From our executive director: Celebrating the rivers of the East Coast

dennis and flag
Dennis addresses a crowd of 80-plus in Portsmouth, N.H., on the banks of the Piscataqua River, as the East Coast River Relay enters the Granite State and receives greetings from Governor Chris Sununu.

One of many things we are celebrating on our 68-day East Coast River Relay is that, after 25 years of hard work, the East Coast Greenway is coming to life — thanks to hard work by all of us, our partners and officials at all levels. Smart public investments in infrastructure totaling more than $1 billion have developed almost 1,000 miles of the Greenway. And our partnerships with people who care about our communities’ health, environment, and economy keep growing.

Today’s public discourse is focused too much on what divides us. These hyper-partisan times bleed into the consciousness of our communities.  At the East Coast Greenway, we don’t see through the lens of urban versus rural or north versus south. We celebrate the United States of America, the rich cultures throughout our corridor, and the 50 rivers along our seaboard that provide clean water and majestic fish and wildlife.  We want to both celebrate this diversity and focus on unity and common cause. The Greenway works to highlight what brings us together — the moose to the manatee, the blueberry pie to the Key lime pie. We connect people and nature from communities as varied as rural North Carolina, where I grew up, to the skyscrapers and busy streets of Manhattan.

We build the East Coast Greenway to foster a shared prosperity that lifts up the 60 million people who live throughout our 3,000-mile corridor. Greenways and rivers help us educate future generations. The lessons that have rooted me most in my life don’t come from my time at Princeton or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – they come from my days playing in Dry Creek, a tributary of the Haw River that feeds into the Cape Fear River.

We are excited to show the world the beautiful rivers we connect: from the Penobscot, Kennebec, Piscataqua, and Connecticut to the Hudson, Delaware, Potomac, and Savannah. Rivers were critical for our ancestors and they remain so today. Rivers were the most important transportation systems until trains rose to prominence in the 1830s. They remain essential sources of our drinking water and scenic escapes from today’s busy lifestyles.

We plan to transform transportation in a way that builds more connections to rivers and nature, thus developing generations of leaders who prioritize our natural environment in concert with economic and societal progress. By developing a safe and accessible route for all to bike and walk to school, work, and play, the East Coast Greenway is tackling the biggest barrier to a healthy, sustainable future.

Many thanks to our key River Relay supporters, the William Penn Foundation  of Philadelphia and outdoor outfitter REI, along with our 100-plus partners from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida. Together, let’s complete the East Coast Greenway in the next 25 years. Let’s be better stewards of the 50 rivers we are so lucky to experience along the route. And let us help build enduring communities by helping people connect with each other and to nature.


Dennis Markatos-Soriano, Executive Director

Read more of our September 2017 newsletter, On the Greenway

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