The 3.2-mile second phase of the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail will be named in honor of Sussex County broadcasting pioneer and bicycling enthusiast Thomas Draper.
Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan along with local legislators and the Draper family made the announcement Nov. 13 at the Lewes Senior Center, where an informational kiosk containing a biography of Draper and map of the area will be placed along the trail.
“When Tom passed away, a part of me went with him,” said his childhood friend Rep. Harvey Kenton, R-Milford. “Tom loved to bike, and he loved the outdoors. He had a passion for exercise and being outdoors. He was such a giving and caring person.”
Draper died from injuries sustained in a crash Sept. 7, 2017, when he was hit by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle on Slaughter Neck Road. He was 76 years old.
“This is a very positive outcome to a very tragic situation,” said Draper’s son Hank. “This puts a smile to our faces and warms our hearts. It’s very touching.”
He said his father enjoyed bicycling, especially for the health benefits, but the routes to ride in Sussex County are not always safe.
“To have a trail where you can be safe and enjoy Sussex County is a great thing,” he said. “We are happy to be a part of it.”
The idea for the honor came from Kenton, and he approached Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, shortly after Draper’s death. Schwartzkopf said that although he and Draper didn’t get off on the right foot, they learned to work together and respect one another.
“This is something done out of respect for the man himself and the family,” Schwartzkopf said. “It’s just the right thing to do. It’s the place where he’d love to be. His name out there on this trail is just so totally appropriate.”
Draper was a broadcasting fixture in Sussex County, purchasing his first radio station, WTHD in Milford, in 1967. In 1972, he acquired another Milford station, WAFL-FM. Then in 1980, Draper and a group of investors purchased WBOC-TV. He would eventually become the sole owner of the television station.
Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, described Draper as one of the kindest men he’d ever met, and naming the trail in his honor celebrated his life and one of his passions.
“We’re here to celebrate the beauty of connections in Sussex County,” he said. “This trail, which will be here for generations and generations to come, is another connection for the people of Sussex County, for families to enjoy and people to exercise.”
The Nov. 13 ceremony was to also serve as groundbreaking for the second phase of the newly named Draper Trail, but poor weather forced the event indoors. A-Del Construction was awarded the contract to extended the 10-foot-wide trail 3.2 miles from Savannah Road in Lewes under the Nassau Bridge and out to Sweetbriar Road west of Red Mill Pond. The project is anticipated to cost $1.27 million and is expected to open spring/summer 2019.