“Greenways are routes, trails or natural corridors used in harmony with their ecological function.
They foster the preservation of natural and cultural heritage, provide options for safe transportation, recreation and tourism, and encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Greenways bring local people and businesses together with governments to work towards improvement of their communities.” – definition from Friends of Czech Greenways.
Inspiration for the Toronto to Algonquin Greenway (TAG) comes from the International Greenway Movement which began in Europe and the US around 1991.
Friends of Czech Greenways was established in New York, to support the Prague to Vienna Greenway – a cultural heritage trail to revitalize towns in the Czech countryside after the fall of communism. Lu and Tiree Chmelar were at the heart of this cross-Atlantic partnership as they divided their time between homes in Europe and New York. For Lu, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail served as inspiration for the first of a series of greenways in his homeland. Another model, the Hudson River Valley Greenway united the environmental movement with cultural activities up and down the river between upstate New York and Manhattan. It was established in 1991 to create voluntary regional cooperation among 264 communities within 13 counties bordering the Hudson River. Today, the Hudson River Ramble attracts the participation of tens of thousands every September. The East Coast Greenway – a 3000 mile traffic-free bike route from Florida to the Canadian border – was a bold concept that was first imagined in 1991. Ideas flowed back and forth across the ocean, flourishing on each continent as the International Greenway Movement grew.
Today – European countries continue to expand and connect nationally supported networks of bike or walking paths along canals, rivers and heritage roads. Vias Verdes in Spain is a leader in creating economic revitalization while preserving heritage through a systematic conversion of disused rail lines for ecotourism. The Economic Commission of the European Union (EU) is leveraging the extensive greenway network to create a recognizable EU ‘tourism product’. Wales recently completed a Coast Path all the way around its shoreline, which attracts 2 million visitors a year.
In Canada, Quebec began developing La Route Verte in 1995. They now celebrate, and profit from, a 5000 km network of bike paths, with loops in each tourism region. Ontario is just beginning to think about the economic potential of cycling tourism. Toronto to Algonquin Greenway will model greenway concepts throughout its region to create a new international destination.