Greenways have been implemented by communities throughout the United States to provide recreation and alternative transportation, to control flooding, improve water quality, protect wetlands, conserve habitat for wildlife and buffer adjacent land uses. Greenways typically incorporate a range of community services such as trails for recreation and travel, passive and active park facilities and open playing fields. Greenways increase the value of adjacent private properties as an amenity to residential and commercial developments.
In order to relieve automobile congestion on the streets and highways in the Kansas City metro area, future transportation planning and development will be concentrated on providing residents with choices in modes of travel. These choices should be appealing and should offer the same benefits currently provided by the automobile: efficiency, safety, comfort, reliability and flexibility.
MetroGreen corridors are designed to serve as extensions for road networks, offering realistic and viable connections between origins and destinations such as work, schools, libraries, parks, shopping areas, historical and cultural sites and tourist attractions.
Greenway-based bikeways and walkways are most effective for certain travel distances. National surveys by the Federal Highway Administration have shown that Americans are willing to walk as far as two miles to a destination and bike as far as five miles. Destinations can be linked to multiple origins throughout the Kansas City area with a combination of off-road trails and on-road bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
MetroGreen offers numerous economic benefits, including higher real estate property values, increased tourism and recreation-related revenues, and cost savings for the public services.
Greenways have been shown to raise the value of adjacent properties by as much as five to twenty percent. Many home buyers and corporations are looking for real estate that provides direct access to public and private greenway systems. Greenways are viewed as amenities by residential, commercial and office park developers who realize higher rental values and profits when they locate next to greenways. Additionally, greenways can save local tax dollars by using resource-based strategies for hazard mitigation and managing community stormwater by productively using land that would not normally be considered for conventional development.
Greenways enhance the role tourism plays in the economy. In several states, regional areas and localities throughout the nation, greenways have been specifically created to capture the tourism potential of a regional landscape or cultural destination. The state of Missouri, for example, spent $6 million to create the 200-mile KATY Trail, which in its first full-year of operation generated travel and tourism expenditures of more than $6 million.
Health and recreation benefits
Studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise (such as bicycling, walking or roller blading) can significantly improve mental and physical health and prevent certain diseases. Greenways contribute to public health by encouraging more people to walk or bike to short-distance destinations. Providing opportunities for these outdoor activities close to where people live and work is an important component of promoting healthy lifestyles.
In 1987, the President's Commission on American Outdoors released a report that profiled the modern pursuit of leisure and defined the quality of life for many Americans. Limited access to outdoor resources was citied as a growing problem throughout the nation. The commission recommended that a national system of greenways could provide all Americans with access to linear open space resources.
The MetroGreen system will complement existing parks and open space throughout the region. MetroGreen will serve as a primary recreation and fitness resource and help meet the passive recreation needs for a growing population of older residents.
Greenway systems like MetroGreen enhance a region's culture and protect historic resources in metropolitan areas. Successful greenway projects across the United States have served as new "main streets" where neighbors meet, children play and community groups gather to celebrate. For cities and towns both large and small, greenways have become cultural assets and focal points for community activities. Various walking and running events are held on greenways to support charity events or extend traditional sporting events. Many civic groups adopt segments of greenways for cleanup, litter removal, and environmental awareness programs.
The richness and diversity of an area's historic and cultural resources are represented by local and national significant historic sites and districts. Highlighting historic and archaeological sites along greenways can increase the awareness and appreciation of the area's rich history. Greenways can also serve as vehicles to provide controlled public access to important cultural sites in a manner that promotes preservation and enhances public outreach opportunities.
Security and safety benefits
Safe neighborhoods are of great concern and priority to metro area residents. Some of the most successful deterrents to criminal activity involve increasing citizen awareness in neighborhoods and participation in community watch programs. Greenways have proven to be an effective tool to encourage local residents to participate in neighborhood programs. Some greenways have been developed as a part of efforts to deter criminal activity in a neighborhood. Crime statistics and reports from law enforcement officials have shown that parks and greenways are typically areas with the lowest incidences of reported criminal activity.
As recreation resources, alternative transportation corridors or areas where fitness activities take place, most greenways provide safer and more user-friendly resources than other linear corridors, such as local roads. Greenways typically attract local residents who use the facilities frequently, creating an environment that is virtually self-policing. Additionally, greenways — whether publicly or privately owned — are dedicated for multiple uses and are normally designed to meet federal, state and local standards for public safety and use.
Water quality and quantity benefits
Greenways preserve wooded open spaces along creeks and streams which absorb flood waters and filter pollutants from stormwater. Flooding has historically, been a significant problem in the Kansas City area. In some cases, buildings and other land uses have encroached into flood-prone areas. By designating floodplains as greenways, encroachments can be managed, and sometimes replaced with linear open space, an amenity to residents and businesses occupying adjacent property.
As a flood-control measure, MetroGreen corridors serve as primary storage zones during periods of heavy rainfall. The protected floodplain can also be used during non-flood periods for recreation and alternative transportation. In conjunction with existing stormwater management policies and programs in the region, greenway lands can be set aside as development occurs.
Greenway corridors also improve the surface water quality of local rivers and creeks. The floodplain forests and wetlands contained within greenway corridors filter pollutants from stormwater. These pollutants are not removed if stormwater is collected in pipes and discharged directly into local streams and rivers. Improving surface water quality in streams benefits both local residents and numerous forms of wildlife that depend on streams for their habitat.
Air quality benefits
Greenways serve as alternative transportation corridors that reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. Since the majority of automobile trips are less than two miles in length, offering alternative transportation choices through greenways would encourage people to bicycle or walk these short distances more often, thereby reducing traffic congestion and automobile emissions.
Plant and animal habitat benefits
MetroGreen corridors can serve as viable habitat for many species of plants and wildlife. Greenway corridors provide essential food sources and, most importantly, access to water that is required by all wildlife. Greenways in the Kansas City area could become primary migratory routes for terrestrial wildlife, serving to help maintain the integrity of many plant and animal gene pools. Some wildlife biologists have extolled greenways as future "gene-ways," because these migration routes are essential to maintaining healthy wildlife populations.
Greenways can also serve as "gene-ways" for plant species that migrate with changes in climate and habitat. These "gene-ways" often follow river and stream corridors that have long served as transportation routes for animals and humans.
MetroGreen promotes local programs to protect valuable existing forested and wetland areas and to reclaim and restore streams to support higher-quality habitat.