In 1991, a group of civic planners from New York City, Boston, and Washington DC came together with a concept for a hard-surface trail system connecting their three cities. The trail they envisioned would be open to all muscle-powered travel and offer a traffic-free experience, connecting users to a natural environment along the populous Eastern Seaboard. Since then, their goal has expanded to include a 3,000-mile trail network running from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida — 1,000 miles longer than the wilder Appalachian Trail, which threads to the west and is roughly parallel to the proposed circuit. The trail organization is called the East Coast Greenway (ECG) and boasts almost 800 miles of official Greenway trails. The ECG hosts many events, including the popular Week-a-Year fund-raising ride, in which participants ride one section of the Greenway each year, completing the entire journey in ten years. The ECG also recently hosted United States Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin for an evening walk on a North Carolina trail as a way to encourage physical activity among all Americans.
Dennis Markatos-Soriano, executive director of the Greenway, sees the trail system as a “vertical park,” working to unite communities and encouraging spiritual balance in urban settings. “There are hundreds of noteworthy sections of trail,” he says. “You could walk along the ocean in the Florida Keys, bike a forested route in Maine, or stroll along the Staten Island Railroad Trail, taking in Manhattan’s skyline.” Markatos-Soriano hopes to elevate the project’s mission to begin travel reform, and he notes that bicycles increase the kind of freedom he hopes to achieve. “Families could park their bikes more easily than cars and go to the Smithsonian museums.”
The route for the Week-A-Year ride this year runs from Portland, Maine, to Hartford, Connecticut, from August 19-25. Find more information at greenway.org.