Lewes should budget Savannah Road trail
Lewes Mayor and Council are poised to vote on the next fiscal year budget including operating and capital improvement funds. One capital project representing a major opportunity and addressing a long-recognized need is the approximately $1.2 million streetscape and bicycle safety project proposed for Savannah Road between Lewes Beach and the drawbridge.
That project would create a separated walking and bicycling trail on the marsh side of Savannah Road along with plantings, and construct an observation platform overlooking the iconic salt marsh between Freeman Highway and Savannah Road.
Most importantly, the separated trail would provide needed relief for cyclists coming into town from Cape Henlopen State Park and Lewes Beach. Those cyclists now have to navigate a shoulder barely a foot wide. In the warm months - the height of the cycling season - cars and cyclists compete for space on that side of the roadway. It’s flat-out unsafe, especially for families and other relatively inexperienced cyclists who make up the bulk of the summer cycling population. With the impressive network of trails already in place in Lewes and the surrounding area, that population is only growing.
That’s good news. Lewes’ reputation as an ecotourism destination with lots of outdoor activities focused primarily on beaches and trails plays a major role in the city’s tourism economy. People cycling and walking the trails and enjoying watersports bring strong appetites to the town’s significant and complementary restaurant trade.
Enhancing Lewes’ network of trails, and making them safer and more attractive makes good quality of life and economic sense. Best of all, Lewes can realize all the benefits of this project while shouldering only 20 percent of the cost. The remainder would be funded by federal dollars already allocated to Delaware for alternative transportation projects. That federal money isn’t likely to last, but it’s there for now.
Lewes Mayor and Council in 2015 unanimously endorsed this project concept. They should now strike while the iron is hot, approve the necessary budget dollars to seal the deal, and show state officials they want to continue to work on partnership projects like those already proven so fruitful.