Modelling Projects of Environmental Sustainability for Community Empowerment in Small US Cities: The Northend Greenway and the Path Forward

Authors: Amelia Morrison*, James Madison University, Quintin Petersen*,
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Environmental Sustainability, green development, sustainable development, gentrification, inclusivity, procedural justice, distributive justice, Northend Greenway, Harrisonburg Virginia
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As global climate change cultivates a demand for “green” development, the rhetoric of sustainable development has been increasingly challenged by social justice advocates as an appropriation of inclusivity discourse to serve the lifestyle tastes of the affluent. This ongoing tension is examined within the context of Harrisonburg, Virginia’s Northend Greenway, a 2.5 mile shared use path and stream rehabilitation project that connects a cluster of underserved neighborhoods to key areas of business, education, and recreation in the city. A key consideration from a critical geographical perspective is whether the Northend Greenway can serve as a model for truly inclusive sustainability projects in other small US cities. GIS mapping is used to identify and visualize communities in Harrisonburg that have been historically underserved and that - we hope - will benefit from this project. Community perspectives on the Northend Greenway were collected through surveys of identified neighborhoods bordering the route of the path, emphasizing marginalized communities such as the city’s historically African American neighborhood and a mobile home community of migrant workers. We find that the Northend Greenway improves the connectivity and access to green spaces for these neighborhoods as it stands alone, but lacks consideration of affordable housing and adequate community involvement in its planning, which could exclude valuable input from marginalized communities and lead to their displacement. By creating a space for multilateral decision-making during the production process of socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable projects, distributive and procedural injustices can be avoided and, resultantly, prevent “uneven development.”

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