It’s official. Groundbreaking for Gordons Pond Trail extension and improvements took place Oct. 25, with politicians and state officials symbolically digging in to initiate the project.
Parked nearby were real, heavy-duty ground breakers used earlier in the week to clear vegetation and move earth for a trail parking lot.
Secretary Collin O’Mara, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Gov. Jack Markell; and Sen. Tom Carper spoke to nearly 100 people who came to the event.
“When you think about the improvements to this park over the last four years, they really are staggering. A new playground; we needed a new sewer system; and we needed to replace a 50-year-old pier. A lot of great investments,” O’Mara said.
He said improving and extending the trail adds to Cape Henlopen State Park’s attraction as one of the most likable parks in the state and perhaps in the coastal the region.
At a cost of about $3 million, the project will result in 2.75 miles of improved trail connecting Gordons Pond, near Rehoboth Beach, to Herring Point near Lewes. Money for the project comes from the 2012 bond bill as part of Markell’s First State Trails and Pathways Initiative.
The 15.5-mile loop the trail creates will be the longest loop trail south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
The trial’s alignment and design protects rare plant and animal species and archaeological sites from users trying to negotiate the section where it is primitive and unmarked.
An approximately 900-linear-foot, elevated boardwalk, a unique trail feature, will span an environmentally sensitive wetland. The 8-foot boardwalk will span dunes and marsh at variable heights of 2-to-9-feet.
The trail is accessible to handicapped people and it will be open year-round.
Markell said projects such as Gordons Pond Trail and the 9-mile Michael N. Castle Trail in New Castle County, are why Delaware in four years, moved from 34th to fifth place on the Bicycle Friendly States list compiled by the League of American Bicyclists. Only Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota outrank the First State.
O’Mara thanked Scott Green, Delaware River and Bay Authority executive director, saying Green was one of the first people to tell him about the project when he took the position four years ago.
“Scott’s a huge champion of the parks system and he’s done and incredible job at the Delaware River and Bay Authority. One of the things that he’s done is stay connected to this initiative,” O’Mara said.
The bay authority owns and operates the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, Delaware Memorial Bridge and New Castle County Airport. Green, O’Mara said, has been thinking about ways the ferry might be better linked to nearby trails.
Markell said O’Mara has done an outstanding job with initiatives that have improved air quality in Delaware more than in any other state. He said Carper has been a quality of life advocate for years. “He understands more than anybody what these kinds of investments mean to our tourism economy and how much they mean to people in Sussex County and in Delaware,” Markell said.
Charles Salkin, outgoing director of DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation, received special thanks from everyone for his 35 years of state service, including 21 years as parks division director.
“He started when he was 12,” joked Carper, who said he would talk about Salkin on the Senate floor so his name would then be in black-and-white in the Congressional Record.