Greenways connect our communities in many ways.
KINDER: Connect with Community + Cultural Heritage + Access
Greenways connect people with places via trails and pathways, providing a higher quality of life, healthier environment and more livable communities. Expanding existing and establishing new recreation and transportation greenways connects people to each other and our cultural and natural heritage. Corridors linking areas of farmland and open space help to preserve the rural landscape and way of life. Rails to Trails: Trails and Greenways for Livable Communities
Greenways provide free access for all citizens and visitors to use greenways and trails. A connected greenways and trails system will provide quick and affordable opportunities for recreation, physical activities and connecting to nature and wellbeing. Greenways provide a social justice element that other methods of land preservation do not.
GREENER: Connect with Money through Jobs, Tourism + Economic Development
The economic benefits of greenway development are well-documented by several studies completed along developed systems. A 2002 survey by the National Association of Realtors and National Association of Home Builders rates trails as the second most important community amenity out of a list of 18 choices. In addition, greenway systems attract businesses seeking places with a high quality of life. Greenways spur job growth in construction, maintenance, tourism-related opportunities, and local businesses.
Tourism and recreation-related revenues from trails and greenways include: recreation rentals and sales (bicycles, kayaks, canoes, campsites), recreation services (shuttle buses and tours), tours to places of historic and cultural interest, restaurants, breweries and lodging. Rails to Trails: Economic Benefits of Trails and Greenways
SMARTER: Connect with Transportation Independence + Sustainability
Greenways decrease our fuel costs and use of natural resources by providing non-motorized transportation options, such as walking and biking. Two-thirds of all car trips made in the U.S. are for a distance of five miles or less. Surveys by the Federal Highway Administration show that Americans are willing to walk as far as two miles to a destination and bicycle as far as five miles. A complete trail network, as part of the local transportation system, will enable residents to commute to where they want to go with a more sustainable and affordable manner. Rails to Trails: Trails and Greenways for Livable Communities
SAFER: Connect with Safer Transportation + Improved Traffic
Statistically speaking, the most dangerous thing you can do in Buncombe County is drive a car. Greenways provide improvements to our built environment making biking and walking safer. Creating engineered improvements to our streets as well as off road facilities for walkers and wheelers reduces automobile crashes. Even if you do not want to enjoy travelling in ways other than your car, you will still reap benefits of greenways with less traffic congestion and safer driving environments.
The Asheville/Buncombe area is fortunate to have a growing number of bike safety instructors certified by the League of Certified Instructors. Known as LCI instructors, these instructors assist people to learn how to ride their bikes safely in traffic. This is important component to our greenway master plan. We believe it is as important to provide the opportunity to ride confidently to the greenway as it is to enjoy the greenway experience.
HEALTHIER: Connect with Health + Outdoor Recreation
Americans spend nearly 2 trillion dollars per year on health costs. Nearly 2/3 of Americans suffer from diseases that are preventable with increased physical activity. Providing recreational opportunities in the form of trails lead to better health, fitness and overall wellness. Greenways provide safe, inviting space for physical activity and allow people to turn their daily commutes into daily exercise, building healthy habits by planning healthy communities. Many studies have concluded that there are also economic benefits associated with being physically fit: lower medical costs and fewer insurance claims, increased job productivity, decreased absenteeism, decreased depression, lower levels of job turnover, and prevention of disabilities. Rails to Trails: Health and Wellness Benefits of Trails & Greenways
What other cities have greenway systems and how did they affect their local economies?
Buncombe County has some catching up to do. Hundreds of cities around the world are benefitting from greenway systems and many have been developing their greenways for decades. Perhaps you visited the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, SC, or the Virginia Creeper Trail in Eastern Tennessee and Virginia. You might have visited the Caroline Thread Trail in any of the 14 counties that it weaves through in central NC. You may have heard of the Rails to Trails efforts in Pennsylvania and other states. Greenways and trails are a proven boost to local economies, improved environment and better quality of life. Here are a few examples:
- The Outer Banks, NC: Bicycling is estimated to have an annual economic impact of $60 million and 1,407 jobs supported from the 40,800 visitors for whom bicycling was an important reason for choosing to vacation in the area. The annual return on bicycle facility development in the Outer Banks is approximately nine times higher than the initial investment.
- Damascus, VA: At the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile trail in southwestern Virginia, locals and non-locals spend approximately $2.5 million annually related to their recreation visits. Of this amount, non-local visitors spend about $1.2 million directly in the Washington and Grayson County economies.
- Morgantown, WV: The 45-mile Mon River trail system is credited by the Convention and Visitors Bureau for revitalizing an entire district of the city, with a reported $200 million in private investment as a direct result of the trail.
- Tallahassee, FL: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Office of Greenways & Trails estimate an economic benefit of $2.2 million annually from the 16-mile St. Marks Trail.