Washington, D.C. coalition unites voices of diverse trail users

washington dc cyclists credit east coast greenway photo
A 30-mile ride in December 2016 was coordinated by the East Coast Greenway Alliance, WABA, Capital Trails Coalition, and September 11th National Memorial Trail.

By Gabriel Morey

In October 2016, a new trail opened along the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. The four-mile Kenilworth Gardens Segment connects D.C.’s Anacostia Riverwalk trail to the extensive Anacostia Tributary trails network in Prince George’s County, Maryland. With its completion, cyclists, runners, and other trail users enjoy an uninterrupted journey into downtown D.C.

The Kenilworth Gardens segment is also the first trail completed since the founding of the Capital Trails Coalition, a partnership of over 30 organizations — including the East Coast Greenway Alliance — dedicated to building a high-quality trail network in the D.C. area. The Coalition is led by Katie Harris, Capital Trails Coalition coordinator for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The Coalition is one of only a handful of groups that combine the advocacy of cyclists, runners, walkers, and other trail users into a consolidated team. 

“To cultivate a widespread consensus that a connected trail network is a regional priority, we knew that we would need all parties at the table,” Harris says. Diverse member groups give the Coalition more authority when talking with local officials. “Because the East Coast Greenway is such a well-known route and organization, it really brings a lot of credibility and gravitas to a project,” she says. “It means a lot when we can go to a room with a decision maker and say that this isn’t about this one little four-mile trail segment — this is about something that’s much broader, much bigger.” And those shorter segments add up.

“The Kenilworth Gardens section is really a benefit for the East Coast Greenway as a better connection into D.C.,” says Wayne Clark, a member of the East Coast Greenway Advisory Board and the Greenway's representative to the Capital Trails Coalition. Clark hopes the Coalition will continue to help fill in Greenway gaps. “You get into central D.C. and the connectivity breaks down, causing confusion for people riding from Maryland through D.C. to Virginia.”

Like the Greenway, the Coalition’s goals reach beyond cycling, says Harris. “It’s about transforming our communities for good and building a transportation system that works for everyone.”

Gabriel Morey is a recent graduate of the College of William and Mary, where he co-founded the W&M Bike Alliance

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