Gov. Jack Markell on Wednesday joined DNREC Secretary David Small, federal highway officials and community leaders and groups, to cut the ribbon officially opening the new Assawoman Canal Trail. The one-mile trail is part of a regional network of trails, sidewalks and pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists, physically linking communities that share a boundary with the trail.
“This trail is only possible because of the hard work and commitment of engaged community members who recognize that this is an opportunity to enhance the quality of life in Sussex County,” said Markell.
“It was residents in Ocean View, Bethany and South Bethany neighborhoods who saw the value of creating a trail along the Assawoman Canal and worked together with the State to turn their vision into a reality. They share our belief that investments in our trails and pathways support our overall health and wellbeing, while helping to grow our economy.”
In the works for seven years, the trail will directly connect the municipalities of Ocean View, Bethany Beach and South Bethany, and the communities of Sea Colony and Bahamas Beach Cottages.
A concept plan, developed with a team of local residents, was released in 2011, after public outreach. Project partners included Ocean View, Bethany Beach and South Bethany, residents in Bahamas Beach Cottages, Sea Colony, Salt Pond and Waterside, and DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation.
“From concept through construction, this project is an excellent model of collaboration among the community, local, state and federal governments,” said Small. “We have worked toward a common vision and implemented it.”
The Town of Ocean View was one of the key partners throughout the creation of the trail, officials noted.
“This trail is a great example of neighbors working together for the betterment of the community,” said Ocean View Mayor Walter Curran. “Gov. Markell has been a strong supporter of the State parks and trails, and with DNREC’s support and guidance, this trail is the perfect fit for Ocean View and our surrounding beach communities.”
“It is very exciting to see this first phase of the Assawoman Trail completed,” said Carol Olmstead, Assawoman Canal Trail Team member and former Bethany Beach mayor. “It is truly a collaborative effort that, in time, will connect our local neighborhoods in a unique way, providing a natural setting and a close-up glimpse of the canal and its environment for walkers and bikers.”
DelDOT, as a partner with DNREC in Markell’s State Trails & Pathways Initiative, provided trail access to Route 26 and constructed the crosswalk at Central Avenue. They will continue to partner on future phases of the canal trail.
“We are pleased to have been a partner in this project,” said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan. “Working with DNREC, we are building miles of new trails and pathways each year. These routes enable Delawareans to travel by bike and by foot. They provide exercise, recreation, and a connection to the natural world while reducing traffic and the consumption of fossil fuels.”
Trail construction costs were provided by the federal Recreational Trail Program ($786,328) and State Trail & Pathway Bond Bill funds ($169,102).
“The Assawoman Canal Trail is a great example of how communities can use federal funds to foster the growth of alternative methods of transportation for all users,” said Mary Ridgeway, Delaware division administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. “This trail, like others across the country, is providing a safe and convenient way for everyone to get around.”
Members of Delaware’s congressional delegation were unable to attend the event, but officials noted that they were instrumental in their support of the trail and were pleased to know that the trail is officially open.
“Delaware has a wonderful network of trails that provide scenic views and safe and convenient access to communities for residents and visitors alike,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. “Trails not only encourage folks to get out and get moving, but to see another part of the state that they may have overlooked before.
“The Assawoman Canal Trail is a jointly funded project between the federal and state government, with input from the communities it connects, making it truly a partnership between all levels of government, and one I am proud to support.”
“The completion of Assawoman Canal Trail is great news for the continued efforts to connect our communities,” said Sen. Chris Coons. “This trail will connect neighbors and visitors of Ocean View, Bethany and South Bethany, and promotes the walkability and the bikeability of Delaware, and I commend Gov. Markell and Secretary Small for their leadership in this area, and thank the many community leaders who provided their input to make this project a win-win.”
“Just as the Assawoman Canal links the Indian River Bay to Little Assawoman Bay, the Assawoman Canal Trail provides a vital connection for the communities of Ocean View, Bethany Beach and South Bethany,” said U.S. Rep. John Carney.
“I commend the efforts of local residents, town officials, and federal and state partners who came together to make this project a reality. Their hard work, along with the support and management of DNREC, will allow Delawareans and visitors to further enjoy another beautiful part of our state.”
The Assawoman Canal is a four-mile, 210-foot-wide linear waterway stretching from Whites Creek to Little Assawoman Bay, linking the Indian River Bay and Little Assawoman Bay. The canal property — 98.37 acres — was conveyed to DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation in 1990. The division owns and manages the property, which is part of Delaware Seashore State Park.
The sustainable, 8-foot-wide trail meanders through the property, with a uniform natural crushed-stone surface. A 20-foot vegetative buffer on either side was designed to offer residents privacy and to help prevent potential future erosion.
The trail is accessible via Town Road, Osprey Lane and Central Avenue. A small parking lot and restroom are available at the Town Road trailhead, next to Bethany Beach Surf Shop’s location in Ocean View.
The trail accommodates pedestrians and bicyclists only, and is open from 8 a.m. to sunset, seven days a week.