Lawsuit is delaying Junction-Breakwater work

Trail extension put on hold until case is settled
A section of the Junction and Breakwater Trail runs through the Hawkseye community. BY RON MACARTHUR
September 7, 2013

A lawsuit is still holding up trail work in the Lewes area.

Two Breakwater Estates homeowners filed suit against the Delaware Department of Transportation this past spring claiming an easement for part of an extension of the Junction and Breakwater Trail along the border of their property did not legally exist. State officials contend all easements were secured and had scheduled work to begin in the spring. Once the lawsuit was filed, money for the project was shifted to other trail projects.

The extension would connect Gills Neck Road with Kings Highway and Freeman Highway in Lewes running along the border of Breakwater Estates.

DelDOT Deputy Attorney General Fritz Schranck said the state has answered the complaint in Court of Chancery and filed for discovery on the part of the plaintiffs. “We are not aware of any additional activity on their part regarding the lawsuit,” said DelDOT spokesman Geoff Sundstrom.

Andrew Taylor, the plaintiff's attorney, said he is in the discovery phase of the litigation with the state. No trial date has been set.

“The proposed 15-foot wide public access easement was never granted or recorded,” the lawsuit alleges. “In the response from the state to our lawsuit, they did not indicate a clear legal basis for an easement for a bike trail in Breakwater,” Taylor said.

The extension is part of a master plan to develop a trail loop connecting resort towns and eventually intersecting with the proposed Georgetown-to-Lewes trail. Another extension is planned to connect Gordon's Pond with Herring Point within Cape Henlopen State Park.

State planners have been working on the extension for several years in an effort to get bicycle and pedestrian traffic off Gills Neck Road. Although not part of the Junction and Breakwater Trail, the road is heavily used by cyclists, runners and walkers as a link to connect Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.

Residents along Gills Neck Road have expressed concerns because the narrow road has no shoulders with a blind, S-curve, presenting serious safety hazards.

The plaintiffs, Steven Napiecek and Robin Zoltek, wanted all work stopped on the project until the matter could be adjudicated.