Statewide Greenway Trails Plan
New York State is a national leader in trail initiatives. A well-connected network of greenways linking smaller communities to popular destinations enhances outdoor recreation, community vitality, and tourism development. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, New Yorkers are more motivated than ever to spend time outdoors, helping to improve their their physical and mental well-being. The state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, in partnership with PTNY, recently released a draft Statewide Greenway Trails Plan that provides a framework to expand and enhance New York’s network of greenway trails by identifying and prioritizing new connections while providing information and resources for effective future development.
Statewide Greenway Trails Plan
The Statewide Greenways Plan represents a culmination of a year-long effort to develop a comprehensive document addressing New York's statewide system of non-motorized multi-use trails (Greenway Trails). The plan also includes a GIS inventory of existing, planned, and proposed greenway trails across the state.
The Statewide Greenway Trails Plan identifies seven key goals:
- Prioritize the development and expansion of greenway trails in underserved communities.
- Collect and publish information to aid in the planning, development, and management of greenway trails.
- Expand the Greenway Trails System to reach more New Yorkers in more areas.
- Provide funding opportunities for the acquisition, planning, development, and maintenance of greenway trails.
- Foster greater collaboration between agency & stakeholder partners to advance greenway trails in New York.
- Promote the Greenway Trails System as a destination for tourism, healthy recreation, and active lifestyles.
- Enhance bicycle and pedestrian transportation options by connecting greenway trails and communities.
User Survey Results and Analysis
In Spring 2020, Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) partnered to create a survey for the general public about current use of and preferences for greenway trails, as part of the 2021 Statewide Greenway Trails Plan. The survey included 15 questions about general greenway trail activities and five demographic questions.
The more than 2,400 survey responses make it evident that greenway trails are a highly valued and well-used resource for residents in all parts of the state.
More than 85% of survey respondents reported using a greenway trail on at least a monthly basis. Walking and bicycling were reported as the most common activities, with more than half of respondents reporting participation in each activity on greenway trails at least a few times a month. Greenway trails are primarily used for exercise, health and wellness, being in nature, and simply having fun. More than 70% of respondents reported having taken a day trip with the primary purpose of visiting a greenway trail, and 43% have taken out-of-state visitors to explore one of New York’s greenway trails.
The survey results indicate that New Yorkers want more greenway trails, both through the extension of existing greenway trails and by the construction of new greenway trails. The survey found that the number one factor that would increase use of greenway trails was more trails in a respondent’s area. Across the state, the length of the greenway trail and the proximity of the trail were the two strongest factors respondents considered when planning a trip to a greenway, cited by 80% and 78% of respondents respectively as important considerations. Respondents believe that trail managers should be investing in greenway trail creation and expansion, with the majority of respondents indicating that it was important or very important to create new or expand existing greenway trails (88%), close gaps and create a greenway trail system that is more interconnected (87%), and increase funding opportunities for greenway trails (86%). Together, all of these findings suggest that expanding or creating more greenways that reach more people should be the number one priority, giving more New Yorkers opportunities for outdoor exercise and recreation.
PTNY's Role in the Statewide Greenway Trails Plan
PTNY was instrumental in leading the charge to pass the legislation that required the state to complete the plan. Read more about PTNY's advocacy efforts here.
On April 23, May 12, and June 4, PTNY hosted three webinars with statewide stakeholders, including county-level planning staff, MPO staff, and trail managers, to introduce the plan, request information to inform plan components, provide the opportunity for feedback and recommendations, and to solicit the sharing of GIS data for inclusion in the plan. From this webinar series, PTNY drafted a summary document to help inform the goals, vision, and recommendations within the plan, which can be found in chapter four of the Draft Plan.
In addition to the webinars, PTNY solicited participation in an online survey from April 30 to July 2, 2020 intended to form a cohesive narrative about what kind of activities greenway trail users engage in, why, how often, and what aspect of trail development and maintenance they would like to see prioritized in the future.
Click here to read PTNY's comments on the Draft Statewide Greenway Trails Plan.