New Del. trail moves economic opportunity closer for Ches. City
Connects town to Delaware City
— About 17 miles away from the Chesapeake City trailhead, Delaware City and state officials celebrated the opening of their own trail, which will soon directly connect the two municipalities and potentially their tourism industries.
With several dozen avid bicyclists watching, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Delaware
DELAWARE CITY, DEL.
City Mayor Stanley Green and numerous more officials cut the ribbon on the Delaware City Branch Canal Trail — the previously last remaining un-passable segment of the C&D Canal trail that runs from Chesapeake City’s north side to its eastern sister municipality in Delaware. A roughly 2-mile stretch of the Michael Castle Trail in Delaware will be paved by mid-August, but is currently passable to trail users.
Markell, who is an avid bicyclist and a visible proponent of the growth of cycling amenities throughout Delaware, thanked the state legislators, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Community Investment Advisory Council who helped secure the funding for the branch trail. He also announced the planned expansion of a trail system from the riverfront in Wilmington, Del., to New Castle, Del., which will link into the segment opened in Delaware City.
“Right now, to ride your
bike from Wilmington to New Castle is not a very pleasant experience. But when (the new trail) is open, you’ll be able to get there without dealing with any cars. From there, you can ride from New Castle to Delaware City on Route 9, where there are a few cars. And from here you can ride to Chesapeake City,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd of cyclists. “This fits into all the kinds of things we’re trying to do in reducing obesity, getting kids outside away from their screens where they spend so much time, bring families together for healthy activities, making it more likely that more businesses are going to want to locate nearby because their employees will have amazing amenities outside, etc.”
Delaware City Mayor Stanley Green said that Wednesday was “a snapshot in time to a humbling beginning of
Delaware City and its current status as a place to be and live.” He lauded the public health and tourism benefits that the trail connection will bring to his city.
For Carla Miners, the economic development director for Chesapeake City, the impact of the trail on her town has been obvious: she lives on Bank Street where many cyclists pass on their way from the Ben Cardin Recreational Trail trailhead to Schaefer’s Canal House.
“The impact has been great; there have been so many people out on the trail enjoying it,” she said of the 1.8-mile Maryland stretch that opened last summer. “There’s a biking group that goes to Schaefer’s every Wednesday. We can’t keep the trail brochures in town because people pick them up so quick.”
With the connection completed to Delaware City, Miners said she planned to exploit the full resource in future marketing. She will soon match up with her Delaware colleagues to assemble a guide to each mu-
nicipality, highlighting the businesses and resources available to visitors at each. She also said the town is trying to help a prospective business owner launch a bistro and bicycle repair shop in town to tap into the growing market.
At the top of her to-do list, however, is to secure a new ferry service, because the retirement of the Miss Clare has left the town’s historic business district virtually cut off from the north side trailhead. Some south-side businesses, such as the Inn at the Canal bed-and-breakfast, attract bicyclists but then must drive them over the Chesapeake City Bridge to the canal trail.
Paul Morrill, a former Delaware City city manager who was involved in the early planning for his city’s trail, said he was thrilled to see visitors using the Delaware City Branch Canal Trail even before it was officially opened.
Morrill said he “absolutely” thought that both Delaware City and Chesapeake City will see a big impact
from the completed trail’s opening.
“I think it will help both towns,” he said, noting he’s ridden the majority of the Delaware side of trail but plans to ride to Maryland when the paving is finished. “We always thought connecting the two towns would be super for both. It will draw people because they’ll come just for the trail. There aren’t that many off-road with such a great view of the ships passing through the canal and such.”
Meanwhile, Barbara Peck, an avid rider of the canal trail from Elkton, said she heard about the ribbon cutting from word of mouth and wanted to see the opening firsthand Wednesday. She said she started riding the canal trail in 2012 when Delaware opened its first segment.
Peck said she has always enjoyed exercising outdoors, but knee problems forced her to switch from running to cycling about 10 years ago. For years, Peck rode on southern Cecil County roads along with friends and fam- ily, but decided that it was growing too dangerous to continue.
“We used to park under the Chesapeake City Bridge on the south side and ride to Rock Hall, a good eight hours in the saddle,” she said. “But this is just so much safer. We’ve had bottles and cans thrown at us, nasty things said to us, and we’re not bothering anybody, we’re on the shoulder minding our own business.”
Peck said that her group of riders often stops at a business or restaurant at the end of a journey, and believes that both Delaware City and Chesapeake City will definitely see a boost in tourism from the trail.
“Schaefer’s Canal House will definitely be seeing bikers,” she said, noting that her sister is even looking for a home in Chesapeake City due to the proximity to the trail. “She loves the idea of waking up and being able to ride right out onto the trail.”
Barbara Peck, of Elkton, rides the newly-opened Delaware City Branch Canal Trail, which connects to Chesapeake City.
A cycling group takes off on the Delaware City Branch Canal Trail after it is officially opened to the public Wednesday.