Abstract Institutional arrangements which promote collaborative policy outcomes are critical to greenway protection within a participatory democracy framework. An example of greenway protection at the local level where coordinated land use policy efforts are under way is investigated to demonstrate how various kinds of existing cooperative arrangements between communities and governments may facilitate greenway protection. Personal interviews are conducted with three groups of greenway policy participants in the Tug Hill region of upstate New York. The objectives of this study are to (1) identify and describe available opportunities for collaboration, and (2) describe the implications of these opportunities in terms of their contribution to the development of greenway policies in a participatory democracy context. The case study findings show that opportunities for cooperative discourse are described by all three groups as specific roles played by individuals, or as objects, occasions, processes, or organizations which encourage talk about public issues among citizens and people representing different organizations. A large portion of the opportunities described by study participants are organizations which function as communication linkages, and to a lesser extent, roles assumed by individuals in the community or society. Opportunities for discussion of public issues tend to be described by the three groups in terms of two organizational attributes: authority level and degree of formality. Cooperative discourse occurs between study participants and five different levels of authority: federal, state, local, private, and citizen. Although each group can identify formal-impersonal linkages with most other levels of authority, a portion of the study participants prefer to rely on informal-personal linkages when discussing public issues with local governments and landowners. Linkages described by study participants encourage either simple or complex forms of public deliberation, with the former being more common. Simple forms are superficial communicative exchanges about public issues between citizens and private or public organizations. More complex forms are closely aligned with theoretical definitions of participatory democracy, where policy participants come to a shared understanding during the course of policy deliberation. The potential for building greenway policies in a participatory democracy context by focusing on local authority levels and informal-personal linkages among relevant organizations is discussed.