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Close the Gaps ride promotes completion of East Coast Greenway

Cyclists to raise awareness of this "urban Appalachian Trail" on a 100-mile journey.

From the East Coast Greenway
June 2007

poster for trail
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage National Recreation Trail will be part of the East Coast Greenway
Between June 13 and June 15, 2007, four East Coast Greenway Alliance Trustees and Advisors, along with a crew of trail advocates and journalists, will cycle from Baltimore, MD to Washington, DC on a segment of the East Coast Greenway, the nation's first long-distance, urban, multi-use trail for non-motorized users. The cyclists will stop several times along their journey for ceremonies and meetings with town officials, including Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer, and trail advocates to celebrate the trail's progress, promote its use as a recreational and tourism destination and encourage communities to continue working to close gaps in the trail.

Frequently referred to as the urban sister to the Appalachian Trail, the East Coast Greenway (ECG) crosses 15 states plus Washington, D.C. and links the major cities of the eastern seaboard utilizing scores of urban greenways, park paths, abandoned railroad corridors, and waterfront esplanades. The East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA) is the national non-profit spearheading the project.

The Close the Gaps ride accomplishes two goals: letting the public know that the route is ready for widespread use and raising awareness of the gaps that still exist in the trail. The Baltimore to DC segment was chosen because it showcases the full scope and appeal of the East Coast Greenway by passing through a region rich in history and culture, through cities, small towns and countryside, and is accessible by mass-transit.

ECGA Board Chair Chuck Flink says the "Close the Gaps Ride will demonstrate the effectiveness of the East Coast Greenway as an affordable, close-to-home resource that can be used for tourism, recreation, health and wellness. This is the type of trail that residents can use on a daily basis for commuting, or can use with their family for a weekend get-a-way. The 100-mile Baltimore-to-Washington corridor links residents and tourists to some of the most attractive regional landscapes and destinations, including the Inner Harbor, BWI Airport, the B&A Trail Planet Walk, the Annapolis Waterfront, Washington's Union Station and the National Mall."

This tour is very timely as the appeal of long distance trails is growing. Rising gas prices and increased public awareness of health issues has encouraged trail groups to join forces to promote trail use as a way of life. Robert Searns, National Chair of American Trails and a tour participant states that "Long distance trails are becoming increasingly popular across the nation and abroad. Linking cities and states together with corridors like the East Coast Greenway will offer a new way to experience the American landscape and culture. These routes also serve local communities, offering recreational and fitness opportunities that bring in tourism dollars and many other benefits. American Trails heartily endorses the important work of the East Coast Greenway and the Close the Gaps Ride."

Now 22 percent complete as a car-free path with another 45 percent in or pending development, trail organizers have taken the next step forward in the Greenway's evolution, identifying the gap areas-- segments where there is no easily-identifiable way to move the trail off of the road-- and working closely with communities to create solutions for filling in the gaps.

"The East Coast Greenway is our legacy for the future. We know that this project will re-define the map of America," says Jeff Olson, ECGA Advisory Board member and tour participant. "100 years from now, our neighborhoods, our cities, our nation will be connected by Greenways. Our world faces many problems &endash; global warming, energy dependence, loss of community, declining health... the East Coast Greenway is part of the solution. This is why we must 'close the gaps.'"

Organizers hope to use this tour to showcase the East Coast Greenway as a way to counteract many of today's ills. "Lots of folks say America is facing an obesity epidemic. But a closer look shows that obesity is just the tip of a chronic disease iceberg," says Mark Fenton, ECGA Board Vice Chair and nationally renowned walking expert. "The real problem is an underlying epidemic of physically inactive lifestyles, which is a risk factor for all of those things that shorten our lives. The East Coast Greenway, and the spurs and connector trails it is spawning, is just what the doctor ordered to help get Americans moving again. And we're not just talking about recreation and exercise, but more routine activity such as walking children to school and riding your bike to work or for errands. That's why it's so important we close the gaps-- so this trail helps make those key connections between where we all live, work, play, learn, and shop."

What does this event mean for travel and exercise enthusiasts? Simply that they, too, can cycle walk, skate or rollerblade from Baltimore to Washington, DC... or all the way from the Canadian border to Key West.

For more information on the East Coast Greenway, this Close the Gaps ride, or how you can get involved with the project, please visit the trail's web site at www.greenway.org.

 

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