The East Coast Greenway is the nation’s most ambitious long-distance urban trail project. By connecting existing and planned shared-use trails, a continuous, traffic-free route is being formed, serving self-powered users of all abilities and ages. 3,000 miles long, the Greenway links Calais, Maine at the Canadian border with Key West, Florida. Alternate routes will add another 2,000 miles to the ECG trail system.
The idea of this green city-to-city travel corridor emerged in November 1991. The team of 10 co-founders soon began forming the East Coast Greenway Alliance to transform their vision into reality.
A linear park, the East Coast Greenway will be entirely on public right-of-way, incorporating waterfront esplanades, park paths, abandoned railroad corridors, canal towpaths, and pathways along highway corridors.
Shown above, the Hudson River Greenway in New York, an ECG trail, allows people to travel and exercise safely away from Manhattan traffic.
The East Coast Greenway has universal appeal and is designed to accommodate tourists, locals, and users of all abilities.
Tourists and the East Coast Greenway
As a continuous long-distance route, the Greenway provides a new tourism venue that will entice domestic and foreign tourists to explore the eastern seaboard in a leisurely and “up-close”manner. An alternative to I-95 for muscle-powered travelers, it offers a way to see this most urbanized and historical of American corridors. So, tourists, whether for short excursions, weekends or longer trips, will be primary users of the East Coast Greenway. As we provide wayfinding tools – signage, maps, and guides – the number of tourists using the Greenway will rapidly grow. ECG tourism can have significant impact on local economies.
Locals and the East Coast Greenway
The Greenway also has an important local role, serving as a close-to-home facility for the 45 million people who live within the Greenway’s home counties. For them, the trail functions as a kind of Central Park for the region. For many, just out their back door, the Greenway is a safe place to walk, jog, bicycle, skate, ski, horseback ride, bird watch, fish, push the baby carriage or just stroll with friends. The Greenway can provide an escape, a tranquil place for some quiet time alone. Children can use it to walk to school or get to the park, adults can commute to work, and everyone will find it a well-located spot for an hour of exercise or a weekend outing.
A Recreational Route with Universal Appeal
People of all ages and abilities enjoy ECG trails, such as the Route 9A Bike/Ped Path in NYC, for recreation, exercise, commuting, running errands, and more.
The Greenway is not designed for those seeking a high-speed cycling route. A multitude of on-road routes better serve their needs. But, as a traffic-free, relatively flat route, the Greenway is a safe facility for people of all ages and physical abilities, including children, families, and the elderly.
Being entirely on public right-of-way, the Greenway will be free and accessible to all. People with disabilities will especially appreciate a safe place for active outdoor experiences. It offers a transportation alternative for those whose independence is compromised in our car-dependent culture: children, the disabled, the elderly, and those who do not wish to own or cannot afford a car. With fluctuating gasoline prices, that segment of the population is growing. Importantly, the Greenway is easily accessible by millions of people via public transportation (train stations, major airports, commuter rail, subway, and bus stations dot the route), and a growing network of trails and bicycle routes along the coast enable easy access for much of the region.
Winding from city to city through urban centers, urban neighborhoods, suburban communities, and rural areas, users will come from all of these populations. Urban dwellers in particular, distant from traditional back-country trails, will value this public open space that provides a convenient place for recreation and a means to get away to the country without car dependence. The Greenway goes directly through many underserved urban neighborhoods, providing sorely needed access and recreational opportunities for people in these communities.
To find out which sections of the Greenway are currently appropriate for various types of users, visit our Trip Planner.
The East Coast Greenway is the backbone of an emerging network of trails along the eastern seaboard that can contribute, both actually and symbolically, to priorities, including:
- Improving public health by empowering active transportation and safe recreation
- Lowering pollution by substituting car trips with bicycling and walking
- Providing greenway construction & maintenance jobs
- Increasing transportation options
- Giving non-drivers, such as children, the elderly, and people without cars, more independence
- Reducing roadway congestion
- Enhancing local economic development
- Connecting people and communities
- Helping to create new and inviting public spaces for everyone to enjoy
- Raising land and home values within the greenway corridor
The ECG provides a way for non-motorized travelers to move safely from town to town, where they would otherwise have to use a car or travel on an unsafe road. Here, cyclists cross the Calhoun Street Bridge from Trenton, NJ to Morrisville,, PA, safely separated from road traffic.
Multi-use trail development is moving ahead full-tilt all across the United States where opportunities to restore public access to our rivers and waterfronts, to convert abandoned rail lines to new uses, and to make our communities more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly have generated strong public involvement. Citizens recognize that trails can become an integral part of local transportation systems, provide recreational outlets for all age groups, and help promote healthier lifestyles.
The East Coast Greenway, with the allure of a long-distance route, can help move local trail projects that play into its corridor ahead. Linking these discrete local trails into a continuous route reaching from Maine to Florida is a challenge of major proportions, but with enormous value to the communities it passes through and to the people who use it. A national recreational resource, the ECG can enhance the local economic value of local trail segments by bringing new users with their wallets to local communities.
The East Coast Greenway Alliance joins local trail to local trail, initially through on-road connections and ultimately through the construction of additional off-road trails. The Greenway will serve as a spine route, linking with other long distance trails, like the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail, the Hudson River Greenway, and the C&O Canal National Park, helping to create an interlinked national trail system. It connects city to city, city to suburb, and suburb to rural area. The Greenway will link together such key sites as state capitals, college campuses, local, state, and national park systems, and outstanding cultural, historical, and natural landmarks offering themed travel possibilities.
By championing the vision and harnessing the resources to make these connections, the East Coast Greenway Alliance fosters the creation of a national resource which some have referred to as an urbanized version of the Appalachian Trail.
To learn more about the benefits of greenways and trails, please download and read: Local and Tourism Use of the East Coast Greenway.
Almost a third of the Greenway is now in place as an off-road route on traffic-free trail segments (834 miles or 29%). A complete travel route composed of carefully chosen and field-checked on-road linkages is defined and mapped, allowing experienced cyclists to use the entire route today. Maps and cue sheets for the entire route are available, and we are posting trail markers to ease the wayfinding process. Users of all abilities experience the Greenway today on the more than 100 completed trail sections located in each of the 15 states and DC along the Greenway corridor.
Designated Trail List
There are over 100 trails designated as East Coast Greenway, many of which have been signed with ECG trail markers. View a list of the designated trails and signed trails.
Our State of the Trail Report lists East Coast Greenway progress in each region.
ECG Informational Kiosks
Informational kiosks such as this one in Brunswick, Maine, display information about the ECG and state Mile Sponsor inscriptions.
ECG Kiosks are located in the following states. Eventually kiosks will provide maps and information in each state along the Greenway. The kiosks display the inscriptions of the state’s Mile Sponsors. Click here to learn more about the Mile Sponsor program!.
- ME – South Portland Greenbelt, South Portland
- ME – Androscoggin River Bicycle Path, Brunswick
- ME – Eastern Trail, Scarborough
- RI – Coventry Bike Path, Coventry
- NJ – D&R Canal Towpath, Millstone
- NJ — Merrill Park, Middlesex County
- NJ — Nomahegan Park, Union County
- NJ — Roosevelt Park, Middlesex County
- NJ — Weequahic Park, Essex County
- MD – B&A Trail, Severna Park
- NC – American Tobacco Trail, Durham
One of the greatest challenges to completing the East Coast Greenway is crossing water. While there are bridges to cross all waterways along the ECG route, not all of these bridges have bicycle/pedestrian access. In these cases, it is critical for the ECGA and other advocates to work with states to include bike/ped paths in bridge reconstruction plans.
Here’s a short list of bridges that have special accommodations for bikes and/or pedestrians:
- Sikorsky Bridge (CT: Housatonic River)
- Casco Bay Bridge (ME: Casco Bay)
- Calhoun St Bridge (NJ/PA: Delaware River)
- Arlington Memorial Bridge (DC/VA: Potomac River)
- Numerous bridges on the FL Keys
- Ravenel Bridge (SC: Cooper River)
Close the Gaps Campaign
A 2010 Strategic Committee, consisting of ten members from ECGA Board and Advisory Board members and heads of other trail-related organizations, met during 2004 to shape a strategic plan to guide Alliance work through 2010. The Committee created goals for the following six years and recommended capacity measures to increase our effectiveness, including the development of a Trail Council that assists our Board of Trustees. We are now beginning our strategic planning process for the 2020 time frame. Read more about the Close the Gaps Campaign.
The ECG was designated one of 16 National Millennium Trails in 1999, along with the Pacific Crest, Appalachian, and other noted trails. This was a significant honor for the fledgling trail project it was at that time. The Millennium Trail program was initiated by the Department of Transportation as a Millennium year project to recognize the growing importance of trails to our nation. That same year, the ECGA was the recipient of the Kodak American Greenways Award given nationally to greenway projects of special merit.