Gordons Pond connector, major inlet improvements starting

October 18, 2013

Two major trail and park improvement projects that will provide a real boost to Sussex County’s tourism industry, and general quality of life for residents and visitors, are underway or about to begin.

Work on the connector trail between the southerly Gordons Pond end of Cape Henlopen State Park and the Herring Point area to the north started this week. That work will be evident next Friday, Oct. 25, when Gov. Jack Markell, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara and other state officials gather for an official groundbreaking for the long-awaited project.

Conventional Builders Inc. out of Houston, Delaware won the contract for the project with a bid of $2.8 million. A subcontractor, Thompson and Sons Contractors, went to work this week clearing pine trees off an acre-sized parcel near the Herring Point end of the connector trail. That will be home to a sorely needed parking lot for the trail and the Herring Point area so popular with surfers, boogie boarders, skimboarders and other sun worshippers.

Pat Cooper, park administrator for Delaware’s coastal region, said the contract for the connector trail calls for its completion by no later than May 8, 2014. He said this week, however, that the contractor expects to finish by sometime in April so long as winter weather doesn’t get too unruly.

The project will harden the Gordons Pond Trail beyond the elevated overlook at the south end. The trail from the Gordons Pond parking lot is already hardened for cyclists and walkers to the overlook. The section to be hardened is an unimproved World War II-era road skirting the western edge of Gordons Pond, which turns eastward along the north edge of the shallow pond toward the dunes and ocean.

The new section to be created with this project will include a 2,400-foot boardwalk just west of and parallel to the innermost dunes. Mounted on screw pilings, the boardwalk will cross sections of salt marsh before connecting with the trail system already in place in the northern end of the park.

The connector trail, when combined with other trails at the north end of Cape Henlopen State Park and the Junction and Breakwater Trail west of Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, will complete a loop trail of at least 18 miles.

At Indian River Inlet . . .

Meanwhile, down the coast in the Indian River Inlet section of Delaware Seashore State Park, an even larger project is about to commence. There, a $10 million initiative will transform state land on both sides of the inlet from a construction zone supporting the Indian River Inlet bridge project to a major outdoor recreational area for the state. Cooper said preconstruction meetings will be held next week with Daisy Construction out of Newport, Delaware, which won the bid for the project.

That project will include new and expanded campgrounds on both sides of the inlet, and a waterfront trail and lighted promenade providing safe walking and bicycling all the way from Indian River Marina on the north side to the area’s larger campground on the south side. Also included are an expanded bath house and parking area at the ocean beach on the south side of the inlet and a number of pavilions providing sun and rain protection for fishermen and walkers on both sides of the inlet. Cooper said the state expects the bulk of the work to be complete by Memorial Day weekend with special emphasis on the campground along the south side of the inlet. Work on the campground on the north side of the inlet may take a little longer.

These two projects, which many people will combine for cycling and camping adventures, will only expand the Delaware Cape Region’s reputation as a significant outdoors destination.

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