A unique network of trails, the East Coast Greenway winds through city limits and over state lines
Snaking through cities, mountains, and forests, the East Coast Greenway isn’t a usual walking path or biking trail. It was created in 1991 under the East Coast Greenway Alliance as a vision for a safe, long-range trail reaching from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida. “You can think of it much like the Appalachian Trail, except this trail is really designed to go through the population centers where people live,” says Dick Woodbury, a member of the East Coast Greenway Alliance Board of Trustees. The East Coast Greenway was created as a pedestrian and biker oasis: a safe haven from cars in urbanized areas and a clean and discrete trail system in rural areas. One-third of the Greenway has been completed, with some trails on-road and paved, and others off-road and gravel. Once finished, the East Coast Greenway will span 3,000 connective miles.
Maine has made ample progress on its end of the trail. Some of the currently completed sections in Maine include the Calais Waterfront Walkway, the Down East Sunrise Trail in Washington and Hancock Counties, the Brewer Riverwalk, the Kennebec River Rail Trail in Augusta, the Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path in Brunswick, the Beth Condon Memorial Pathway in Yarmouth, the Eastern Promenade Trail in Portland, and the Eastern Trail in Kennebunk. The 87-mile Down East Sunrise Trail is the longest continuous stretch of the Greenway. It connects coastal Calais and Ellsworth on former logging roads that run through the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. The organization is still working to connect some communities, such as those between Brunswick and Augusta. “There’s an unused rail corridor that, if repurposed for this, could happen quickly,” says Woodbury. But the Greenway is dependent on a range of sources for funding and approval. Trail creation is a multi-step process, and two bills are currently in front of the Maine legislature that would lay the groundwork for more trails. If approved, the alliance will need to secure funding from private investors, local communities, and the Maine Department of Transportation. It’s uncertain how long it will take to fully connect the trail network, but with 1,000 miles already complete across 15 states, and roughly 50 miles added each year, there are plenty of routes up and down the East Coast to explore right now.