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Environmental Benefits

Habitat Protection

Trails protect important habitats for wildlife and native plants. They provide safe and accessible corridors for wildlife to travel and to live. Many biologists consider habitat fragmentation to be the largest threat to biological diversity, but where there is a trail there is often a preserved natural area. 

Water Quality Improvement

Greenways and the open spaces they protect often follow along natural floodplains and protect these areas from development, mitigating risks of flooding and flood damage. 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)

Reducing Pollution

Many developments in our region have limited walkability and leave people with no choice but to drive, even for short distances. Americans are willing to walk up to 2 miles and bike up to 5 according to surveys by the Federal Highway Administration. A network of greenways provides alternative transportation for people to travel in an efficient, safer, and healthier way. By reducing vehicle trips pollution is greatly reduced. Additionally, trails help to promote the growth of trees in an area, providing cleaner air for residents.

Environmental Education

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.