What is a Greenway?

In Tennessee, there are 749+ greenways and trails that can be found next to rivers, as in the Chattanooga Riverpark and the Nashville Shelby Bottoms greenway; on old abandoned railroad corridors as in the Bicentennial Greenway trail in Ashland City and the Town of Erin or along ridgelines like the Ridge Trail in Beaman Park, Nashville, TN. Greenways can be used to connect historical features together like the Civil War sites along the Stones River in Murfreesboro, TN. You will find many greenway trails on the edge of the many lakes in Tennessee such as the Volunteer Trail in Long Hunter State Park which runs for 6 miles along the shoreline of the J. Percy Priest Reservior.

A greenway is 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, scenic road or other route. It is a natural or landscaped course for pedestrian or bicycle passage; an open-space connector linking parks, nature reserves, cultural features, or historic sites with each other and with populated areas; locally certain strip or linear parks designated as parkway or greenbelt. This is the definition created by Charles Little in his 1990 book, Greenways for America.

Charles Little, describes five general types of greenways:

  1. Urban riverside (or other water body) greenways, usually created as part of (or instead of) a redevelopment program along neglected, often run-down, city waterfronts.
  2. Recreational greenways, featuring paths and trails of various kinds, often relatively long distance, based on natural corridors as well as canals, abandoned rail beds, and public rights-of-way.
  3. Ecologically significant natural corridors, usually along rivers and streams and less often ridgelines, to provide for wildlife migration and species interchange, nature study and hiking.
  4. Scenic and Historic routes, usually along a road, highway or waterway, the most representative of them making an effort to provide pedestrian access along the route or at least places to alight from the car.
  5. Comprehensive greenway systems or networks, usually based on natural landforms such as valleys or ridges but sometimes simply an opportunistic assemblage of greenways and open spaces of various kinds to create an alternative municipal or regional green infrastructure.

Greenway trails require a variety of design considerations depending on their type and the natural features that they include. In general, there are three specific features that define a greenway and influence its design:

  1. Linearity
  2. Connectivity
  3. Resource Protection