Trails protect important habitats for wildlife. They protect clean freshwater as well, which is beneficial to not only animals but humans also. They provide safe and accessible corridors for people and wildlife to get from point A to point B. By reducing vehicle trips pollution is greatly reduced. Trails help to promote the growth of trees in an area, providing cleaner air for residents. Greenways serve as natural floodplains. They can act as “buffer zones” by reducing the amount of pollution (i.e. excess nutrients, chemicals, and sediment) from entering local streams and rivers. When used as a buffer, a greenway has the potential to “remove up to 50% more nutrients and pesticides, and 75% or more of sediment.” This is extremely critical since sediment is the top pollutant in the waters of North Carolina. (Source: Rails to Trails)
Having trails in an area provides the opportunity for a multitude of educational experiences for both young and old. Trails and greenways are viewed as hands-on outdoor classrooms and are often used as tools to promote environmental education. Getting people outside to experience nature can create a society that is more likely to take the steps needed to protect our environment.