Guest Post: David Grant

November 7, 2008

The Program staff at Dodge spend most of their days criss-crossing the state to meet with nonprofit groups and leaders. Naturally, they hear many inspiring stories, most of which aren’t publicly shared, despite deserving public recognition. The Dodge blog offers us the best opportunity yet to share these stories with you in a timely way.

As we are currently reviewing environment proposals, here’s an attempt to shine some (richly-deserved) light on the people and organizations making a difference in New Jersey’s environmental community. Our first story comes from President and CEO David Grant, who took an eye-opening bike ride with the folks of the East Coast Greenway Alliance.

Biking the East Coast Greenway

On a beautiful October Sunday, my wife Nancy and I biked eleven or twelve miles along the East Coast Greenway through Union County, then retraced our steps back to the Rahway train station, where we had left our car. It was a revelation.

Those of us who spend too much time stewing in our cars on New Jersey roads – which includes most of us who live here – might be forgiven for thinking it would be even harder to get around by bicycle. But we should all know about an ambitious vision to create what some have called a “sister Appalachian Trail,” a 3,000 mile walking and biking trail system through urban and suburban centers the length of the East Coast. Over 30 million people live along or near its route.

In New Jersey, the East Coast Greenway is mapped for 78 miles, from the Calhoun Street Bridge in Trenton to Penn Station in Newark (where you have to turn to the train to get you to Jersey City). By the time it is finished, it will include the tough stretch from Newark to Jersey City and give riders the option of continuing up the west side of the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge – a total of 92 miles.

The ingenuity of the ECG design and the beauty of its route are revealed as the trail meanders through Union County. The route connects a series of parks along the Raritan River designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmstead. Where there are gaps between parks, it finds quiet neighborhood routes well known to local bikers. Just the idea of the ECG has inspired a remarkable level of cooperation and coordination between ECG volunteers, the NJ Department of Transportation, and municipal and county governments – and things are getting done. We were riding with Mike Dannemiller, New Jersey’s ECG Trails Committee Chair, and Annette Schultz, a planning consultant and volunteer Committee member; whenever we would get to a freshly paved bike path, one of them would remark, “This wasn’t here six months ago.”

Also with us were Mike and Anne Kruimer, whom I have come to think of as the first couple of New Jersey cycling. Mike is currently co-chair of the New Jersey ECG Committee. Some years ago, Anne was hit by a car while riding her bike and was paralyzed from the waist down. Undaunted, Mike and Anne had a bike built where she could sit on the front and propel a chain with her arms, while Mike pedaled and steered in the rear. Together on this bike they rode the length of the existing and proposed East Coast Greenway from Maine to Florida. One of the great aspects of our ride through Union County last month was seeing people wave admiringly or honk their horns with a thumbs-up to Mike and Anne.

Stay tuned for stories from Environment Program Director Michelle Knapik as well as the rest of our Program staff. We encourage you to comment on these stories, and you can expect us to join in on the conversation as well.