January 26, 2012 2:00 AM

The Eastern Trail Alliance got its start in 1980. The idea was to provide a 65-mile public access trail from Portland to Kittery. The completion of the pedestrian bridge over I-95 in Kennebunk is testament to the hard work and successful forging of partnerships with local, state, and federal entities.

ETA has expanded its goals and is now a part of the East Coast Greenway, a trail system that stretches 3,000 miles from coastal Maine to Key West, Fla.

Each community along the way offers a connection to the project; it might be an abandoned railway system or land running parallel to a natural gas line. Many trails offer long quiet stretches for hikes or bike riding. Horses are allowed but motorized vehicles are prohibited. Not all of the trail is off-road — more about that a bit later.

The East Coast Greenway started in 1991 with the vision, “For a long-distance, urban, shared-use trail system linking 25 major cities along the eastern seaboard between Calais, Maine and Key West, Florida. It will serve non-motorized users of all abilities and ages. A 3,000-mile long spine route will be accompanied by 2,000 miles of alternate routes that link in key cities, towns, and areas of natural beauty. This green travel corridor will provide cyclists, walkers, and other muscle-powered modes of transportation with a low-impact way to explore the eastern seaboard.” Cool, eh?

ECG provides a list of 53 maps, each averaging about 53 miles of trails. Each map shows elevation levels for its coverage.

Presently, 75 percent of the Greenway is on public roads and the traveler must be aware and conscientious of roadside safety. ECG recommends that only experienced cyclists use the sections that must share the road with motorized vehicles. Recommendations are listed at the end of this article. Hikers, less experienced cyclists, and equestrians will find miles of quieter off-road trails with beautiful natural settings.

Many of the off-road trails are in rural settings but even they eventually come close to local businesses that benefit from trail users stopping in for refreshments.

Volunteers maintain the trails with funds donated, membership dues (you don’t have to be a member to use the trails), and bond initiatives for large projects.

Today we have this opportunity to offer this great legacy to future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.

Find out more about the Eastern Trail Alliance by contacting: Eastern Trail Alliance, P.O. Box 250, Saco, ME 04072 or call 284-9260 or visit

Some upcoming excursions on the trail:

  • Saco Bay Trails will conduct a snowshoe tour of the Middle Goosefare Trails and a section of the newest portion of the Eastern Trail in Saco from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 28, . Meet at the Saco Hannaford parking lot. Park on the far-right side of the lot (near where the Eastern Trail passes alongside). Snowshoe or walk, depending on snow levels. Visit
  • There will be a moonlight walk from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6, starting from Mill Brook Business Park, Route 1, Saco (across from Vacationland Bowling). Cross country ski, snowshoe or walk depending upon conditions. It’s an easy pace and those attending will vote on direction: Route 1 ET Bridge or OOB and beyond. Weather will not cancel. Optional refreshments to follow. Contact John Andrews,
  • Another moonlight walk is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, starting from the Eastern Trail access behind the Southern Maine Medical Center parking lot, Biddeford. X-country ski, snowshoe or hike depending upon conditions. Easy pace. We will proceed on the trail toward Arundel. Contact Joe Yuhas,

RJ Mere is a Registered Master Maine Guide and noted naturalist. He can be reached at

User safety recommendations from East Coast Greenway:

  • Obey all traffic laws, signals, and signs.
  • When on streets, bicyclists should travel in the same direction as motorized traffic while walkers should face traffic.
  • All cyclists should wear an approved bicycle helmet. (Helmet use may be required by local or state law.)
  • Display front and rear lights at night.
  • Share the road and trail with other users.
  • On trails, bicyclists yield to pedestrians who yield to equestrians.
  • Be courteous and notify other users when passing.
  • Travel in groups whenever possible.
  • Be constantly aware of your surroundings and limit the amount of valuables carried.
  • Carry basic tools and repair materials.
  • Have a cell phone available for emergencies.
  • Carry sufficient water or fluids for hydration.
  • Carry a local road map for orientation in case you get off track.

East Coast Greenway information can be found by contacting: East Coast Greenway Alliance, 5315 Highgate Drive, Suite 105, Durham, NC 27713 or call 919-797-0619 or e-mail

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