Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Committee Chair(s)

Carlos V. Licón


David L. Bell


Josh A. Runhaar


States in the Western United States are growing at rates outpacing the rest of the nation. This growth is placing pressure on communities to develop their current open space for residential or commercial use. As cities develop a comprehensive open space plans, several elements arise. One critical element is connectivity. This connectivity is most often realized in the form of greenways. In many cities these greenways contain urban trail systems that provide significant recreation and connectivity benefits.

This thesis investigates the current recommended models used to plan for greenway, synthesizes them into a recommended model process, and analyzes case studies of four cities that have implemented urban trail systems against this model framework.

The case studies include cities in the West with populations between 50,000 and 100,000 that are not part of a greater metropolitan area with demonstrated planning and implementation of urban trail systems. This selection provides the most relevance to smaller cities in the West that are beginning open space planning efforts.

Developing a recommended model process will aid smaller communities in planning for greenways by providing a step-by-step process from concept to implementation. This guide can provide a roadmap for communities that do not have experience with these planning models and can be used by citizens and non-planning professionals as well.

Three critical factors arose that were common to all case studies. First, the need to follow a trail-specific planning process. The communities studied had all made efforts to plan for trails apart from their general or comprehensive plans. Second, the planning process must have a robust public participation process. This ensures that community needs are met and buy-in is achieved for the implementation process. Lastly, the early identification of trail corridors is essential to the long-term planning process. This ensures that there are no surprises for the community when implementation begins. These factors should receive particular attention from communities wishing to develop urban trail systems.


This work made publicly available electronically on December 19, 2012.