Sunday, June 29, 2008

Conclusion: Nature still constrains us

On Saturday I went for a walk at Peeler Park in northeast Nashville. But this entry isn't about the hike itself; it's about getting there. Nashville is a city with a river running through it. (I have linked to an old map because it does the clearest job of showing the Cumberland River.) Most of the time you'd never notice the impact of the river - oh sure, you see it when driving over, but it doesn't affect navigation. I cross it every time I leave east Nashville and really only notice when a bridge is closed.

But the majority of bridges connect east Nashville with downtown or are part of the interstates. Other parts have town have few or no bridges. Occasionally it becomes obvious, like when I want to go to Opry Mills and go shopping. It's not far away as the crow flies, but I'm not a crow. The only bridge over the right part of the Cumberland is a new greenways bridge, not open to cars. And I noticed it on Saturday as I tried to go to Peeler Park. A bird would cross the river twice, but I had to drive a long way around. The result is that the area, Neely's Bend, still feels pretty rural and undeveloped, despite being close to several more populous areas. On the other side of town is another park in a similar situation, Bell's Bend.

The upshot is that these parks are much less visited than your average greenway, because few people live close to them. Peeler Park does not offer anything other than the greenway and an equestrian path to draw visitors. So, sure, it feels nice and secluded, but to my mind that's not the point of a greenway - it's an urban path, not a wilderness. Yet the seclusion is why these parcels were available in the first place.


Chad Lykins said...

I wonder how greenways are handled in the city budget. I'm betting their treated as parks, rather than as transportation.

Maybe this should change?

turducken said...

I haven't seen a budget, but they are part of the parks department.

The trouble is that all greenways aren't the same. Peeler Park's greenway doesn't take you anywhere; it starts in a rural area and dead ends. Shelby Bottoms, of course, can now even take you over the river and someday a connector will get you to Opry Mills. So while they all serve the function of recreation, they don't all serve as transport.

The other thing I wonder is if budgeting them as transport would give them less money; they'd be competing for funds with MTA, roads, etc. I'm not sure what the budget looks like here, but my mom tells me that in their town, bus service is being cut because of the high cost of gas. (Wrap your mind around that for a minute if you want a headache!)

But I think it is fundamentally important to think of at least some greenways as part of the transportation system. Right now they are principally being driven by "available land," which includes following waterways rather than roads. It is important to preserve green spaces when we can, I believe, but we also need to think about where we need to MAKE paths and green space so people can get places on bikes & other non-motorized forms of transport.