Clayton lobbying for single-track trail in homeless forest

Jeff Clayton, alongside an informal trail in a Cape Henlopen State Park forest, says single-track riders keep forest lands clean and discourage homeless camps, drug use and other questionable activities. BY DENNIS FORNEY
September 13, 2013

When he’s not minding his store in downtown Rehoboth - Endeavor - or off in Indonesia buying next season’s merchandise, Jeff Clayton likes to climb aboard his mountain bike and ride single-track trails near and far. Single track typically refers to unpaved bicycle trails only wide enough for cyclists to ride single file. They can range from easygoing trails through meadows and forests to steep, rock- and timber-strewn trails in mountainous and hilly areas that require technical skills to navigate and safely enjoy their speed and jumps.

One of Jeff’s favorite local single-track trails is in an unheralded section of Cape Henlopen State Park forest. Located between the Tanger Outlets on the northbound side of Route 1 and the Junction and Breakwater Trail, the single-track trail winds through hardwoods and pines, up and down hills uncharacteristic for eastern Sussex County. In wet and spongy areas drained by the Munchy Branch of Holland Glade, the trail crosses at least two bridges constructed by amateur engineers of short wood pieces and poles cut from the woods. In all, the trail passes through at least a square mile of forest and makes up a loop between two and three miles.

The problem is that the trail is not an official park trail, and Clayton and others have been told to discontinue using it. “They said something about jeopardizing rare and endangered species,” said Clayton. “I don’t know about that. I’m sure they don’t like that it goes through some wet areas, but there are lot of people of all ages who have been riding this forest for a number of years who aren’t happy that now they’re being told they can’t.

“This is a healthy activity for people of all ages. I’d like to work with park officials to get a single-track trail established in here that meets their approval,” said Clayton. He is in the process of setting up a meeting with Cape Henlopen State Park Superintendent Paul Faircloth to discuss the issue. “This is an area where homeless people set up camps and use drugs,” said Clayton. “By having a trail through here, that would be discouraged, and we would also help keep the forest clean. Single-track riders work very hard at keeping natural environments clean and litter free.” On a recent tour of the trail, Clayton pointed out two abandoned camps and another active camp inhabited all summer.

Faircloth acknowledged that the isolated section of Cape Henlopen State Park where the trail is located has become a magnet for homeless people. “I do know enforcement people went in there sometime this year and arrested people on drug paraphernalia charges. The rangers are aware of the problems and are keeping an eye on the situation. The problem with the trail is that it was put in without our knowledge. We’re going to have to get past that first before we start talking about the future. We just can’t change direction quickly. As a state agency, there are processes we have to go through which means we’re not as agile as people would like us to be. I think the idea of establishing an official single-track trail in there is an interesting idea. I kind of like it. We have a single-track trail in the northern section of the park [in the woods parallel to the Herring Point road] that people like.”

Faircloth said Dave Bartoo in the Division of Parks has been helping plan out single-track trail experiences around the state. “Whether or not something goes in there - we don’t know yet.”

Meanwhile, Clayton is looking forward to his meeting with Faircloth and is keeping his hopes up. “We’re getting a great trail system around here,” said Clayton. “Adding a two- to three-mile single track this close to Rehoboth Beach would give families one more reason to come here, and return.”

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