Working alongside tremendous local partners like the William Penn Foundation, the nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance has more than doubled the number of completed Greenway miles in greater Philadelphia since 2010. Today, 77 miles of the East Coast Greenway give the region’s people safe and equitable access to the streams, creeks and rivers of the lower Delaware River Watershed.
Since the late 1990s, the William Penn Foundation has given roughly $1.5 million to the Alliance, which has been leveraged into more than $100 million in public investment for East Coast Greenway planning, design and construction throughout the region.
These numbers are consistent with the Alliance’s proven track record of turning every $1 donated to the nonprofit into more than $50 of public investment in East Coast Greenway projects since the organization’s founding in the early 1990s. To date, $16 million in donations have been leveraged into $2 billion in public investment.
With the aim of enhancing access to active transportation and nature throughout greater Philadelphia, the Alliance has made its work in the region a priority and will continue to do so under its recently unveiled strategic plan.
“Greater Philadelphia’s section of the East Coast Greenway - and its connection to the entire Circuit Trails network - is a highlight of our 3,000-mile route,” Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano says. “The region's route gets over 2 million bike rides, runs and walks every year as people enjoy the city’s trails for safe, active transportation; connecting with the beautiful rivers and creeks of the region; enhancing physical and mental health; and more. But there is work to be done, and our organization remains committed in partnership with local and state leaders to create a region-wide trail network accessible to all.”
When the Alliance released its equity-centered strategic plan last month, Board of Trustees co-chair Brandon Douglass and Markatos-Soriano stressed the importance of fostering access to Greenways for all.
“Completing our system of equitable public space from Maine to Florida is a critical component of how we tackle the climate crisis, transform public health, build community in divided times and establish a model of safety,” they wrote. “Making walking and biking to school, work and play accessible to all is an organizational priority.”
In recent years, the Alliance has a track record of investing staff time and resources focused on developing an inclusive East Coast Greenway, particularly in greater Philadelphia. The ongoing support of the William Penn Foundation has played a key role in making this impact possible.
Late 1990s: William Penn Foundation begins its support of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, totalling $1.5 million to date
2011-2017: Mid-Atlantic Coordinator Andy Hamilton leads Greenway planning, programming, designations and signage installation across the region
2012: Philadelphia-based Larry Silver, environmental lawyer and partner at Langsam Stevens Silver & Hollaender, joins the East Coast Greenway Board of Trustees, becoming chair in 2020 and helping the organization reach new heights in impact and capacity
October 2014: Schuylkill River Trail boardwalk opens in Philadelphia
2017: Philadelphia-based Mid-Atlantic Manager Daniel Paschall joins the Alliance staff
September 2018: Jack A. Markell Trail opens, linking Wilmington to New Castle, Delaware
2019: East Coast Greenway Alliance hosts Mid-Atlantic Greenways & Trails Summit in Philadelphia, where the greater Philadelphia Greenway Impact Report was released
2020: East Coast Greenway Alliance Advisory Board member Eleanor Horne and Paschall begin to chair the Circuit Trails Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Task Force
March 2021: The Circuit Trails JEDI Task Force releases “Equity of Access to Trails” report
August 2021: East Coast Greenway hosts first New York City-to-Philadelphia Greenway Ride, raising more than $250,000 in support of trail development
November 2021: Cramer Hill Waterfront Park opens in Camden, New Jersey
Late 2021 and into 2022: Paschall and Horne present “Equity of Access to Trails” findings to a number of groups, including the East Coast Greenway’s Impact Series
2021: East Coast Greenway invests in more deeply understanding demographic data in its corridor. The Greenway links some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the Delaware Watershed, including a diverse range of residents by age, race and income; 1.8 million people live within 2.5 miles of the Greenway.
March 2022: East Coast Greenway Alliance releases its four-year strategic plan
2022: 77 miles, or just over half of the East Coast Greenway, is now complete in the Delaware River Watershed, an increase of 133 percent since 2010, as the organization works to build the remaining 76 miles
Since joining the Alliance in 2017, Mid-Atlantic Manager Daniel Paschall has shown a passion for meaningful, equity-driven projects. He has represented the Alliance on the Circuit Trails Coalition’s Steering Committee and collaborated alongside other Circuit Coalition members on trail planning and development, including supporting the creation of Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Inclusionary Trail Planning Toolkit, which was released in 2019.
After identifying several barriers to outdoor access for “people of color, low-income communities, differently-abled people, youth and seniors,” the report provides tools to “help trail planners and environmental educators overcome barriers to participation in thoughtful ways.”
Paschall has continued his impactful work in the equity space, and currently helps to lead the Circuit Trails Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Task Force alongside East Coast Greenway Alliance Advisory Board member Eleanor Horne and allies at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The task force released a report on “Equity of Access to Trails” in March 2021, and Paschall and Horne shared their findings as part of the East Coast Greenway’s Impact Series in December 2021.
At the April 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional Greenways & Trails Summit, the East Coast Greenway Alliance released a comprehensive report on the impact of completing the Greenway in Greater Philadelphia. Per the report, completing the “Greenway would generate a more than ten-fold return of over $3 billion in public health, environmental and economic benefits.”
The report also cites the importances of creating equitable access to trails to assure the benefits are enjoyed by all. “With deliberate and inclusive community-based planning, trails can instead become platforms to support local economic development initiatives, such as workforce development programs and small business enterprises,” states the report.
The summit included a keynote from Mitchell Silver, then-commissioner of New York City's Parks Department and East Coast Greenway Alliance Advisory Board member, mobile workshops and 20 breakout sessions. Strong themes running through the sessions included the value of collaboration and partnerships and lifted up best practices in holistic community engagement that bring diverse community voices to the table early in the planning process.
These recent investments set the stage for the Alliance’s new strategic plan, which will guide the nonprofit through 2025.
“For too long, many lower-income communities and neighborhoods and communities of color haven’t enjoyed access to greenways and the benefits they bring,” wrote Douglass and Markatos-Soriano.
“We aim to address those historic inequities by deepening community engagement and engaging in partnerships that turn gaps into plans and designs into constructed greenways for all to enjoy” - in greater Philadelphia and beyond.
In addition to the William Penn Foundation, impactful East Coast Greenway Alliance partners in the region include those both within and connected to the Circuit Trails network and Coalition, including public sector partners at the local, state and regional level, namely the metropolitan planning organizations, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the Wilmington Area Planning Council.
Nonprofit partners across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware include: Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Clean Air Council, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Riverfront North Partnership, 9th St Youth and Community Center, D&L Heritage Corridor, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, Neighborhood Bike Works, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Bartram’s Garden, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Camden Community Partnership, Lawrence Hopewell Trail, Delaware Greenways, Bike Newark, Bike Delaware, Delaware Nature Society and many more.
The East Coast Greenway has been transformative for much of the region and has become the most visited park in America, but we are keenly aware that we aren’t done yet. In this historic infrastructure moment, we are committed to completing the Greenway and making it available for all neighborhoods and neighbors throughout our corridor. A completed East Coast Greenway and Circuit Trails network has so much potential to build community, foster public health and to improve watershed health by connecting everyone to their local stream, creek and river.
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