History of Greenways

Greenways in the USA

The greenways movement began in the USA. It was here that the term 'greenways' first appeared in the early 1950s to describe recreational trails (for walkers and cyclists) designed to promote healthy life-styles and non-motorized transport, mostly in urban areas. In 1987, an initiative to 'create a greenways network across America' was launched as a joint effort of the President's Commission on American Outdoors (chaired by Alexander Lamar, the governor of Tennessee) and the National Geographic Society (with the personal commitment of Gilbert Grosvenor, the Society's President).

Today, there are over 18,000 km of greenways in the USA. Hundreds of civic groups are involved in promoting the greenways concept at the national, state and local levels. Greenways are supported by public agencies responsible for national parks and protected areas and many local governments include greenways specialists on staff. Greenways initiatives are implemented typically through cross-sector partnerships involving public agencies, business and non-governmental organizations.

Greenways in Western Europe

In Western Europe, the greenways concept became popular in the late 1980s and 1990s. In the countries of the European Union, greenways came to refer to green corridors dedicated to tourism, recreation and non-motorized transport. Trails were designed to be independent of motorized traffic routes, leading along historical trails, natural corridors or disused roads and tracks (including rail corridors). The motivation for greenways is linked to promoting active life-styles, health, nature conservation, reducing pollution related to motorized transport and creating safe access for travel to work and school.

The European Greenways Association (EGWA) was established in 1997 in Namur, Belgium. The Association today brings together 35 national level organizations committed to creating and promoting greenways. The most active greenways organizations operate in Belgium, Spain, UK, France, Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic. Many greenways in Western Europe were established on disused rail corridors (rails-to-trails).

The European Greenways Association works with European institutions do develop and contribute to EU policies related to sustainable development, nature conservation, regional development and employment promotion. EGWA is involved in organizing and promoting European Mobility Week, which takes place 16-22 September each year in over 1300 cities and towns across Europe (see: www.mobilityweek-europe.org).

Greenways in Central and Eastern Europe

The greenways concept was introduced to Central and Eastern Europe through the Czech Republic. The first greenway initiative dates back to 1990, when a group of Czech-Americans led by Lu Chmielarz began to promote the idea of a Vienna-Prague Greenway. In 1998, the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation (Nadace Partnerstvi) based in Brno took on the task of developing a countrywide greenways program, focused also on environmental and social improvement.

The Central and Eastern European Greenways (CEG) program has been promoted as a civic initiative across the region since 2000. The program is now coordinated by the Environmental Partnership for Sustainable Development Association, which includes national Environmental Partnership Foundations operating in Poland (Fundacja Partnerstwo dla Środowiska), Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria. The CEG network currently includes 8 long-distance greenways and a dozen or more local urban trails. All CEG greenways are implemented in line with a shared set of criteria. From 2005, the CEG program awards each year the Laurance S. Rockefeller Greenways Award to celebrate the best greenways in Central and East Europe.

The CEG program is being expanded to include new greenway initiatives and partner organizations from other countries in the region, especially in Austria, Germany, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia.

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Greenways organizatons and initiatives worldwide: