By Jessica Reid, Communications Intern
Kristine Keeney combines her transportation, planning and political science background with a passion for bicycle and pedestrian safety to advocate for and coordinate the development of an off-road biking and walking route from Maine to Florida as the New England Coordinator for the East Coast Greenway Alliance.
In this role, she manages trail development and advocacy by using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to update trail routes, coding and tracking project development and coordinating amongst state, regional and local organizations in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to advance the development of the Greenway.
Based in Maine, Keeney has played a key role in the East Coast Greenway’s ongoing Greenway Stimulus campaign, which calls for significant federal infrastructure investment in greenway and trail connectivity and has been supported by more than 150 organizations from around the country. She has connected with the offices of several Congressional representatives from New England and has received positive responses from Senator Susan Collins in Maine, Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, and Senator Shelton Whitehouse in Rhode Island, as well as Representatives from each of those states, including Chellie Pingree (ME-1), Chris Pappas (NH-1), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) and Jim Langevin (RI-2). Keeney hopes these leaders will formally support the stimulus effort in Congress.
Keeney’s passion for the outdoors and biking as a sustainable form of transportation led to her desire to expand trails and work with the East Coast Greenway Alliance. She began commuting by bike when she lived in Boston after college and during graduate school. She found it daunting to ride a bike in heavy traffic in downtown Boston when she had not been on a bike since she was young.
“I realized how great and how unsafe it was and how there was so little infrastructure dedicated to biking and walking,” said Keeney. It was these first experiences commuting by bike that Keeney became a bike advocate.
Just recently, she learned about someone killed on a bike near her home in Maine and another person killed while biking in New Hampshire week in less than a one-week span.
“That to me is totally unacceptable and is completely preventable, and I have no problem telling people that. There are very few people who understand and care about that kind of stuff and know how we can fix it. While it's very frustrating that so little progress is made when there's so much to do, I'm really fortunate to have the ability to be that person to do this work and keep pushing for change,” said Keeney.
When she first became interested in bike advocacy, she realized she needed to learn more about the technical aspects of biking and walking infrastructure, so she earned a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University in Boston. She previously earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and international affairs from American University in Washington, D.C.
Before joining the Greenway staff, Keeney worked at the municipal level. She has served as Community Planner for the Mad River Valley Planning District in Vermont and Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Coordinator for the City of Portland, Maine.
While working at the municipal level, Keeney noticed many organizations competed for the same resources when they could make larger impacts through coordinated efforts. She wondered, “How can we better work together and accomplish all of our goals at once?”
Her role at the Greenway lets her join forces with many community partners. She said managing four states was intimidating, but she has found a rhythm and is effectively collaborating with the right people to make progress on projects.
Originally from the New Haven, Connecticut, area, Keeney enjoys exploring trails on the north and south ends of the Maine coast. She loves the Calais Waterfront Walkway in northern Maine because of the “cute covered bridge that has a Greenway sign on it” and the Eastern Trail in southern Maine with its beautiful tidal marshes in Scarborough. She also loves trails in Miami like The Underline, a trail that travels underneath an active rail line and was recently awarded a federal BUILD grant.
Although she likes biking for transportation or to adventure to new places, she is passionate about other outdoor activities. Her favorite way to spend her free time is to go downhill and backcountry skiing, aiming for more than 100 days per year on the snow. In addition, she enjoys canoeing the rivers and lakes in Maine and has nearly completed the 740-mile long distance Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge, New York, to Fork Kent, Maine.
Keeney understands the importance of the outdoors and is glad that she gets to promote it daily as an East Coast Greenway regional coordinator.
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