As a champion of my city’s urban greenway system since the late 1990s, I am excited about Urban Land Institute Nashville’s Building Healthy Places initiative and its focus on greenways.

Building Healthy Places launched nationally in 2013 to help shape projects and places in a way that would improve the health of people and communities. ULI Nashville’s first initiative looked at how we could transform Charlotte Avenue to make it safer and healthier for those who live and work along the corridor.

ULI Nashville’s Building Healthy Places committee is now bringing knowledge and best practices as it collaborates on a number of our urban greenways.

Studies show that when people have access to parks and greenways they are more likely to exercise, which can reduce obesity and its associated health issues like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. According to the Journal of Preventative Medicine, people who live in neighborhoods with parks, trails and greenways are twice as healthy as people who live in communities without those facilities. Greenways for Nashville has helped develop 100 miles of greenway trails and 60% of Nashville’s neighborhoods are within a one-mile walking distance of a greenway. But much work remains to fully develop the greenway system and ULI Nashville’s assistance will be invaluable.

Browns Creek is one proposed greenway where ULI Nashville is lending support. It is a portion of the 25-mile City Central Greenway, a network a dedicated walking and biking paths that will link the Nashville core and provide greater mobility and connection to the city’s neighborhoods.

Our group recently toured Browns Creek, starting with the wonderful greenway section that travels through the new Fair Park at the south end of the Nashville Fairgrounds. The revamped area includes a popular dog park where the pets and their owners can socialize and soccer fields for both young and older players. Wildflowers and other native plants grow along the greenway. I have returned to the park in the evening to walk and explore and can see how the park and greenway will offer a connection to nature in a very urban industrial zone.

Leaving the fairgrounds, we walked downstream to visit with a couple whose home backs up to the creek. They offer a couple of guest rooms in their home through Airbnb. Their backyard is an urban oasis and fully embraces the creek, with chairs for lounging and a firepit for cooler evenings. The couple told our group how the creek is still being used inappropriately and they are constantly cleaning it up and picking up trash. They were excited to hear about the proposed greenway connection and offered suggestions and support. 

Further along the creek, our group talked with the farm manager at Trevecca Urban Farm and met the goats and other livestock. We learned about their urban farming practice and their community outreach to educate and inspire people to grow their own food. They are also thrilled to be connected to the future greenway. 

Our Browns Creek field trip uncovered some interesting stories and good feedback from those who live and work along the creek path. The ULI Nashville team has begun mapping the future Browns Creek greenway and is looking at routes to connect it to a planned 440 greenway between 8th Avenue in Melrose and Sevier Park in the 12South neighborhood. We are also looking at a greenway route to connect Trevecca University.

In February, we will share the evolution of the fairgrounds, Brown’s Creek and the greenway connectivity with ULI members and guests. Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime, Greenways for Nashville would appreciate your support during the coming season of giving.