NIMBY? – Support Your Local Greenway

Update: Please read this page before emailing me about this article.

Over a decade ago, soon after I moved into my current home, I attended a homeowner’s association meeting where the new neighborhood swimming pool was a hotly-debated topic. A small, but vocal, minority actually suggested that the pool should be filled with concrete. The argument was basically “upkeep of the pool costs too much and I don’t plan to use it, so get rid of it”. Certainly, it’s easy to make a case for how a neighborhood pool increases your property value. Our pool has become a hub for activities throughout the year. Looking back on that meeting, I laugh at the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude so strongly voiced by that minority.

Last night, I had the displeasure of witnessing a similar display of  fingers-in-my-ears-I-can’t-hear-you from citizens opposing routing of a greenway along the sidewalk across the front of their property in North Raleigh. Some things that I actually heard said:

  • “I don’t want the cyclists that ride on the greenway peeing in my front yard and using my water spigot!”
  • “It’s not going across your front yard, so shut up!” (directed to a neighbor that said they’d welcome a connector path that’d let them safely reach other parts of the city)
  • “If the greenway goes through our neighborhood, that means that the crime rate is going to up!”
  • “Great – now we’re going to have a bunch of homeless people living in our neighborhood!”
  • In response to the answer to a question about who will maintain the cleanliness of the trail (the City of Raleigh will): “I’ve driven past a pile of beer bottles [on a nearby road] for two weeks – the city hasn’t picked those up!” (When I asked her why she hadn’t, her reply was “…and get out of my car? On that street?”)

The group was really pretty rude. Some would hardly let their sympathetic on-the-same-side neighbors finish a sentence, let alone the city representatives that were present to hear their grievances (BTW, the Park & Rec representatives did an excellent job of maintaining level-headed-ness in spite of the verbal abuse). There was also a lot of reference to anecdotal “I knew someone who lived near a greenway and someone stole all of their kids toys” rhetoric, but not much fact.

Research has shown that having neighborhood access to a greenway increases property value and has no impact whatsoever on the crime rate or homeless rate in your area. None. The trails are often credited with deterring crime. The Rails-to-Trails conservancy put together a comprehensive and well-written pamphlet that summarizes the experiences of 372 communities with large trail networks.

I applaud the vision that Raleigh has for the future of our city. Since the mid-80’s, Raleigh has deliberately set aside land for green spaces and secured easements for routing of trails throughout the area. We have a great city Parks & Rec department that works with affected communities to find the best fit when routing trails through existing neighborhoods. And Raleigh’s citizens obviously value this mission as is evidenced by the passing of the bonds that fund these projects.

OK. I’ve got that off my chest. I’ve been pretty ticked since attending that neighborhood meeting. But here’s what I hope you take away with you today: there are a lot of great parks, green spaces and trails in our city. They benefit us all financially and from a quality-of-life point of view. Go outside today!

Oh, yeah – not sure where to start? Check out my blog about area parks and greenways.