Supplement Feature - April 2014
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Get Connected

Create Greenway Trails to Get Your Community On the Move

By Jessica Royer Ocken

3. Find funding

As consensus builds and the project catches momentum, survey your funding options. In most cases, constructing a trail is less expensive (and requires less staff and maintenance to operate) than a traditional park. And, because of the varied benefits greenway trails offer, you may find you have lots of opportunities to secure the money you need. But where your funds come from can have an impact on your final product.

  • Because they can provide transportation opportunities, many greenway trail projects are eligible for state and federal transportation improvement funds, Howard noted.
  • Many cities have dedicated sales tax-based initiatives for funding trail development, reported OTC's Woodson.
  • Lots of grants are available for projects with environmental benefits, such as improving water quality, enhancing wildlife habitats or regenerating an ecosystem, reported Crawford. Money may be allocated for purchasing land, creating a permanent easement or building the trail.

However, if you decide to take state or federal money, or if you're awarded a grant from a particular foundation, the funds will likely come with specific requirements for how the project is completed. "We have a client that doesn't take federal funding because of the regulation that comes with it," Storck said. "Some communities want more freedom and more amenities. Federal funding and designs are very practical and transportation-oriented. You can tell who funded a project based on the finished product sometimes." Public/private partnerships between multiple governments, corporations and grassroots organizations often are a great way to piece together everything a project may need, these experts report.

4. Get professional help.

Once you begin moving toward the design and build portions of the project, be sure you consult with professionals (if you haven't already). "An outside firm can assist with the community input process and prepare a master plan with attainable goals, objectives, budget and timeline," Howard said. Landscape architects can also help identify grants and other funding options.

But even if you've managed those tasks on your own, designing a trail can be rather technical, especially if you need to meet specific guidelines, such as the ADA's accessibility guidelines or your state highway and transportation department's regulations about surfaces and turning radii. Professional designers can help you determine the best surface and grading for your trail based on its intended users, be they horses, bicycles or babies in strollers, as well as ensuring adequate drainage throughout and a smooth, pleasing means of navigating the obstacles your trail will inevitably encounter. "Working within design parameters is a major challenge in metropolitan greenways, making it even more important to have a good trail design with a flowing and dynamic alignment," Woodson noted.

Of course, these professionals will be invaluable as the project is under construction, but they can also help you plan for your trail's future success. After so many public and private entities have collaborated on the project and given money for its various aspects, the budget may be a bit of a tangle. Be sure it's clear who will be overseeing the trail once it's open to the public, suggested Cowan, and leave some money in the coffers for maintenance. Whether that's removing silt after a summer storm floods part of the trail or repaving/laying new asphalt in a worn area, these costs can add up, Crawford noted.

From beginning to end, a successful greenway trail requires lots of planning and coordination, but the reward for your efforts will be extensive. You'll not only enrich your community, but potentially the region and even state beyond. "The more that we provide quality pedestrian connectors [such as greenway trails], the more people seem to be using them," said OTC's Woodson. "I sense an eagerness for this kind of experience and access."