Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center

Levitt Speaker Series

Greenways: Reconnecting the social and ecological fabric of a fragmented world

Hellmund delivers talk about the potential of greenways.

By Moogie Scott '13

On October 17th, landscape architect, Paul Cawood Hellmund, came to Hamilton and gave a talk entitled "Greenways: Reconnecting the Social and Ecological Fabric of a Fragmented World" about creating green spaces. A green space is an open space that serves not only as a park, but a gathering place for the surrounding community. Hellmund who has extensive knowledge about these spaces and their uses holds degrees from Colorado State University and Harvard. He currently is the president the Conway School, a graduate school that specializes in sustainable landscape design. Although he now resides in Western Massachusetts, he spent many years in Colorado where he used to illustrate his philosophy of landscape design. Hellmund discussed the case of Spring Creek, a greenway-like park, in Colorado Springs, CO and its effect on the community.

Hellmund found this greenway to be well-planned out because it integrated many aspects on the area into its design. The greenway is built around a creek that flows from the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains. This allows the greenway to nurture vegetation around it. This vegetation will act as a buffer during times of flooding as well. It could intercept chemical runoff from various facilities around the area. Hellmund emphasized how the greenway was carefully designed to try to fit with the weather patterns and other aspects of the Colorado Mountains. He commended this greenway because it attempted to keep the forested area intact without fragmentation from the development that had been slowly breaking up land in the area.

Another aspect Hellmund found was important when considering this particular greenway was how it connected members of the community. He told a story of how he met some neighbors while biking along the path. The greenway provided a common area for members of the community to meet and make social connections. Children could play there and adults could meet there. By creating a common social space, the greenway not only made the community more pleasant looking, it created more bonds among community members.

By connecting the community with nature and other community members, this greenway was successful; however, other greenways have not had the success of this one. Hellmund gave an example of another attempt at a greenway in Colorado. Although there was support among people in the surrounding area, unfortunately, the construction and planning were difficult to put into action and the project eventually fell through. This was a disappointing case, but Hellmund sees hope for the future of greenways. He believes that if enough people see their benefits, they will begin to multiply. Their multiplication can slow the fragmentation of land and bring members from different segments of the community together.