For the last 16 years a group of trails and cycling advocates have worked largely in obscurity to create a vision for an “urban Appalachain Trail”: a 3,000 mile off-road trail from Key West, Florida to Calais, Maine for bikers and hikers. Headquartered in the Rhode Island-based East Coast Greenway Alliance, the trail’s backers work with hundreds of local agencies and organizations to stitch together existing and proposed trails into one coherent whole. The national group will serve as a liaison between local groups, monitor trail conditions, and provide uniform signage for local trails (like the sign shown here).
Despite the obvious formidable challenge of constructing a 3,000-mile long trail through 16 states and over 25 major cities, the group has made surprising progress – 21% of the trail has been completed as an off-road route. In their 2006 State of the Trail Report the group summarizes their goals and progress by region. Much work remains for our region: in Virginia they haven’t moved beyond identifying a corridor for most of the state, Washington, D.C. is waiting for the completion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail to connect the existing bits, and while Maryland has segments completed others are still on the drawing board.
Nonetheless, in 2005 Wil Hyton biked the full length of the trail for a feature story in GQ and posted updates to a blog along the route, and in 2007 the group hopes to unveil a continuous route connecting the completed trail segments with an officially-designated on-road route. Upon reaching the trail’s northern terminus at the Canadian boarder, Wil reflected on the concept of the trail. Calling it “long overdue and brilliantly simple,” urging readers to “Chip in, any way you can. Make a tiny contribution, or volunteer some time, or whatever little thing you want. Or if you can’t do anything now, do it when you can. The Greenway is worth it.”
Interested in other multi-state trails in the U.S.? This blogger found quite a few to start your search, including the American Discovery Trail, the Continential Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail.