Planning and Building for Conservation

We approach conservation with great sensitivity, as our goal is to balance protecting and enhancing the environment with creating access for people.

Putting the Green in Greenway

Long-term sustainability of the greenway system is established through a design process that incorporates forward thinking. We view the greenway design process through the lens of environmental stewardship and seek out options that protect and restore native habitats and watersheds. Simple decisions like replacing turf with a native meadow can have huge impacts when applied throughout the network. To help guide work in this area, Environmental Design Guidelines have been incorporated into our overall Greenway Design Guidelines. These guidelines are utilized by design professionals in the development and layout of greenway trails and amenities and outline critical areas such as:

Stormwater Management

Heavy rains can have a detrimental impact on our region’s watersheds. The quantity of rain, and high speed runoff can result in increase erosion. This water can also pick up pollutants from nearby roads and parking lots, sweeping toxins and harmful chemicals into waterways. To address both the velocity and cleanliness of the water entering our rivers, creeks and streams, Great Rivers Greenway incorporates a variety of “Best Management Practices” into all of its construction projects. Some of these methods include:

  • Amended Soils: a specialized mix of soils  along the greenways that works like a sponge to absorb water that is then infiltrated, evaporated, and transpirated in turf areas
  • Bio Retention Cells or Raingardens: a depressed area along a greenway that holds water, and then releases it slowly. Native plants absorb and clean water within the basins, and a mix or organic soils, sand and gravel filters water as it passes through.
  • Permeable Pavement: often used in trailhead parking lots, this method uses porous asphalt, pervious concrete or permeable interlocking concrete pavement to allow stormwater to filter through the pavement instead of cascading off and creating additional runoff.
  • Streambank Stabilization: depending on the situation, techniques can include the use of native plants, erosion control matting, geogrid fabrics and large rocks.

Planning Habitats

Whenever possible, we incorporate habitat restoration into our greenway projects. This work can take different forms depending upon the location and the project. In some instances, it is the removal of invasive plants – such as Bush Honeysuckle – from the area surrounding the planned greenway corridor. Other restoration projects include the installation of new prairies using native plants, the restoration of wetland areas, or the stabilization of stream banks. By restoring these habitats, native plants, insects and wildlife are provided the opportunity to thrive.

Smartest and Best Use of Land

Floods happen, and when they do, that water has to go somewhere. To reduce the environmental impacts of this flooding, we believe that it just makes sense to leave the land along our region’s waterways open and free of development. With that in mind, Great Rivers Greenway has acquired about 900 acres – around 250 parcels along the region’s rivers, creeks and streams for flood plain preservation. As part of our management of this land, Natural Resource Assessments have been performed on all Great Rivers Greenway managed property to assess habitat. This information is being used to aid in the planning of future conservation and stewardship projects.

In addition to the environmental benefits of this land management, a study completed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration points to economic benefits for the region. According to this study, in a 100 year flood occurrence:

  • Flood damage with out the greenway was $264 million or 60% of property value
  • Flood damage cost with a greenway was  only $165 million or 30% of property value