Let’s build a legacy together: Integrating the Greenway into our will

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Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano and his son, Leo, at Dry Creek, North Carolina

By Dennis Markatos-Soriano, Executive Director

We just witnessed the deadliest month of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and more lives are being lost than any period in over 100 years. This level of loss spurs us to reexamine what’s important. What is the best use of our time and resources? How do we approach death beyond life insurance and deciding our final resting place? What legacy do we want to leave behind?

For me, these times make me revisit guiding poetry like William Cullen Bryant’s Thanatopsis. I come out of the experience with a conviction that I want to make a positive difference in my death as in my life. Therefore, I just wrote the East Coast Greenway Alliance into my will.

I did so because the East Coast Greenway boldly addresses the issues I care about: from climate change and public health to building equitable community and raising quality of life for all to enjoy. I hope you will join me.

A generous donor will support the East Coast Greenway Alliance with a $1,000 contribution for every new addition to our Legacy Circle in 2021, up to 10 new members. Visit greenway.org/legacy for more information on helping the East Coast Greenway thrive well into the future by making a legacy gift in your will or estate plans.

Ready to make a legacy gift? Our team has developed this helpful guide of legal language for wills and trusts. Please contact Development Manager Debbie West by email or phone at 919-797-0619 x5 with questions and to let us know about your intent to honor the Greenway with a legacy gift. We’d love to hear from you!

I’m proud to join many others who are including the East Coast Greenway into their will, such as Advisory Board member and friend John Pucher. He recently shared, “greenways have been an extraordinarily important part of my life back home here in Raleigh these past 5 years since my retirement from Rutgers. And no one does more to promote greenways than ECGA, so it will be my pleasure to include ECGA in my will.”

We have accomplished a lot. The East Coast Greenway just became the most visited park in America, but it is nowhere near its potential yet. Through increased support in the years ahead, we will make our 15 states and 450 communities world-class models of health, environmental stewardship and the kind of unity that was the focus of President Biden’s inaugural address.

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Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano with climate expert Michael Oppenheimer in New York City

For Climate

I hear very often that the older generations have left the climate crisis for younger generations to deal with. But our story isn’t over. Yes, we haven’t solved the problem, but emissions are finally trending in the right direction in the U.S. Thanks to forward-thinking investments over the past several decades from Germany and Japan to here in the U.S, solar and wind have gone from expensive niche products to mainstream power that is a majority of new capacity. Coal has plunged from 55% of U.S. power in 2005 to 20% last year. Electric vehicles are beginning to take real market share, and bicycling and walking have grown substantially. As a result, the U.S. just achieved our Copenhagen commitment for carbon emissions to be at least 20% below 2005 levels in 2020.

But this decade is when we have to turn progress into transformation. Completing the East Coast Greenway and similar networks is an essential element of such a scale of emissions reduction by tackling the top emitting sector in our country, transportation. That’s why I’m including the East Coast Greenway into my will for the climate.  

For Unity and a Shared Economy

As someone who grew up in the rural South and spent time living in cities like New York, it pains me to see the level of division in our country. United we stand – or better yet, we walk, run and bike. But divided this great country could fall. I believe in the power of the East Coast Greenway to bring the wonderful mix that is the United States of America back together. I love the diversity of people enjoying greenway segments, and I hope we can develop 3,000 continuous miles of welcoming and inclusive public space to help rebuild the social fabric. We all have different experiences, different approaches, different ethnic and racial backgrounds, and different levels of economic security – and when we are the United States of America, we can leverage our different strengths into helping each other achieve our goals. Our diversity has been a key source of power as our country has been a global beacon of innovation and respect across differences. Through empathetic exploration of our history that honors the past and understands the present, we can build a better tomorrow. The East Coast Greenway is democratic space free for everyone to enjoy, and I believe the project is poised to help our country heal and recover.

By increasing quality of life for all and spurring the economic engine of the $1 trillion outdoor economy, we can generate a strong, inclusive recovery. I’m writing the East Coast Greenway into my will for unity and a shared economy.

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Philadelphia is one many East Coast Greenway cities that experienced a surge in trail use in 2020.

For Health

As COVID and the obesity epidemic increase health costs and decrease quality of life for tens of millions of Americans, the East Coast Greenway can help us get back on track. People want to exercise more, but too many don’t have the safe space to do so.

By completing the Greenway, I see us reaching 150 million bike rides, runs and walks every year by the end of the decade. The resulting exercise on our route would burn tens of billions of calories, helping millions more people in our corridor achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

And it’s not just about physical fitness. Getting the Greenway done helps improve mental health by giving people the preventive medicine of exposure to nature and interaction with others. That’s why New York Parks Commissioner and ECGA Advisory Board member Mitchell Silver calls our equitable public spaces havens of health and sanctuaries of sanity.

For physical and mental health, I’m writing the East Coast Greenway Alliance into my will.

For all these reasons and more, I have included the East Coast Greenway Alliance in my will. And I hope you will join me. This is our chance to give back to the communities and ecosystems we care about. Together, we can transform the way people move throughout the Eastern Seaboard, from daily life to long-distance travel.

As we true up our life insurance policies, care for our families and consider how we can have a lasting positive effect on the world around us, I ask you to join me in planning a legacy gift to the East Coast Greenway Alliance. No legacy gift is too small and none is too large, as the cost of completing the Greenway is more than $2 billion in infrastructure investment.

Remembering Greenway Legacy Heroes

Our legacy contributions will complement the inspiring commitments of many before us. We add our support to that of Guy Lefebvre of Rhode Island who planted the seeds of greenway progress by building some of our first greenway segments and Phil Scanlan of Florida who got the job done on Amelia Island as effectively and affably as anyone I’ve seen.  I’m inspired by the resilient family of Beth Condon who left $500,000 to build out more of the Greenway in their daughter’s memory.

Just this past month we lost Greenway heroes, including wonderful Greenway rider and supporter Lou Goetz, who enjoyed biking the route from Key West to Bar Harbor 7 years ago and whose family encouraged people to donate to the East Coast Greenway Alliance in lieu of flowers, and donor Jeff Doppelt of New York who passed away after a life full of giving generously to our route and to rail-trails all over the country. I miss these East Coast Greenway heroes and yet they stay with us in spirit and through the Greenway they made possible. They have left a remarkable legacy, and it’s our turn to build on their foundation.

Please reach out to us if you have questions regarding including the East Coast Greenway Alliance in your will: whether it’s a simple question like our EIN # (04-3326812) or a conversation to discuss how you can make the biggest difference through your Greenway legacy. More information is available at greenway.org/legacy.

It is an honor to serve with you. Together, we can make a major contribution toward the recovery of our country and our world. Let us not just be judged by the last few decades alone, but also by how we stepped up in this moment of need to build a better future.

Leaving this world, whether months or decades from now, having the East Coast Greenway in my will helps me go as poet Bryant encouraged in his last line, “Like one who… lies down to pleasant dreams.”

Wishing you and your family health, joy and peace,


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