Pre-Christmas walk shows ducks and trail ribbons

The northern extension of the Junction and Breakwater Trail will empty onto Gills Neck Road in Lewes just below the Freeman Highway bridge. BY DENNIS FORNEY
December 28, 2012

A pre-Christmas walk last weekend between the north end of Cape Henlopen State Park and Rehoboth Beach found 500 ducks or more – looking a lot like teal and black ducks – scattered across Gordons Pond. The walking trail goes three-quarters of the way around the shallow pond covering hundreds of acres of coastal lowlands.

At the north end of the walk, near the Herring Point parking area and the extensive system of salt marsh trails, lots of blue and red plastic ribbons hang from the branches of scrub oaks and sassafras trees. My guess is they mark the alignment of the bicycle and walking trail being designed to connect the hardened section of the Gordons Pond Trail north of Rehoboth Beach with the hardened system of trails at the north end of the park. Those trails will intersect in the pine woods near Herring Point. Once complete, the extended connection will create a loop of more than 20 miles of trails with Lewes to the northwest and Rehoboth Beach to the southeast. That loop trail with two village resorts at each end will also include the Junction and Breakwater Trail on the west side of Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.

Actual construction work on the Gordons Pond connector is expected to begin in 2013. It would be awesome if that work could begin in the early spring with completion by our beautiful coastal fall season.

Junction and Breakwater extension

On the Junction and Breakwater side of the loop, work will likely begin early next spring on the extension of the trail at the Lewes end so bicyclists can avoid the curvy, narrow and dangerous Gills Neck Road. That road now provides the most popular route for bicyclists riding between the Hawkseye end of the trail and downtown Lewes.

Jeff Niezgoda, DelDOT's program manager for the Markell administration's First State Trails Initiative, said the state opened bids last week for a bundle of four trail projects in Kent and Sussex counties including the Junction and Breakwater Trail extension. He expects the contract to be awarded in the next few weeks after the apparent low bid is analyzed. Work on that extension, said Niezgoda, could begin by April with completion in six or eight months. The extension will begin at the Hawkseye end of the trail, where it intersects with Gills Neck Road, and cross into the northern edge of the Breakwater development until it meets the southern edge of the proposed Showfield development, just north of Bay Breeze. The extension will cross into land along Freeman Highway owned by Delaware River and Bay Authority and then follow the east side of the highway until it approaches Freeman Highway bridge. Where the bridge goes up, the trail will follow the toe of the embankment down to Gills Neck Road where riders and walkers will then turn left and cross under the bridge on their way into Lewes.

Niezgoda said he also expects design and permitting work to be complete by October 2013 for the first segment of the Lewes-to-Georgetown rail-with-trail project. The first segment of the new trail will be constructed between Gills Neck Road and Savannah Road in Lewes with completion in 2014, if anticipated funding is received.

Niezgoda said he believes the rail-with-trail project is the first of its kind in Delaware. Over the next few years, several more segments of the trail will be built to take it from Savannah Road to Nassau. The state is still looking at construction of a major trailhead with lots of parking near the Nassau overpass of Route 1. People coming south on Route 1 would be able to park at the trailhead and ride into Lewes, or use the trailhead proposed for the Thompson property just purchased by Lewes for that purpose and a new library.

The trail system serving Delaware's Cape Region is coming more clearly into focus every month. Niezgoda said when he travels around the country to management conferences, his colleagues are amazed at the dollars being spent in Delaware on trails. “Most states can't even come up with the matching money to leverage federal dollars available for these kind of projects. We always figure out a way to get our hands on it,” said Niezgoda.