Honor Award -- Research
Greenways as Strategic Landscape Planning: Theory and Application
Jack Ahern, FASLA, Professor University of Massachusetts; Professor Klaas
Kerkstra, Dissertation Committee Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture,
Wageningen University, The Netherlands
Professor, University of Massachusetts
Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning
Amherst, MA 01003
Greenways are defined in this research as systems and/or networks of protected lands that are managed for multiple uses including: nature protection, biodiversity management, water resources, recreation, and cultural/historic resource protection. Greenways are a significant area of current and future professional work for landscape architects, but currently lacks a substantive and procedural theoretical base, and defensible research on greenway benefits. This research makes important original contributions to both of these needs.
This research argues that greenways originated in the United States of America but are spreading internationally because the greenway concept is: based in part on scientific knowledge; understandable and image-able to the public; and strategic in realizing multiple goals. Greenways are supported by theories from landscape ecology, particularly those concerning spatial configuration and connectivity. This thesis includes reviews of international greenway literature, and makes original contributions to greenway theory, planning strategies, and planning methods. Case studies and case applications in the U.S. and The Netherlands are used to explain and test the theory, strategies, and methods.
Three fundamental principles are posed in support of greenways: the hypothesis of co-occurrence of resources in greenways; the inherent benefits of landscape connectivity; and the concept of compatible, or synergistic multiple use in greenways. The thesis identifies contemporary greenways trends based on an original survey which found that greenways are increasingly integrated with comprehensive landscape planning at the state level in the U.S., and greenways are often initiated to provide trail and recreational use, but evolve to support multipurpose/multi-functional planning goals and objectives. A future prognosis for U.S. greenways is offered including an expected shift from locally initiated to regional and interstate greenway planning and implementation, and more explicit integration of multiple uses in greenways.
This research raises a larger set of questions that transcend and cut across many of the issues, theories, and strategies identified. If the world is engaged in a quest for sustainability, what is the role of ecology, and how does ecology relate with design? What do ecologists need to know about planning and design? What do designers and planners need to know about ecology? Landscape ecologists might reply: Spatial and temporal pattern and scale, dynamics of process, and disturbance processes. A better understanding of the role of humans in creating, transforming and restoring landscapes, the value and place of aesthetics including historical precedent, and perhaps the ultimate cultural construct, economics.