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The Susquehanna Greenway: The prime outdoor opportunity in your own backyard

If trails, parks and opportunities for enjoying outdoor recreation sound good to you, then you’re in luck. The Susquehanna Greenway has all of that and more, but few know what a greenway entails. So, let’s learn a little bit more about this statewide system that’s right in your backyard.

In order to understand the Susquehanna Greenway, let’s first break down the terms that comprise the word “greenway.”

A greenway is a corridor of undeveloped land [a GREENspace] that is often located near an urban area and utilized to connect people and places together, similar to our road system [a parkWAY]–minus the cars.

These linear ribbons of greenspace include parks, trails, gardens, historic sites, and natural features. They are sometimes located along man-made structures like an old railroad bed or a utility corridor, or they can trace a natural feature such as a ridgeline, stream, or in our case the Susquehanna River.

In addition to fostering the preservation of these important features, greenways also provide easily accessible opportunities for people like you and me to enjoy the outdoors and walk, bike, or paddle from town to town, thus making active, healthy living that much simpler.

Greenways even play a role in supporting economic development and preserving our local history and culture.

According to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, “Greenways and their trails provide countless opportunities for economic renewal and growth [such as] increased property values, tourism, and recreation-related spending.”

In Dauphin County, Pennsylvania (home to Harrisburg), outdoor recreation and tourism generated an expected revenue of 359.4 million dollars in 2016, supported 3,440 jobs, and attributed to a total real estate premium for single family homes living within ¼ mile of protected open space of between 39.7 to 50.5 million.*

Additionally, Rails-to-Trails states, “greenways have the power to connect us to our heritage by preserving historic places and by providing access to them. They can give people a sense of place and an understanding of the enormity of past events, such as Native American trails and vast battlefields.”

The Susquehanna runs through the heart of Pennsylvania and has an extensive and varied history. For example, it was host to several modes of transportation dating as far back as recorded human history on the North American continent.

While the use of the Susquehanna River has evolved over time, today it is most appreciated as a place to relax, recreate, and enjoy the great outdoors–and that is the essence our Susquehanna Greenway.

So, where does it run?

The Susquehanna Greenway corridor includes the river itself as well as the parks, trails, and communities that line the river’s banks.

The Susquehanna Greenway corridor is governed by the geography of the river valley and its surrounding landscape. Accordingly, its borders vary as it progresses along the river, expanding and narrowing based on changes in the topography and viewshed. The result is a billowing pathway extending anywhere from 1-3 miles on either side of the river. A good rule of thumb is: if you can see the river, then you’re in the Susquehanna Greenway.

As far as length goes, the Susquehanna Greenway encompasses the entire length of the Susquehanna River as it flows within Pennsylvania, including the West Branch. Once completed, the Susquehanna Greenway will become the largest Greenway in Pennsylvania at just over 500 miles in total.

While our Greenway already includes a network of established trails, there is still more to be done. The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (SGP) works to convene partners and assist communities in envisioning, implementing, and celebrating projects that connect them to the river and each other. The vision is that through this network you will be able to continuously walk, bike, or paddle the entire 500 miles of the Susquehanna Greenway.

SGP also serves as a resource for the many outdoor opportunities that exist within the greater Susquehanna Greenway corridor.

We visit river towns all along the Susquehanna River with information to connect the public to nearby trails and parks, our website houses information on existing trails and paddling day trips for those looking to explore, and our Facebook and Instagram accounts showcase the beauty and opportunities available along the river to foster a love and appreciation for our vibrant Susquehanna Greenway.

Next time you are out enjoying the parks, trails, and communities along the Susquehanna River, take pride in the knowledge that those resources right in your backyard are also part of a larger Susquehanna Greenway network.

Vision of the Susquehanna Greenway: We envision a Greenway that builds connections along the Susquehanna River, inspires people to engage with the outdoors, and transforms communities into places where people want to live, work, and explore.

*Statistics taken from the 2016 Return on Environment Study for Dauphin County

Alana Jajko is the Director of Communications and Outreach for the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership. Her work is focused on promoting trails and communities within our vibrant and connected Susquehanna Greenway, so that people like you can enjoy opportunities to engage with the outdoors. Alana can be reached at ajajko@susquehannagreenway.org.

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