Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Greenway systems-What can ‘Government Do for You?’

A Greenway, for this discussion, is a 12’ wide minimum pathway utilized for passive recreation (no motorized vehicles) and is typically adjacent to a water body, vegetated/preserved area, and/or urban feature.  By the way I was stunned to find so many different variants on the term…Recently, I did some research and found data inferences from two sources: http://www.americantrails.org/resources/adjacent/sumadjacent.html and http://www.greenway.org/benefits.php that speak to a positive, in some cases astounding, positive impact on surrounding Property Values and the Overall Economy.  The first link deals with refuting the popular Public perception that Crime will infest the area if a new Trail system is constructed (thus the reason for the Study); however, the authors found no increase in ‘THE crime,’ meaning muggings, break-ins, and serious offenses that certainly make most people want to attain a firearm or slap iron bars on every window – scary stuff.  Most of the crimes that occurred were minor in nature, either someone trying to avoid the road with their scooter (perhaps too many cars were in the way!?) or kids were being, well, kids…This whole point is counterintuitive – if more people have the ability to enjoy morning or evening walks, aren’t more ‘eyes’ on the Trail in the first place?  Certainly a thief would enjoy a dark, desolate spot, in which to have time, make noise, and otherwise, remain unseen while committing a crime.  Lighting is certainly an option, with minimums established in height, volume, and evenness, enough to facilitate a Police Officer or Resident to see some shenanigans occurring.  Light trespass can be an enormous bone of contention, with visions being painted of shut-tight blinds and intense light piercing the room (similar to the scene in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”).  However, if light is directed downward and is designed with a full cut-off, this should not present a problem – the lighting designer then figures out the maximum height and spacing to establish a coverage – and ‘ambiance lighting’ could be the result.  Efficient Lighting, even though it does consume energy, can facilitate ‘extended hours’ to a Greenway – offering even more of a ‘bank’ in traffic counts…in my mind, this is a valid offset.
The Economy.  The second link points out investment vs. return in the case of North Carolina, which documented a nine-fold dollar benefit to the local economy – bikers came to use the Greenway path, stayed in adjacent hotels, and may have even considered the Area as a future place to live.  The direct and indirect effects of such a Greenway feature may be endless to consider, but the fact remains that the Local Residents, who live there, and potentially ‘fronted’ the tax money, now benefit from an ‘Amenity.’  Ask any Realtor what an amenity is – rest assured, it facilitates a higher asking price for a home, defusing another potential ‘NIMBY’ comment:  “my home values will go down.”
You can decide if you like the ideas of banking Carbon Emissions (by ‘removing’ cars from the road), taking a stroll near your home, or, you are so ‘pinched’ that taking a bike to work sounds pretty darn good – all speak to the real value of Greenway investment.  Thinking more ‘outside’ the box – couldn’t a courier service or local florist utilize such well-placed infrastructure?  The Interstate initiative reinvented…Government (Local, State, and/or Federal) typically fund Grants, matching or non-matching, that are the genesis for a Greenway’s construction.  The data suggests a positive benefit (make that a grossly-positive benefit) of tax dollars spent to future taxes collected…That’s just fiscal – but isn’t this also a type of ‘feel good’ Project?  And with amenities added to the Greenway, Children could bike to school and park for science experiments (bike racks), People could have immediate access to a “Heart Path” (exercise stations), local Artists could have a venue (pedestals or mounts)…
How would a Greenway affect your quality of life?  Transit.
Leisure Activity.
Other?
How would you answer if they proposed it in your backyard?

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