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GWs History

Greenways in the USA 

The greenways movement began in the USA. It was here that the term 'greenways' first appeared in the early 1950s to describe recreational trails (for walkers and cyclists) designed to promote healthy life-styles and non-motorized transport, mostly in urban areas. In 1987, an initiative to 'create a greenways network across America' was launched as a joint effort of the President's Commission on American Outdoors (chaired by Alexander Lamar, the governor of Tennessee) and the National Geographic Society (with the personal commitment of Gilbert Grosvenor, the Society's President).

Today, there are over 18,000 km of greenways in the USA. Hundreds of civic groups are involved in promoting the greenways concept at the national, state and local levels. Greenways are supported by public agencies responsible for national parks and protected areas and many local governments include greenways specialists on staff. Greenways initiatives are implemented typically through cross-sector partnerships involving public agencies, business and non-governmental organizations.

Selected Greenways organizations in the USA:

  • Rails to Trails Conservancy (Washington D.C.)
  • National Parks Service - The Rivers and Trails Program
  • American Trails
  • Conservation Fund
  • Friends of Czech Greenways
  • East Coast Greenway Alliance
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Transportation Alternatives
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center - PBIC
  • Pennsylvania Greenways

Greenways in Western Europe


In Western Europe, the greenways concept became popular in the late 1980s and 1990s. In the countries of the European Union, greenways came to refer to green corridors dedicated to tourism, recreation and non-motorized transport. Trails were designed to be independent of motorized traffic routes, leading along historical trails, natural corridors or disused roads and tracks (including rail corridors). The motivation for greenways is linked to promoting active life-styles, health, nature conservation, reducing pollution related to motorized transport and creating safe access for travel to work and school.

The European Greenways Association (EGWA) was established in 1997 in Namur, Belgium. The Association today brings together 35 national level organizations committed to creating and promoting greenways. The most active greenways organizations operate in Belgium, Spain, UK, France, Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic. Many greenways in Western Europe were established on disused rail corridors (rails-to-trails).

The European Greenways Association works with European institutions do develop and contribute to EU policies related to sustainable development, nature conservation, regional development and employment promotion. EGWA is involved in organizing and promoting European Mobility Week, which takes place 16-22 September each year in over 1300 cities and towns across Europe (see:

Selected Greenways organisations in Western Europe:

  • European Greenways Association - (L'Association Européenne des Voies Vertes)
  • Chemins do Rail (Belgium)
  • AF3V - L'Association Française de Développement des Véloroutes et Voies Vertes (France)
  • Fundación de los Ferrocarilles Españoles (Spain)
  • Sustrans Sustainable Transport (Great Britain)
  • The Heritage Council (Ireland)
  • The Italian Greenways Association, A.I.G. (Italy)

Greenways in Central and Eastern Europe

The greenways concept was introduced to Central and Eastern Europe through the Czech Republic. The first greenway initiative dates back to 1990, when a group of Czech-Americans led by Lu Chmielarz began to promote the idea of a Vienna-Prague Greenway. In 1998, the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation (Nadace Partnerstvi) based in Brno took on the task of developing a countrywide greenways program, focused also on environmental and social improvement.

The Central and Eastern European Greenways (CEG) program has been promoted as a civic initiative across the region since 2000. The program is now coordinated by the Environmental Partnership for Sustainable Development Association, which includes national Environmental Partnership Foundations operating in Poland (Fundacja Partnerstwo dla Środowiska), Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria. The CEG network currently includes 8 long-distance greenways and a dozen or more local urban trails. All CEG greenways are implemented in line with a shared set of criteria. From 2005, the CEG program awards each year the Laurance S. Rockefeller Greenways Award to celebrate the best greenways in Central and East Europe.

The CEG program is being expanded to include new greenway initiatives and partner organizations from other countries in the region, especially in Austria, Germany, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia.

Selected Greenways organisations in Central and Eastern Europe:

  • Environmental Partnership for Sustainable Development Association
  • Fundacja Partnerstwo dla Środowiska (Poland),
  • Nadace Partnerství (Czech Republic)
  • Nadácia Ekopolis (Slovakia) www.,
  • Ökotárs Alapítvány (Hungary)
  • Fundatia pentru Parteneriat (Romania),
  • Фондация „ЕкоОбщност" (Bulgaria)

Greenways in Belarus

The Agro and Ecotourism Association (Общественное Объединение „Агро- и Экотуризм") was established in 2002 to promote rural and environmentally-friendly tourism among local communities across Belarus. The Association numbers over 300 members, who, in the main, come from Belarusian villages. Thanks to the pioneering work of the Association and Valeria Klicunova, the Association's President, over 70 tourist farms have been established across the whole country.

In 2004, the Agro and Ecotourism Association initiated a greenways programme in Belarus thanks to the support of the Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation and the Polish Greenways Coordinator, Dominika Zareba. It all started with an internship organized for Elena Vietrova at the Foundation offices in Krakow thanks to a Kirkland Scholarship funded by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation (2003-2004). During the internship, Elena prepared a doctoral thesis on the potential for developing greenways in Belarus.

In 2004 - 2005, under the cooperation between the "Agro and Ecotourism" Association and the Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation (thanks to funding from the Region in Transition Program of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the DG Environment of the European Commission) two Polish-Belarusian study visits were organized to move the program forward in 2005, along with an international planning session held in Belarus involving specialists from Poland, USA, UK and Montenegro. Representatives of the Association participated in several conferences and seminars relating to ecotourism and greenways in Poland. A special study tour for Belarusian rural leaders was organized to Polish greenways and several English, Belarusian and Russian language publications were prepared. All these activities translated into first eco-tourism initiatives in Belarus based on the greenways philosophy, involving a network of tourist farms and using the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm of Association members. In 2006, thanks to a grant from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a webpage dedicated to greenways in Belarusia was launched:

„Agro and Ecotourism" Association, Общественное Объединение «Агро- и Экотуризм»



Network of GWs in Belarus

Photos, text: Dominika Zareba, Valeria Klitsounova, Elena Vetrova, Tsimur Kroll | Drawings: Iwona Siwek-Front
Project "Greenways for Belarus", implemented by the Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation and the "Agro and Ecotourism" Association, is financed thanks to the support from the Program of Polish Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland in 2006.
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