Celebrating connections, building partnerships

dsc 4217 2
The East Coast River Relay team was greeted like celebrities on the dock at Fernandina Beach, Florida, after riding a ferry across Cumberland Sound from St. Marys, Georgia.

Nine weeks of bike rides, walks, paddles, and more served to introduce the East Coast Greenway and make new fans out of more than 6,000 East Coast River Relay participants this fall. From August 24 to October 28, we partnered with more than 150 organizations to hold over 50 events along our route from Maine to Florida.

But numbers only tell part of the River Relay story. From a tribal send-off ceremony at the Wabanaki Culture Center in Calais, Maine, to ribbon-cuttings, trail cleanups, and receptions, the River Relay celebrated Greenway progress, local culture, environmental stewardship, and more — as well as the 25th anniversary of the East Coast Greenway Alliance.

Highlights of our time on the road include:

  • greetings from one governor (New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu) and dozens of mayors and county commissioners;

  • an endorsement of the East Coast Greenway and cycling from baseball legend Cal Ripken and affirmation of the Greenway’s role in storm resiliency from acclaimed climate change scientist Michael Oppenheimer;

  • multiple creek, trail, and island cleanups with school-aged children and their families;

  • a sunset reception in downtown Philadelphia on the Schuylkill River in partnership with the Alliance for Watershed Education;

  • collecting water samples from 50 key rivers along the route in one bottle to symbolize the unifying effect of the Greenway;

  • hosting 38 cyclists and Greenway supporters on the Week a Year Tour as part of the Relay’s travels through North and South Carolina and into Georgia.

Following many celebrations, the River Relay wrapped up on a sober note. We cut short the events and ended a few days early in Miami because of damage from Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys. On our final day in Florida, six East Coast Greenway Alliance staff members pitched in at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, where Irma flooded the visitor center and concessions building. A tour of the park’s storm damage served to remind us of the need to build storm resiliency in communities all along our coast.

"The River Relay was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was inspired every day by our generous members, partners, and all the public servants who are getting the Greenway built," says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, executive director. "Together we are connecting our communities to the awesome nature and watersheds around us."

Dennis Markatos-Soriano greets guests at the start of a boat tour on Miami's Biscayne Bay with partners Miami Waterkeeper and Florida Sea Grant.

“This ambitious undertaking couldn’t have happened without the support and participation of hundreds of partnering organizations along the way,” says Mary Beth Powell, River Relay program manager. “We were welcomed generously into so many cities, towns, and communities. We are grateful for the enthusiasm shown by so many who are proud to be a part of the East Coast Greenway.”

Many thanks to our Watershed sponsors, the William Penn Foundation and REI, for their critical support in launching the East Coast River Relay.

We’ll be publishing a River Relay summary report early in 2018.

Read weekly summaries, watch video slideshows of the East Coast River Relay

Read more of our November 2017 On the Greenway newsletter

relay water bottle
This water bottle holds samples from the 50 key rivers along the East Coast Greenway, collected by our River Relay cyclists and others and poured during ceremonies with leaders such as New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and William Penn Foundation Executive Director Shawn McCaney. Mary Beth Powell, our River Relay program manager, decorated the bottle with souvenirs she collected from each of our 15 states and Washington, D.C.
Join the Greenway!

Your support helps to develop this ambitious, 3,000-mile route, Canada to Key West. Your membership gift builds more protected miles that we can all enjoy, today and for generations to come.