Lewes exploring Sussex Drive and George H.P. Smith Park connection

Cape Henlopen School District partnership possible on project
March 12, 2023

Officials in Lewes are hoping to enter a partnership with Cape Henlopen School District to share the cost of a path widening near Sussex Drive. 

Frederick Thomas Middle School will soon stand on the former Shields Elementary site along Sussex Drive. As engineers designed a site plan for construction, an opportunity to connect the new middle school with Lewes Elementary, George H.P. Smith Park and a district building at the end of DuPont Avenue has presented itself.

Lewes Mayor and City Council discussed the possibility of increasing the width of 10 feet in certain areas during a Jan. 27 workshop. The increase reflects the city’s preference for multi-use paths. City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said the district’s plan includes a crosswalk on Sussex Drive to allow safe crossing from Frederick Thomas Middle School to athletic fields behind Lewes Elementary. A proposed path would run between the athletic fields before splitting around a stormwater management pond. 

Approval was given for construction of an 8-foot path up until the turn into the park, where the path is 5 feet wide. Townshend said she has talked to district officials about cost sharing. Both entities agreed the path will not be lit.

Townshend said the city is interested in the project partly because of issues that surfaced during Mariner’s Retreat path discussions. It was pointed out that residents of Highland Acres and the surrounding area have to navigate Savannah Road if they want to go downtown. The proposed path offers a less stressful network for bicyclists and pedestrians.

With talks in the preliminary stage, park commissioners and residents in the area have not yet been involved, but likely will be included soon. Officials wanted mayor and city council to discuss the proposal before advancing talks internally or with the public. There is a slight sense of urgency to accomplish something by spring because it would be more cost effective to initially build the path to an ideal width than it would be to correct it later.

Cape Henlopen School District Superintendent Bob Fulton said the district has been in conversation with the city regarding the path behind Lewes Elementary.

“Once we determine what is possible, we will be reaching out to the city to provide them an update,” he said.

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