Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

A Tale of Two Greenways: A Comparative Study of Greenway Projects

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

A Tale of Two Greenways: A Comparative Study of Greenway Projects

Article excerpt


In a recently developed smart growth (1) community located outside Portland, Oregon, the residents live in tall, narrow sculptured glass buildings, will travel via tram and the light rail system currently under construction, and socialize at restaurants and shops lining the waterfront. (2) Despite the modern impression, the community remains green by preserving open space and creating visual access to the natural surroundings. In addition, the community maintains a 1.2 mile river walk with different habitat regions to support wildlife and utilizes ecoroofs, which filter rain water before returning it to the ground. (3) This high-density community interspersed with green space reflects a recent trend in urban planning and is currently in high demand. (4) Smart growth communities provide a middle ground between the suburbs and a "gritty downtown." (5)

This smart growth community offers a number of highly desirable amenities including a greenway. The term "greenway" encompasses a broad range of green space including:

1. A linear open space established along either a natural corridor, such as a riverfront, stream valley, or ridgeline, or overland along a railroad right-of-way converted to recreational use, a canal, a scenic road, or other route. 2. Any natural or landscaped course for pedestrian or bicycle passage. 3. An open-space connector linking parks, nature reserves, cultural features, or historic sites with each other and with populated areas. 4. Locally, certain strip or linear parks designated as a parkway or greenbelt. (6)

The desire for greenways, however, is not limited to smart growth communities. (7) Despite this increasing interest, many communities have not been successful in building greenways. (8) This Comment identifies aspects of greenway projects that are keys to their success based on a comparative study of two greenway projects, one flourishing and one struggling.

Part One discusses the environmental, economic, and health benefits of greenways. Part Two discusses common challenges when building a greenway, mainly community support and land acquisition. Parts Three and Four respectively outline the processes Chattanooga, Tennessee and Rockford, Illinois used in their greenway projects. Part Five compares the Chattanooga greenway project with the Rockford greenway project to ascertain important differences in Chattanooga's process that generated a thriving greenway.


Greenways provide environmental, economic, and health benefits to individuals and the community as a whole.

A. Environmental Benefits of Greenways

There is currently a global trend towards urbanization: the population density at the core of cities is increasing, and at the same time, metropolitan areas expand through outward migration to suburbs. (9) Expanding cities and development cause open space to disappear, (10) but greenways mitigate or prevent environmental harm caused by development. (11)

As development expands, open space is replaced with impervious surfaces, including streets, parking lots, and sidewalks. (12) Impervious surfaces negatively impact the environment because they contaminate source water. (13) Pollutants, such as motor oil, engine coolant, pesticides, and fertilizers, collect on impervious surfaces. (14) Storm water washes these pollutants off roads and into nearby natural water sources. (15) Normally, vegetation and soil filter out pollutants from storm water before it reaches natural water sources. (16) Impervious surfaces, however, prevent this natural filtration; (17) therefore, greenways located between impervious surfaces and source water improve water quality. (18)

Greenways also protect biodiversity by preserving naturally linear habitats, such as riparian habitats. (19) They even preserve habitats for wildlife species that require more space than the greenway itself provides by connecting smaller, fragmented habitat areas. …

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