Prisoners working to make Route 1 a little tidier

These members of the Violation of Parole unit at Sussex Correctional Institution were hard at work in the cold rain before last week's polar vortex brought us a mid-January freeze.  Shown are (l-r) Lamare Bradley, Michael McConnell, Joshua Weldin, Douglas McHolder, Shane Holmes, Brian Keech and Daryl James. BY DENNIS FORNEY
January 17, 2014

While big ideas are being discussed and debated, little ideas that can make an immediate difference can add up quickly to become a big difference.

Take Route 1 between Nassau and Dewey Beach. The main street for Delaware’s Cape Region hosts millions of motorists each year arriving in the resort area. For the past several years, Delaware’s Department of Transportation has required installation of sidewalks on both sides of the highway whenever there is new construction and entrances created. But according to Mike Nelson, traffic lieutenant at Delaware State Police Troop 7, few businesses along Route 1 other than the outlets and some of the restaurants keep those sidewalks trimmed and presentable.

A member of the Route 1 Task Force charged with coming up with ideas to make Route 1 safer, Nelson suggested a low-budget approach to cleaning up the sidewalks and making them more attractive to pedestrians. Then he went to work to make it happen. “I touched base with people I know at the prison [Sussex Correctional Institution] and at DelDOT to get manpower and tools, and then they went to work. We’re a resort, and it should feel like a resort when people are walking along Route 1.”

Over the past several weeks, men in the work-release program of the Violation of Probation unit have donned brightly colored DelDOT safety vests and shouldered shovels and edging hoes to clean up the sidewalks. Happy to be out of the confines and daily drudgery inside the razor-wire fences, they’ve been out in all kinds of weather to get the job done.

“There were sections of sidewalks that hadn’t been touched in 10 years,” said Nelson. “They were half-covered over with grass and dirt. They look a lot better now, and it cost very little. I’d like to use the resources we have at SCI more. They can help the community. There are some very talented people inside there. Contractors, for instance, who have been arrested for one thing or another. There are prison shops where amazing work is done. Maybe they could build bus shelters. There’s certainly a need for those.”

Nelson said many of the improvements planned to make Route 1 safer – such as expanded lighting and pedestrian crosswalks – won’t be in place for the 2014 summer season.

But the walkers – and cyclists who choose to escape the hairier sections by using the sidewalk, will find a more pleasant experience this coming summer because of the winter work being done by the prisoners.

Dogfish poetry book available

The 2013 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize-winning book of poems – “Necessary Myths” by Grant Clauser – is available for purchase in the Nassau Commons offices of the Cape Gazette and at the Dogfish Head brewery store in Milton.

The annual prize is sponsored by Dogfish Head and Cape Gazette.

Those who appreciate excellent and accessible poetry will enjoy Clauser’s work. In particular, those who marvel at what they see and experience outdoors and how it applies to our culture and lives will find Clauser’s work compelling.

Cost of the perfect-bound volume of 75 pages is $14.