Perhaps it will come as no surprise that plans are in the
works to add an additional 65 miles to the East Coast Greenway just this year
alone. The proposed greenway itself is quite ambitious: a trail stretching
nearly 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida.
Currently, more than a quarter of the greenway (791 miles)
is on non-motorized, traffic-free trails, passing through 15 states along the coast,
plus Washington, D.C. Rail-trails, such as the spectacular Down East Sunrise
Trail along the northeastern coast of Maine, play a prominent role in these
off-road sections. (The remainder of the greenway is comprised of temporary
on-road connections between trails.)
"We want to make it virtually 100 percent trail and are
going for that as quickly as possible," says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, executive
director of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the nonprofit group providing
leadership and vision for the trail's creation. "We feel the urgency to move
people from their cars to their bikes: the health urgency, the environmental
urgency and the economic urgency."
A few dozen miles north of the greenway's gateway in Calais,
Maine, lies the equally impressive Trans Canada Trail, which the Alliance is
working to connect to in the coming years. From Fredericton, New Brunswick, the
Trans Canada Trail stretches 9,900 miles across our northern neighbor all the
way to the Pacific Ocean and on up to the Arctic Ocean. (Read more about this
remarkable trail--scheduled for completion in 2017--in the Winter 2012 issue
of Rails to Trails magazine.)
Markatos-Soriano doesn't have to go far for a visual
reminder of the East Coast Greenway's development in recent years. Construction
of a new section of the American Tobacco Trail (ATT), a designated component of
the greenway, can be seen from the Alliance's headquarters in Durham, N.C.
Slated for completion in summer of 2013, the 22-mile ATT, pictured above, will then serve as the
backbone in a critical trail network across the Triangle region of Durham,
Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
Although there are too many sites of note along such an
extensive route to list them here, Markatos-Soriano says, "the greenway
provides a way to experience many of the cultural wonders that the East Coast
has to offer, from the Smithsonian museums in D.C. to the Liberty Bell in
Philadelphia and the skyline of Manhattan, as well as the natural wonders of
rivers and mountains."
This variation--the greenway is composed of more than 100 different
trails--makes it almost impossible to describe.
"The riding experience on the East Coast Greenway is 'local',"
says Carl Knoch, manager of trail development at RTC's Northeast Regional
Office. "It goes through major metropolitan areas as well as wilderness areas,
like the wonderful sections in Maine."
This local component is perhaps the key to the greenway's
success, as the route goes beyond being merely a tourist attraction.
"City to city and community to community, we're creating a
corridor that's useful for local citizens," says Markatos-Soriano. "There are
many visionary long-distance trails, but there aren't a lot that are used as
vital links to schools, work and other daily routines."
The East Coast Greenway Alliance has forged a strong
partnership with the local communities along the route, and according to Markatos-Soriano
this is a key to its continued success.
"We can't achieve our dreams on a national level without the
people at the local level achieving their dreams as well," he says. "We move
Photo of the American Tobacco Trail courtesy of Jerry
We couldn't make so much progress without our RTC partnership - thank you!
The Duke Ellington Building
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