The mention of a greenway evokes images of special places,
tree-lined rivers, tranquil open spaces, and winding pathways. For urban
dwellers, greenways are oases, helping to moderate the rush and noise of
cars and people. In suburbs, greenways promise undisturbed pathways for hiking,
bicycling, and canoeing. Rural greenways conserve local ecosystems, offer
migration routes for wildlife, protect archaeological sites, and maintain
places where people can experience the beauty and complexity of nature. Greenways
give communities a way to define and preserve some of their most precious
natural, cultural, and historic resources.
The benefits of greenways range from ecological to economic
and social. By helping conserve native ecosystems and landscape, greenways
can be an important component of a statewide, regional, or local conservation
strategy. Water and land pathways along greenways can expand tourism and
associated businesses, provide recreational opportunities for residents and
visitors, and offer the opportunity to enjoy Iowas natural environment.
Conservation of Native Ecosystems
Greenways help conserve native ecosystems and landscape
by maintaining space that sustains the biodiversity of native plant and animal
communities; maintaining connections that allow interchange between native
plant and animal communities; and maintaining the health of native ecosystems
and landscapes by sustaining their physical, chemical, and biological processes.
Interconnected native ecosystems provide a number of other
important services. They filter pollutants from the air, water, and soil;
aid in cooling streams and soils through shading; protect and enhance the
water quality of streams and lakes; recharge groundwater aquifers; and buffer
development areas from floodwaters, saving lives and property.
Many communities have found that greenways offer opportunities
to support economic growth without sacrificing environmental assets. Positive
economic effects of greenways accrue in several ways. First, taxable properties
that are adjacent to greenways often increase in value and generate greater
overall revenue for the community. Homes located near greenways and trails
commonly sell for more than similar homes in other areas. Recent trends also
show that businesses tend to locate where quality of life indicators are
Conservation of Historical and Cultural Resources
Archaeological and historical sites can be protected, preserved,
interpreted, and connected by greenways. Archaeological and historical sites
provide yet another dimension to link people to landscape. They can provide
a sense of place as well as a sense of origin.
Public Recreation Close to Home
A system of greenways provides many opportunities for public
outdoor recreation and wellness activities. Trails can provide places for
visitor and resident bicyclists, hikers, walkers, joggers, in-line skaters,
and physically challenged people to exercise and experience the many natural
and cultural wonders of Iowa. Greenways along rivers and lakes can also provide
access for canoeists, kayakers, and other boaters.
A system of greenways can provide excellent outdoor classrooms
where students can learn about native plant and animal species, ecosystems,
and ecological processes. Greenways offer important opportunities for students
to get involved in conserving natural and cultural resources. They can also
serve as living laboratories for students, and as sites for studying historic,
archaeological, and cultural resources.
Protection for Working Landscapes
Greenways can be used to protect working landscapes such
as farms, pastures and prairies. Greenways along scenic byways can provide
the traveling public with an aesthetic and interesting experience. Greenways
using conservation easements can allow traditional land uses to continue,
while providing corridors for the movement of wildlife and, where appropriate,
Influencing Urban Form
Greenways can provide important growth management benefits.
Protected lands around and within towns and cities can help shape urban form
and mitigate urban sprawl. Greenways can help maintain the delineation between
urban and rural land uses. Also known as greenbelts, agricultural reserves,
or buffer lands, privately and publicly owned greenways are valuable growth
Providing Alternative Transportation
Greenways and trails can serve as alternative transportation
routes for commuting to work or school, bicycling or walking to local businesses
or restaurants, or sightseeing. These alternative forms of transportation,
if made convenient by greenways, can help reduce air pollution and congestion.