Who loves multi-use trails besides bikers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts? Home town businesses, chamber of commerce members, and just about anyone else who appreciates economic development in their community. A recent study by Connecticut's Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments and the University of Connecticut's Department of Agriculture estimates that a proposed local trail may have a return on investment of over 4.2 to 1. Like any other amenity, however, trails must be well designed from their inception to achieve maximum community benefits. That is why MillionMile Greenway not only offers funding to help establish trails, but advice and technical expertise to ensure projects will be successful from the start.
Who is MillionMile Greenway?
MillionMile Greenway is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that provides micro-grants and mentoring to help communities lay the foundation for greenways and trails. One important resource they have access to is geospatial technology (high tech equipment that maps a region's features such as a GPS system). Serendipity occurred when their president Jim Langford realized that the same software their sponsors used to find out where to avoid installing power lines (schools, parks, wetlands...) was perfect to identify the best places to put trails. Since optimal trail and power line locations can be mirror opposites of each other, a new application for these tools was born!
3 Components for Success
MillionMile Greenway believes projects should have the following three components:
- Conservation - preserving cultural resources such as archaeological and historical sites;
- Recreation - providing opportunities for community members to play, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors;
- Connectivity - connecting neighbors to public assets within their own communities and beyond.
Selected Past Recipients
- Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy, Ann Arbor, MI, will build walking and biking paths through the downtown area and connect them with 13 miles of already established nature trails;
- Northend Greenway, Harrisonburg, VA, will connect generations together by providing a link between a farmers market, a retirement community, and Eastern Mennonite University Arboretum;
- Trails for Recreation and Economic Development (TRED), Rome, GA, will bring trails to the city for outdoor recreation and an ecofriendly alternative to automobiles.
- The Gold Belt Trail, Cartersville, GA is paving the way to become "Georgia's "Next Big Thing" by linking to the highly popular Silver Comet Trail to connect former gold mining heritages communities together via bike and walking paths.
Applying to the Program
Eligible applicants are local governments, nonprofits, and community groups. Applicants must be affiliated with a formally organized effort to create and connect trails and greenways. Award recipients receive cash awards and marketing and geospatial consulting (50 hours for each) by professional volunteers. Matching funds are required. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
"Pathway to Revitalization - Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments" - The final draft of the above mentioned study.
"Economic Benefits of Trails" - A summary of the variety of economic benefits of trails and greenways from American Trails.
"Multi-use Trails - Ensuring Successful Regional Planning" - Concise article from California State Parks on prerequisite planning, including the top ten tips for success.