Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) is facilitating coordination and collaboration among the greenway groups and other partners for the purpose of developing an interconnected greenway system within the city of Detroit.
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We’ve created a Detroit Trails and Greenways group on Facebook. It’s an easy way to stay on top of trail events and news within the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. Come “like” us!
There is also a Complete Streets in Detroit page on Facebook.
What are greenways?
Greenways are typically long parks or natural areas that usually include a trail. Many times greenways will follow a river or are built on abandoned railroad property.
Local examples include the Detroit RiverWalk, Dequindre Cut, and Conner Creek Greenway. Sometimes streets are improved for biking and walking and these too can be called greenways.
And the “green” in greenways has two meanings. Greenways have many trees and plants along the trail which are the color green. Greenways are also “green” because they are good for the environment.
Greenways are important to for many different reasons. For some, they are a nice, clean, and safe place to play, ride a bike, walk, or run. They are places where one can have a serious workout or just a romantic stroll after dinner.
Although we are the Motor City, many Detroiters walk or bike instead of drive. It can be a healthy, fun, and green alternative for getting to work, to school, or to a local park. Greenways can make it easier and safer for those choosing to walk or bike.
And using greenways are one easy way to improve the health of both adults and children. Did you know that the typical adult cyclist has a level of fitness equivalent to someone 10 years younger and a life expectancy two years above the average? Did you know that children who begin biking or walking to school at an early age are more likely to stay at a healthy weight during their school years?
Greenways promote economic development and create jobs. For example, the opening of the RiverWalk has led to a new bicycle shop, cafes, as well as more major festivals. And just think how the RiverWalk’s transformation of the Detroit River has helped Detroit’s image. Having beautiful and accessible greenways helps attract convention business and increase tourism.;
But just as important, more and more new businesses are looking to locate in cities where their employees can bike and walk. Companies such as Google strongly encourage their employees to bike or walk to work, so they locate their offices in cities with greenways. It’s a growing trend among employers.
Like employers, people want to live near greenways. That’s why studies show housing values increase the closer one gets to a greenway.
Greenways can be just as important to wildlife and they are to people. They often have plentiful trees, plants, flowers, and many other natural features such as rivers. These attract and encourage wildlife even in major urban centers. And similarly, greenways can be designed to improve water quality and fish habitat.
So as you can see, there are many reasons why greenways are important, not only to the people and wildlife, but to the cities that have invested in them.
MTGA’s mission is to help build greenways that connect all of Michigan. For the past few years, we’ve had a major focus on building greenways in Detroit — and for good reason.
The greenways that already exist in Detroit have been very well received by the community. In just a few years, the Detroit RiverWalk has become the most visited greenway in Michigan and one of the most visited in the United States.
And Detroiters want more.
There is tremendous opportunity for more greenways in Detroit. There are a few abandoned railroad corridors that are currently being evaluated. In some areas, vacant properties could be stitched together to form a greenway.
Detroit’s streets are also overbuilt for the traffic they carry. It does not take much of an investment to add bike lanes to them. In fact when MDOT was resurfacing Michigan Avenue, they were able to add bike lanes for a “negligible cost.”
But if we build more greenways, can we afford it? The city can’t maintain all of its existing parks.
We believe we can. We are looking at greenway maintenance and funding strategies that are sustainable. One model is the Detroit RiverWalk and Dequindre Cut. These greenways have large endowments. The interest earned on those endowments helps maintain those facilities without taxpayer support.
Greenways will continue to be a key component of a new Detroit — a healthier, greener, and more active city.