I’m grateful for greenways, spreading across America from California to Arkansas to New York.
I’m especially grateful to find a fledgling greenway taking shape not far from our new home, along the Rogue River.
For people with disabilities, these paved pathways are a godsend.
Wheelchairs can navigate gentle slopes designed to improve access to America’s natural places.
The greenway we’ve just discovered will some day be 50 miles long, through two counties and eight cities. Yesterday, in cool autumn weather, it was enough for us to hike 5 miles.
Like other greenways we’ve walked in California, this one is rural/urban, private/public, wet/dry. Unlike other greenways, however, this one is wide and has an even surface, allowing for slow walkers and fast cyclists at the same time.
There were fat blackberries, still ripening on overgrown bushes, for miles and miles. Non-native holly was draped over some, providing a contrast of summer fruit with winter berries.
Golden pears graced the top of one tree, about 20 feet tall; we imagined all the low-hanging fruit had been picked by greenway users.
We were happy to find the last wildflowers of the year — orange and yellow California poppies — alongside flowering weeds. Chicory blossoms seemed more blue than usual, stationed under Oregon white oaks and fragrant cedars.
The last Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel) blooms were such a surprise, we had to consult our pocket naturalist guide, Oregon Trees & Wildflowers, to identify orange, daisy-like flowers edged in yellow, with dark brown centers.
(Every time we use this guide, we’re grateful to the California friend who brought it, as a housewarming gift, when we moved to Oregon.)
Oregon is blessed with mature forests, and this greenway traces some old growth trees — huge Ponderosa pines — as well as new plantings, with fresh mulch. Cedar chips added to that new-autumn fragrance of drying vegetation, wild sage and anise, along our walk.
The Rogue River Greenway has the scent of newness, from newly paved entrances and public art, to protective coverings installed for wheelchairs and bikes in wet weather.
Greenways are all about safety and access. They often follow highways (traffic noise on this one can be distracting) and fields (this one passes a farm with charming birdhouses, atop wetlands fences).
They’re usually a refuge for wildlife and birds too. We saw scrub jays mostly, but no eagles, as advertised on the website. Critters are using the greenway too, perhaps raccoons, judging by the scat and the abundance of berries.
This greenway will include a water route for kayakers, fishers and boaters who are drawn to the fast-moving Rogue. We passed several families and fishers in boats, and stopped to watch two golden Labs playing in the water.
We met joggers, solitary walkers and many cyclists yesterday, and every single one greeted us warmly. Every cyclist announced their arrival behind us — “on your left!” — so we could let them pass. We were grateful for this, after years of dodging urban cyclists.
This greenway is wide enough for all of us, able-bodied or not, walking or wheeling. When finished, the first 30-mile phase will be “an emerald necklace of parks and public areas along the Rogue River.”
It’s already an emerald for me, a woman with disabilities, exploring my new home.