Why are Greenways Important?

By Todd Scott, Executive Director of Detroit Greenways Coalition

detroit-greenways-mapGreenways 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. And the “green” in greenways has two meanings. Greenways have many trees and plants along the trail which are the color green, but greenways are also “green” because they are good for the environment.

Greenways are important 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.

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 also promote economic development and create jobs.  For example, the opening of the Detroit 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.  And 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 as 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.

Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance’s mission is to help build greenways that connect all of Michigan.  The following projects advance this mission:

  • Detroit Greenways Coalition
  • Great Lake-to-Lake Trail Network
  • I-275 Metro Trail
  • Ingham County Regional Trails Network
  • Iron Belle Trail
  • Trail projects to enhance and connect communities across Michigan

About Todd Scott
Todd Scott is the executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition and former Detroit Greenways Coordinator for Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (2008-2014). Since 2007, the Detroit Greenways Coalition and its member organizations have led the effort to make Detroit a more bike friendly and more walkable community. For more information, click here.