The Landscape Guide

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A 'greenway' is a linear open space which (1) is green in the environmental sense (2) serves as a route.

The best official account of the greenway idea comes from the US President's Commission on Americans Outdoors. It called for:

A Living Network of Greenways... to provide people with access to open spaces close to where they live, and to link together the rural and urban spaces in the American landscape ... threading through cities and countrysides like a great circulating system (President's Commission on Americans Outdoors 1987).

Charles Little's 1990 book Greenways for America gave further impetus to the idea and greenways are now being made in many countries. Little says the five greenway types are:

  1. urban riverside,
  2. recreational,
  3. ecological,
  4. scenic and historic,
  5. comprehensive (Little 1990).

In an introduction to a major review of greenways, in 1995, Fabos sees the greenway movement as being in its infancy and suggests that at some future point greenway systems 'will be as evident on national, state, regional and local maps as our highway or railway networks are today' (Fabos 1995). I look forward to that day. Ahern offers an inclusive definition of greenways:

Greenways are networks of land containing linear elements that are planned, designed and managed for multiple purposes including ecological, recreational, cultural, aesthetic or other purposes compatible with the concept of sustainable land use (Ahern 1995).

I prefer to define a greenway as "a route which is good from an environmental point of view". This definition uses 'green' as an environmental term and 'way' in a broad sense to include circulation routes for people, animals, air, water and plants.

The actual term 'greenway' was formed by joining greenbelt to parkway. It embraces a wide range of concepts drawn from the history of linked open space [Fig 4.20]. The greenway concept may be said to have come of age with the publication of a special issue of Landscape and Urban Planning in 1995 (Ahern & Fabos 1995), reprinted as a special book (Ahern & Fabos 1996). Greenways can be planned to serve distinct functions, which are likely to overlap.

Greenways could become a significant focus for  professional activity. As discussed in the section on definitions, the landscape profession developed as follows:

  • 2000BC to 1850 Gardens
  • 1850-1950 Gardens and Public Parks
  • 1950-2000 Public Parks and Environmental Work

As explained by Norman T Newton in Design on the land, the idea of  'landscape architecture'  marked an important shift from private to public service. But the shift has not been a triumphant success. Peter Walker and Melanie Simo chose Invisible gardens as the title for their history of  twentieth century American landscape architecture. It was a bitter choice for a profession which began the century with great talent, great resources, brilliant leadership and a fabulous natural landscape. Apart from a few almost-invisible 'gardens' the profession made little contribution to the vast urbanisation of  North America. In my view the problem was conceptual and terminological. The profession did not manage to explain what it had to offer. 'Greenways' offer new hope in a professional sense. They are an identifiable 'product' which society wants and the landscape profession can deliver. Marketing folk call it targeting.




Ahern, J. & Fabos, J.Gy. Greenways: the begining of an international movement Amsterdam:Elsevier.

Ahern, J. 1995. Greenways as a planning strategy. Landscape and urban planning Vol 33 Nos. 1-3 October 1995 pp131-155.

Fabos, J, Gy. 1995. Introduction and overview: the greenway movement, uses and potentials of greenways. Landscape and urban planning Vol 33 Nos. 1-3 October 1995 pp 1-13.

Fabos, J. Gy. & Ahern, J. 1995. Special Issue: Greenways. Landscape and urban planning Vol 33 Nos. 1-3 October 1995.

Fink, C.A. & Searns, R.M., 1993 Greenways: a guide to planning, design and development. Washington DC:Island Press, The Conservation Fund.

Little, C. 1990. Greenways for America. Baltimore:John Hopkins University Press.

Noss, R.F 1993. Wildlife corridors. In: D.S. Smith and P. Cawood Hellmund (ed) Ecology of greenways. Mineapolis:University of Minnesota Press pp43-68.

Colour can be used to symbolise the character of
'greenways', with, for example, red meaning busy
and white meaning spiritual.