Imagine this: You’re at the northern tip of Maine. You’re on your bike. You can start riding now and stay on off-street, dedicated bike facilities for 3,000 miles, all the way to Key West, Florida. Your journey will take you through 25 major cities, 15 states and Washington, D.C.
Someday, you won’t need to imagine it. The East Coast Greenway (ECG), which will allow all those things mentioned above, is currently in development, and gaps in our region are being built in with planning and funding as I type.
To hear more about what’s going on with the project, Grid caught up with the East Coast Greenway Alliance’s (ECGA) Mid-Atlantic manager, Daniel Paschall, who gave us the lowdown on the trail’s progress.
This interview has been edited for length, clarity and style.
Tell us a little about the ECG and why you think it’s such an important long-term goal for cycling in the U.S.
The power of this ambitious goal comes from its ability to link all types of East Coast communities together. It connects local, beloved trails to reach far beyond themselves. Like how a quilt is composed of many unique yet united patches. In this way, the Greenway rallies people around the idea that a connected network of high-quality biking and walking infrastructure is a necessity for creating equitable public space and access to a better quality of life for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
You work on the ECG in the Mid-Atlantic region. What are some of the sections of the trail you feel are most important?
There are so many critical sections in the Mid-Atlantic region. The growing pieces of the Delaware River Trail, Schuylkill Banks and Cobbs Creek Trail segments that reconnect Philly residents to their waterways. There are also beautiful scenic trails that link into major destinations, like Delaware’s Jack A. Markell Trail out of Wilmington; the Jones Falls Trail through Baltimore; the B&A Trail down to Annapolis; and the Anacostia River Trail from Prince George’s County through the National Mall.
“The power of this ambitious goal comes from its ability to link all types of East Coast communities together.”
You just had a ribbon-cutting in Burlington, New Jersey. How do events like that happen from the ECG perspective? What kind of partnerships need to be cultivated to reach the actual opening of a trail that helps connect the Greenway?
Yes, the ribbon-cutting celebrated the 5.5-mile segment of the Delaware River Heritage Trail from Crystal Lake Park to Roebling. In this region, the ECGA is fortunate to be a part of the Circuit Trails Coalition, which joins dozens of nonprofit members and public sector partners. The coalition works with the William Penn Foundation to plan, coordinate and advocate for the completion of the 800+ mile Circuit Trails network across greater Philadelphia. By rallying public and political support around this shared goal—completing a trail network—the coalition is better equipped to pursue funding for things like trail development, programming and maintenance.
A ton of organizations are currently working toward the completion of the connection along Spring Garden Street. That’s a huge project and super important not just for the ECG, but for daily commuters. Can you provide some background on this project and what the connection means for Philadelphia?
The Spring Garden Street project has evolved over a decade of advocacy and planning work. It’s the answer to the question of how best to connect the ECG across Center City Philadelphia and link the Delaware River Trail to the Schuylkill River Trail.
This was led early on by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council in partnership with the ECGA, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the Clean Air Council. More recently, the Philadelphia Streets Department has advanced the project, completing public engagement and a feasibility study for the Spring Garden Improvement Project.
The project incorporates a pair of parking-protected, raised bikeways into a much larger multimodal project that features safer, more accessible intersections, green stormwater infrastructure and upgraded traffic signals to 22 intersections. Ultimately, it will vastly improve safety for everyone living and working along Spring Garden Street and anchor Philly’s growing bicycle and pedestrian network to create access for people with mobility issues, children, families, older adults, delivery workers and people walking, using transit and biking.
Three thousand miles of trails is … a lot. How does the ECG work together between Maine and Florida?
The ECGA is headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, but we have additional field staff working remotely in every region along the East Coast.
Thanks to a combination of funding sources, including individual members, major events, foundations, corporations and major donors, we continue to grow our team up and down the Greenway. This allows us to be more present at the ground level to better learn the needs of community stakeholders, while coordinating with local, state and regional partners to plan and advocate for the Greenway’s development.
The Alliance is also seeking to grow local engagement by hosting local and regional events to celebrate each trail along the Greenway, like our first ever New York City-to-Philadelphia ride on August 28 to 29.