Since 1991, the East Coast Greenway Alliance has been working toward creating the first long-distance, East Coast urban greenway corridor from Florida to Maine for walkers, cyclists and other non-motorized users. Perhaps you have seen the signs designating the Greenway trails throughout New Jersey.
As the Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability noted in their blog post on Monday, our state is ranked 46th in size, but #1 in population density and is projected to be the first fully “built-out” state by 2050 – which means fewer and fewer opportunities for New Jerseyans to connect with open space and nature. The East Coast Greenway Alliance is working to restore those connections, with partners like the New Jersey Department of Transportation, by adding recreational trails as well as paths for commuters as a low cost transportation alternative, among many of their other initiatives.
New Jersey is an especially important link along the Greenway, as it lies within the urban corridor from Washington DC to Boston which is home to millions of potential commuters and outdoor enthusiasts. As we focus on issues of sustainability in our work at Dodge, accessibility to green spaces is a vital component of more livable communities. For the next three Wednesdays, the East Coast Greenway Alliance will be sharing the work they are doing and why it matters to all New Jersey residents.
East Coast Greenway section from George Washington Bridge to Jersey City
The East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile network of multi-use paths from the Maine border with Canada to Key West, Florida, was just a dream 15 short years ago. Now, thanks to leading states like New Jersey, a corridor for walkers, joggers, bicyclists and the like connects cities and communities throughout the East Coast.
An “urban Appalachian Trail,” the East Coast Greenway provides both a green recreational network and a low-cost daily commuter path between neighborhoods, workplaces, landmarks, and schools. The project’s leading advocate is the East Coast Greenway Alliance, a long-time partner of the Dodge Foundation. The Alliance plans to move its headquarters to New Jersey in the coming year while maintaining regional staff situated within New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South. On top of its four and a half staff, the Alliance has a base of over 8,000 members and volunteers — many of whom live throughout the Garden State.
City of Newark staff installing East Coast Greenway signs near Newark Penn Station
The past year has brought record growth for the East Coast Greenway’s (ECG) trails, adding over 100 miles or 20%. Thanks to such growth, the ECG is already 26% off-road, separated from car traffic. Over the next decade, we aim to upgrade the safety and accessibility of the remaining 74% (on-road portion) of the 3,000 miles by fully signing it and either converting it to off-road trail or integrating bike lanes, wide shoulders and other amenities.
New Jersey is setting the bar high for other states. Our state is the most developed in terms of signage – over 90 miles of signs mark the East Coast Greenway between the Delaware River and the Hudson River. And New Jersey is one of the three states among our fifteen whose route is at least 50% off-road greenway. We also host the second longest stretch of continuous greenway on the ECG, 35 miles of the beautiful D&R canal towpath from Trenton to New Brunswick.
A group bike ride celebrating greenway progress in August included Congressman Holt (4th from left), Assemblywoman Spencer of Newark (to Holt’s left), Mayor Hsueh of West Windsor (2nd from right), super volunteer Mike Kruimer (kneeling) and other leading ECGA staff and allies
We host many group walks and bike rides on our New Jersey sections, like the lovely Princeton-Trenton loop ride this past summer. Regional elected leaders joined the 75-person ride as we celebrated 1.5 new miles of greenway through Trenton. This is one of several events we host every year along the ECG corridor to laud route progress and raise public awareness of this resource which enhances the livability of our communities. New Jersey activity is led by a strong volunteer committee that works alongside ECGA Mid-Atlantic Coordinator Michael Oliva (farthest to the right in the picture).
And East Coast Greenway progress throughout New Jersey would not be possible without our solid partnerships with regional foundations, municipal and state government, and area nonprofits. Next week, Michael Oliva will share a blog with more details on these collaborations and the outstanding progress they are making throughout the Garden State.
Onward to a Sustainable & Healthy New Jersey!
Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano lives in Princeton, having received his Master’s in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School as the 2008 David Bradford Prize recipient for Academic & Civic Achievement in Science, Technology & Environmental Policy. He has been a leader in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade, mainly as Executive Director of Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE) based in North Carolina where he received UNC-Chapel Hill’s first annual Robert Bryan Public Service Award and Duke University’s Certificate in Nonprofit Management.