Despite the protests of nearby residents, Milton Town Council voted 5-1 vote to install conduits and box lights along the new Rails to Trails extension.
Town Manager Kristy Rogers said she needed to know whether council desired lights at the trail so she could include the conduits in plans and seek funding. At council’s June 3 meeting, Mayor Ted Kanakos said once the trail is built, installing conduits for lighting will become more expensive. Rogers said the lights will cost $175,000 and then $6,000 per year, or $500 per month, to maintain. Delmarva Power will install the lights and provide the fixtures, while the town will maintain them. Rogers said she plans to seek grants to cover the additional costs.
Rogers said Delaware Department of Transportation, which is funding the $1 million trail construction, mandates that the trail, which runs from Federal Street to Lavinia Street, be open 24 hours a day, and trails in Delaware municipalities generally have lights. Having a gate at the entrances was discussed, but council decided it would not deter people from using the trail. Rogers said the other portion of the Rails to Trails, from Chestnut Street to Federal Street, already has lighting.
Rogers said the lights will not be in the streetlight style, but will be box-style lighting that will project forward and down, not into houses.
“I think it is important for safety and security to have it lit,” she said. “I do empathize with the opposition, but I do think lighting is important.”
Public Works Director Greg Wingo also supported lights, expressing concerns about security.
“We need to have lights on this trail,” he said.
Milton police Chief Robert Longo said, “The trail is going to be used day or night, just like our parks. We catch people in there at night, and the light helps us. I truly believe that it is to the betterment of our community and anybody else using it that we put some lighting out there.”
Speaking against the lighting were Wagamon’s West Shores residents concerned the lights would shine into their homes and attract people at all hours of the day. The residents do not oppose the trail itself, but they did not want lighting along the trail.
Alex Donnan, 103 Pond Drive, opposed lights because they invite usage and people. He also said the project was too costly.
Council discussed the possibility of solar lights, but the concern is that there would not be enough sunlight to power the lights through the night. Wingo said to get solar lights that would work properly, the town would need to have additional land. He said solar was explored, but it would be cost prohibitive.
Donnan agreed, saying solar lights were a good possibility, but it is uncertain that there would be enough light to power them. Still, he opposed lights on the trail.
“It’s another expense for something that has fairly minimal attraction. A 1,600-foot road that goes from one street to one street, you’re there,” he said.
Donnan said if the town were to have lights, they should use bollard lights that would not require high poles and would reduce light pollution. He said the town should test different lights to see what will work before choosing the lights.
Donald Mazzeo, 113 Isle Lane, said he was opposed because of the cost of the project.
“It’s not necessary. In my opinion, lighting should not be installed, nor should we be footing the bill for the electricity,” he said.
Edward Broskos, 238 West Shore Drive, said he opposed the lighting because it will be too close to the back of his home and will give people at night an open view of his house.
Roy Turci, 212 West Shore Drive, said, “Let’s leave the Rails to Trails as what it was designed for: a daytime-only trail.” Turci said 75 members of the Wagamon’s West Shores civic association met and were almost unanimous in not wanting lighting on the trail.
Marsha Summers, 214 West Shore Drive, said, “No one seems to be listening to the ones that live there. That’s what’s frustrating. This seems like a foregone conclusion.”
Council members went back and forth on the issue. After listening to residents, Councilman Sam Garde at first said he would vote against having lights on the trail. But he later changed his mind, voting in favor of the lights as long as they did not cause a nuisance for residents. Councilman Emory West said he was undecided on whether to have the lights but ultimately voted in favor. Kanakos was the only no vote.
Councilmen Michael Cote and Rich Baty both agreed with town administration and supported lights from the get-go.
Councilman Kevin Kelly said, “You have a place where people can walk and ride and recreate. What happens when it’s dark? It’s still a place where people have access. It still provides a place where gathering can occur, but without some kind of indicator. By illuminating it, you reduce that risk. That is a responsibility that government has.”