Czech Greenways History

The Story Behind the Czech Greenways

Shortly after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Czech-American, Lubomir Chmelar, of New York City contemplated how he could contribute to his native country. He realized that the new market-driven economy in post-communist Czechoslovakia could threaten the local cultural and environmental heritage.

Inspired by the Hudson River Valley Greenway trails system connecting urban area through natural corridors, he envisioned a greenways network between Prague and Vienna to attract tourists to the rural areas between these two cities. Since much of the Prague-Vienna Greenways route stretches along the former Iron Curtain, where there was limited access and no development for 45 years, the countryside remained pristine. The main goal was to create a program to help the local grass-root initiatives preserve their culture and nature, while also promoting sustainable economic development: create and maintain new trails, revive traditional arts and crafts, restore historic monuments, plant new trees, and encourage local business communities to provide more and better services to visitors.

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First Greenway in Central Europe

In 1990, Lubomir (Lu) Chmelar and his English wife Tiree started going to Czechoslovakia, and with the support of funders including the Hickory Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Trust for Mutual Understanding and the American Express Philanthropic Fund, established together with a group of Czech enthusiasts, the first Greenway in Central Europe: the Prague-Vienna Greenways. It is a network of hiking and biking trails stretching for 250 miles between Prague and Vienna along the Vltava River Valley in Central and Southern Bohemia, and along the Dyje River in Southern Moravia. In Valtice it turns south towards Vienna through the Weinviertel region. It connects beautiful countryside with cultural monuments, historic towns and villages with restored castles and churches, and several UNESCO Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves.
 
Later, under the umbrella of the Czech environmental foundation, Nadace Partnerstvi in Brno, the Greenways concept was successfully adopted and developed in other parts of (what is now) the Czech Republic and countries in Central Europe. Today, the Central European Greenways system is expanding to the Balkan countries, and participating with Austria and Germany in EU funded programs. The long-distance greenways include The Elbe River GWMoravian Wine Trails, Krakow-Brno-Vienna GW, Lichtenstein Heritage GW, Budapest-Banska Stiavnica-Krakow GW and the latest addition, the Iron Curtain Trail.

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