Ten years ago, Bob Thomas — a fellow architect and planner type — told Andy Hamilton to come along to a meeting with him. It turned out to be a gathering of the Pennsylvania Committee of the East Coast Greenway. When he saw a PowerPoint slide with a map of the Greenway, “my head did a 360,” Hamilton says. “As a planner, I just thought, ‘Wow.’ I started to envision the impact this would have on all the communities it touches.”
In quick succession, Hamilton joined the state committee, attended a national East Coast Greenway meeting, agreed to chair the state committee, and agreed to serve on the Board of Trustees. Then in 2011 the East Coast Greenway Alliance hired him as a regional coordinator. On June 1, Hamilton will retire from his post as mid-Atlantic coordinator (covering Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C.).
“I was this guy from a landscape architecture firm from an hour north of Philly. I thought, ‘Is this really the right fit?’” he remembers thinking when he was asked to chair the Pennsylvania Committee. Turns out he was a great fit — bringing his passions for planning and design of public spaces, bicycling, and community building to help grow the East Coast Greenway in his region and throughout its route.
” ‘Done!’ If you’ve ever worked with Andy, you’ve likely heard that declaration at least once,” says Niles Barnes, director of greenway programs. “Andy is a coalition builder who knows how to develop and execute strategies to get greenway projects done. His ten years of service to the Alliance is full of stories and experiences of getting the job done in collaboration with diverse partners and stakeholders.”
Hamilton was interested in the staff position because he knew he could make much more progress on the Greenway if it were a full-time focus, “rather than scrambling in between things,” he says. “You’re creating a community of connections and developing coalitions. You work at every level of government. I’ve been with DOT directors, senators and congressmen, and governors, as well as the guys in the local streets department.”
“Every four years it’s time to make new friends,” he jokes about making sure elected officials know about and advocate for Greenway projects.
Hamilton has driven much progress for the Greenway, including work in the Meadowlands area in New Jersey and on the Circuit Trails project, Schuylkill Banks, and Bartram’s Mile projects in Greater Philadelphia.
“No one is better at harnessing the power of coalitions than Andy, and the rise of Philly from one of the worst places to bike to one of the best is testament to his skills,” says Eric Brenner, chair of the Greenway’s Washington, D.C. Committee. “His tire prints are all over the many new miles of trail that bring the East Coast Greenway north from Wilmington and drop us back off at the Delaware River on the way to Trenton.”
“Andy’s impressive skills and expertise have made their mark on the Greenway this past decade,” says Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano. “The Greenway through his region is coming to life, and his dedicated, experienced leadership has been a critical ingredient. We are fortunate that he plans to continue volunteering for the Greenway in his retirement. Andy, thank you for a job very well done.”
It’s telling that Hamilton’s favorite Greenway moment has little to do with ribbon-cuttings or meeting governors. “I was in a small community where the trail goes right by the front of homes, in a blue-collar town with some white-collar residents,” he says. “It was a beautiful spring day and I overheard one neighbor saying to another, ‘I haven’t seen you since last fall, how are the kids?’ The trail becomes a really easy place to engage, to communicate with neighbors. And it levels the playing field, socially. I love that.”
In retirement, Hamilton promises he’s not leaving trail development. He’ll volunteer at many levels on projects for the East Coast Greenway and its sister trail, the September Eleventh National Memorial Trail, where he serves as vice chair of their board. He’ll also travel more with his wife, Allison, and resuscitate his tennis game. And, as time and weather allow, he wants to build more stone walls on his property in Doylestown, Penn. “That’s my creative relief,” he says, “as long as my back holds out.”