DELAWARE CITY, Del. — When Joan Smith bikes from St. Georges to Chesapeake City along the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, she’s forced onto roadways and away from a waterfront view as the path becomes unaccommodating.
But with construction beginning on a trail along the north side of the canal, bikers, hikers, runners, horseback riders and others can look forward to when the trail will be more welcoming.
“That’s what’s going to be great – you can bike the whole way,” Smith said.
Construction of the 16-mile Michael N. Castle Trail along the canal began two weeks ago and phase one of the project — which includes two new trail heads and spans 9 miles — is set to be completed by December, said Jeff Niezgoda, Delaware Department of Transportation project manager.
Delaware’s congressional delegation, state officials and community members gathered recently under the St. Georges Bridge to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking for the trail that will eventually connect Delaware City and Chesapeake City.
The project will add three trail heads along the route that include parking facilities, restrooms and picnic areas, Niezgoda said. The trail head at Biddle Point will also accommodate horse trailers, he said, adding that the project crew will keep as much of the trail open to equestrians as possible, though they will not have full access.
“That connectivity is a great plus to developing trails like this and others in Delaware,” said Wilmington Trail Club President Dave Koppeser.
The Wilmington Trail Club includes bikers, paddlers, skiers and hikers and Koppeser said the 700-member group will continue to show its support for new trailways through trail upkeep and regular use.
People in communities along the canal don’t have many opportunities to hop on trails close to their homes, said James Ireland, president of the Trail Spinners and a member of the Delaware Bicycle Council.
A trail can go a long way in changing that, he said, and opening new opportunities for cyclists and other outdoor hobbyists.
The idea for a trail along the canal was proposed in 2004 and in 2008 a trail design was completed.
The trail is named for former Delaware governor and longtime U.S. Congressman Mike Castle because of his dedication to the project.
Castle said the idea behind the trail was to allow citizens access to 7,500 acres of federal land and to provide a forum for recreational activities.
“Future generations are going to enjoy this trail for many decades to come,” he said.