A ceremonial ribbon was cut near the new Lewes library as officials gathered Oct. 19 to open the first phase and trailhead of the Lewes-to-Georgetown Rail with Trail.
The one-mile paved trail stretches from Gills Neck Road to Savannah Road and will eventually link Lewes with Georgetown, a distance of 17 miles. The new trail also provides a connection to the Junction and Breakwater Trail along Gills Neck Road and a safe route off heavily-traveled Savannah Road.
The $1.2 million project is a joint effort between the Delaware Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control as part of Gov. Jack Markell's First State Trails and Pathways Initiative.
DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan noted that when Markell took office nearly eight years ago, the state had six miles of trails. “Today, it's more than 500 miles,” she said.
Markell, an avid cyclist, called the first phase of the project a vision realized in a collaborative effort across state agencies. “We take pride that we are not divided by agency. The citizens are at the center of everything we do,” he said. The governor said trails not only promote healthy lifestyles but also are economic development engines that fuel tourism.
DNREC Secretary David Small said trails are perceived as amenities and reasons for people to move to areas that have them. “We are creating a destination with this trail network,” he said.
House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said many legislators were skeptical of voting for trail-construction funding. “Now they realize how nice the trails are,” he said. “We are headed on our way to Georgetown.”
Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, said the investment is made for citizens. “It's been an amazing commitment with great people. Washington should take note how we work together,” he said.
Lewes Mayor Ted Becker said the trail's proximity to the new library and the proposed community center and museum at the site of the old library provides a cultural center for trail users, and it also provides a safe link to the Junction and Breakwater Trail.
Becker thanked the Lewes community – and especially those who live along the trail route – for their patience and support. “When you work together, you can accomplish amazing things. I'm looking forward to riding from Lewes to Georgetown one day,” he said.
Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, whose district is served by the new trail, could not attend the ceremony due to a family matter. “I support the trail and see it growing with even more bells and whistles,” he said.
The City of Lewes headed up the more than $700,000 project to build the trailhead in the Lewes Public Library parking lot. It has restrooms, bike parking, a bike repair station and 39 parking spaces.
Markell said it's up to local legislators to keep the project going by providing funding for additional phases. “The state has to do these type of quality-of-life projects and has to continue to fund these projects,” Markell said.
Planning on Phase 2 from Savannah Road to Nassau is underway with no timeline set for construction, Cohan said.