will expand the Governors Council's discussion on how the Governors Council could: (a) make greenways and green spaces as accessible to everyone as our roads are today; (b) double the tourist industry without harm to the environment and to the public; and (c) use some of the tourist income to maintain and improve environmental quality. In short, this project proposes to turn the discussion of these three issues into goals for New England:

1.) Make greenways as accessible as our roads;
2.) Double the tourist industry without harm to the environment; and
3.) Maintain and even improve the environmental quality of New England.

Landscape architects and planners have all the necessary resources and the planning know-how to accomplish these three goals if the government and public also embrace these goals.