The recreation trail planned along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (C&D Canal) is on its way to becoming a reality. Delaware’s Congressional delegation joined state and local officials and biking and hiking enthusiasts at the foot of the St. Georges Bridge for the trail’s official groundbreaking. As part of the event, Delaware U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons and U.S. Representative John Carney announced that the planned 16-mile trail will be named after one of its biggest champions, former Delaware Congressman and Governor Michael Castle.
Ground broken on Michael Castle Trail at C&D Canal
C&D Canal Trail Named for Mike Castle:
More from groundbreaking and trail naming announcement.
“Maybe somebody gave him the idea, but he pushed it and pushed it for years, and deserves a lot of credit” said Sen. Carper.
“As this C&D Canal greenway lies like an emerald necklace across the throat of the Delmarva peninsula, all of us in years to come will remember, will honor and will thank this remarkable man,” said Sen. Coons who felt the name was fitting not just to honor Castle’s work on the trail, but his career of public service.
Rep. Carney said he called and asked Castle if he would be all right with having the trail named in his honor.
“He did not say ‘no’. So, I took it as a ‘yes’,” said Rep. Carney.
Castle accepted the honor, but not without some hesitation.
“I’m not wild about things being named for me. It’s sort of like (people are saying) ‘it’s over and we’re naming things after you’,” said Castle, who took the project on while serving as the Delaware’s lone congressman from January 1993 to January 2011. “Having said that, it’s very kind of them to do it and if you’re going to have something named for you, I’d just as soon have an outdoor trail named for me.”
The first phase of the Castle Trail is a nine-mile stretch on the north side of the C&D Canal running from Delaware City to just beyond Summit Marina, south of Lums Pond State Park. It will include parking and rest facilities and connect to existing facilities at Lums Pond. Work on the project began about two weeks ago and the trail is expected to open in February 2013. Daisy Construction Company of Newport is building the trail.
“The road for our mainline trial was already here and maintained by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers,“ said Jeff Niezgoda, DelDOT’s project manager for the Castle Trail. “The challenges we face are improving the drainage system that’s in place to alleviate erosion, re-grading it, and making it ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.”
The idea for a trail along the C&D Canal dates back to 2004. A concept plan for the trail was completed in 2006 and finalized in 2009, but obtaining the funding needed proved difficult. It wasn’t until last September when the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) committed $1 million from its 2011 Bond Bill allocation, and the Federal Highway Administration allocated an additional $1 million that the project had the $4.2 million need to move forward.
“Credit all the different agencies of the state and federal government, the county government and Delaware City who helped keep pushing it along. Eventually, we got there,” said Castle.
Castle added that using the seven mile long Cape Cod Canal trail in Massachusetts as a model—which is also run by the Army Corps of Engineers—helped advance the C&D Canal trail plan.
“It was helpful. We were not a complete pioneer in doing this kind of thing,” said Castle.
Additional phases will be completed in the future, including extending the trail from Summit Marina to the Maryland State line and a branch off the canal trail that will connect to Delaware City.
The Castle Trail is one of a number of initiatives in Delaware recently aimed at bolstering the state’s trailway system. Most notably, the General Assembly just approved a Fiscal Year 2013 budget investment that includes $13.3 million for improving the state’s trails and pathways. That spending was among Gov. Jack Markell’s priorties in the just-completed session.
“These trails are a draw for our tourism industry and raise the standard of living for anyone here in other industries. They offer economic and social benefits that will pay dividends in the years ahead,” Markell said in a statement.
Sen. Carper said the Castle Trail may also provide a tool to fight a growing problem in the United States.
“With a third of our nation overweight or on its way to being obese, it’s important we find ways to get out of our houses and out of our cars and find ways to exercise that we haven’t thought about in the past,” said Carper. “This is going to be a great place to walk, to run, to ride bikes, to skate, and to go fishing.”
Sen. Coons expects the Castle Trail to be the “crown jewel” of the state’s trailways, expanding Delaware’s commitment to these spaces by opening up 7,500 federally owned acres to public use.
And Castle believes that will help Delaware make its mark in providing outdoor recreational spaces.
“We may not have a Grand Canyon, but we have a lot of recreation activities for people that didn’t exist 25 years ago, ” said Castle. “And for that we can all be very proud.”