New walking trails proposed
Officials propose new biking, walking trail
Joggers, cyclists and walkers of the Cape Region could have a new trail to explore: the Half Moon Trail, a proposed system of pathways that would span 16.8 miles from Cape Henlopen State Park to Georgetown.
Delaware Greenways »
Combined with the Junction & Breakwater Trail, the Half Moon Trail would offer more than 35 miles of trail between Rehoboth Beach and the county seat.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to create a first-class rail-trail system for Sussex County,” said Mark Chura, executive director of Delaware Greenways, which is championing the project with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT).
Chura came before Lewes mayor and council Monday, May 10, to pitch the idea. Lewes, he later explained, will form the hub of the proposed network.
“Lewes is kind of in the center of this, and we want to hear what people have to say,” he said. “We want to address their concerns, and if they have ideas we haven’t thought of, we want to hear those too.”
DelDOT planner Bobby Geier said funds are available for a preliminary study for the first phase, which runs along the rails between Monroe Avenue and Old Orchard Road. She said the second phase stretches between Nassau Vineyards and Cool Spring.
So much of the project is undecided, Chura said, and most details are far from final. He said the trail will likely be 10 feet wide, the same width as the blacktop trails running through Cape Henlopen State Park.
Whether the new trail will be blacktopped or cinder, like Junction & Breakwater Trail, is undecided. Chura said both options have distinct advantages and disadvantages – runners, for instance, favor cinder, a soft path, easy on the joints. But cinder rules out strollers and road bikes with pencil-thin tires, which require the firm, smooth surface of blacktop. Chura said he’s happy to leave the decision up to area residents.
“In the end, that’s a public decision,” he said. “The challenge is, when you’re building these trails, making sure that whatever surface you use, you’re not excluding users.”
In addition to giving area residents a new footpath to explore, the Half Moon Trail would preserve the land around the rails. In the future, should the state consider a light rail system, the line will be ready.
“In the long term, there’s still the rail line in place,” Chura said. “Once you establish something as a rail trail, it’s difficult to get it back.”
Chura said the project is in the earliest planning stages. He said it could take four to eight years to complete. “You’d like to think we can move faster,” he said, “but I think that’s a reasonable target that we can hopefully exceed.” Right now, he said, officials are scouting locations for trailheads and parking areas.
This will likely mean working with private landowners; that’s why they started reaching out to the public so early, Chura said.
Geier said individual segments could be completed as they’re funded – but construction funding would likely be the project’s biggest obstacle. While blacktopping a nearly 17-mile trail is an expensive proposition, Chura said the money is out there.
“It’s an interesting time,” he said. “Over the last couple of years, there are trail projects under construction funded with stimulus money.”
Chura said project officials would be scouting out competitive grants as the project progressed.
If they’re lucky, he said, they could fund the majority of the project with grants.
“They won’t necessarily pay 100 percent,” he said, “but in a lot of cases they’ll pay 80 percent.”
Chura, a Lewes resident, said the time he spent working on the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail has convinced him of the need for something similar in Sussex County.
“This is something I’ve looked at for decades and said – it’s all here,” he said. “There are wonderful places to walk and bike here. We need to make these places accessible and open to the public.”
In the near future, he said, Delaware Greenways will post a schedule of public hearings and forums on its website. Those wishing to offer input should check delawaregreenways.org.
“This is the beginning of a long process,” he said. “What we’re looking at now is advancing this and finalizing conceptual plans
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