East Coast Greenway, Coastal Georgia Greenway forge innovative union

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SAVANNAH, Georgia – With the shared goal of completing the East Coast Greenway route through the state of Georgia, the East Coast Greenway Alliance and Coastal Georgia Greenway, Inc. are proud to announce a union of the two nonprofit organizations. 

As outlined in the agreement, the East Coast Greenway Alliance and its staff will serve as the coordinating entity for the East Coast Greenway spine route in Georgia, and the volunteer-led Coastal Georgia Greenway, Inc. will formally dissolve as a nonprofit corporation. The partnership will ensure clear, effective communications and provide programming and coordination that advance shared Greenway goals in an organized and strategic way. 

“The East Coast Greenway Alliance is indebted to Coastal Georgia Greenway, Inc. and its volunteers for two decades of impactful advocacy work. The tireless efforts of our Coastal Georgia partners have led to widespread awareness of a Greenway vision for the region and a conceptual plan for our route,” says East Coast Greenway Alliance Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano.

“Following a nationwide increase in trail use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and our need to maintain mental and physical health, there has never been a more critical moment for our nation to invest in regional trails and greenways. Greenway infrastructure investment has the highest return for our economy in terms of jobs and for our community in terms of health, environmental sustainability and economic growth. Our staff will continue to partner with local advocates with the ultimate goal of a fully off-road, protected route through Georgia.”

Working in step with the East Coast Greenway Alliance, Coastal Georgia Greenway, Inc. volunteers helped coordinate efforts to complete Greenway segments in five of the six Coastal Georgia counties. Highlighted trails include the Highlander Trail in Darien, Woodbine Trail, Liberty Ships Trail in Brunswick and Tabby Trail in St. Marys. With East Coast Greenway Alliance Georgia & South Carolina Coordinator Brent Buice spearheading the effort, the goal moving forward will be to connect these segments into a continuous greenway traversing Coastal Georgia.

Additionally, CGG volunteers successfully secured acknowledgement of the Greenway in coastal county comprehensive plans and worked with state lawmakers in the 2015 Joint House & Senate Study Committee on the Greenway, which called for state investment and inter-agency cooperation to develop the Greenway in its final report

“The merger of the Coastal Georgia Greenway with the East Coast Greenway Alliance is a bold step by the CGG Board of Directors,” says Jo Claire Hickson, former executive director of Coastal Georgia Greenway, Inc. “This move recognizes the leadership of East Coast Greenway Georgia & South Carolina Coordinator Brent Buice and a 20-year relationship between advocates for the Coastal Georgia/East Coast Greenway dating to March 24, 2000 – before the formation of CGG, Inc.”

“Upon my retirement as executive director in 2018, the CGG board worked with East Coast Greenway Alliance staff and local governments in 15 jurisdictions (six counties and nine cities) to ensure a smooth transition. This union will assure long-term leadership and an avenue for continued local support. I am happy the CGG, Inc. board was supportive of this move, and I thank the East Coast Greenway Alliance board, committee members and staff for their commitment to completing the East Coast Greenway route in Georgia.”

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Terry Landreth (left) and Jo Claire Hickson have been key advocates for the Coastal Georgia Greenway.

"Combining the efforts of the Coastal Georgia Greenway and the East Coast Greenway Alliance is a win-win. The East Coast Greenway provides full-time personnel and expertise. The Coastal Georgia Greenway provides financial resources and enthusiastic Greenway advocates. Together we will build a wonderful Greenway for the enjoyment and economic benefit of all,” says Mary Ellen Sprague, board chair of Coastal Georgia Greenway, Inc.

“The Coastal Georgia Greenway team has carried the torch over the years while the East Coast Greenway lacked the staff capacity to work on the ground here,” says Buice, who is based in Savannah and joined the Alliance in 2017. “I’ll continue to work closely with local advocates to support the completion of the route in Coastal Georgia.” Buice and the Alliance staff will bring professional fundraising, advocacy and communications capacity to build awareness and support for the Greenway, locally and nationally.

The state is poised for Greenway growth, as four Georgia projects are construction-ready and listed as part of the East Coast Greenway’s Greenway Stimulus campaign, an effort to raise awareness with federal lawmakers about the benefits of including greenways and trails in the next round of infrastructure investment. 

Currently 14 miles of the East Coast Greenway route through Georgia are on protected greenways. Learn more about the Greenway in Georgia at greenway.org

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