Cape Region’s National-Calibre Trail System Continues to Evolve

By Dennis Forney, Publisher of the Cape Gazette
Photo by Dennis Forney

Delaware’s coast is a place to be outdoors. The beaches beckon. The forests and dunes of Cape Henlopen State Park beckon as well, and the waterways – the bays and rivers, the ocean and creeks – invite us to get in a sailboat or a kayak or a fishing boat to enjoy the thrill of being outdoors.

That outdoors feeling, over the past few decades, has extended beyond the area’s marvelous beaches which have served as a free, marvelous and easily accessible playground for many centuries. Once out of their cars, visitors to Lewes can add a number of trails and walks to their beach time. Those trails and walks can take visitors through the historic district of town to gain a sense of how people have lived here for hundreds of years. They can also build a healthy appetite to further enjoy the great restaurants spread throughout the town, and shopping opportunities on both sides of the bridge.

For those who want to stretch their legs a little further, they can hike or bike their way to Rehoboth Beach either on the beaches of Cape Henlopen or via the Junction and Breakwater Trail that offers a quiet, rural and non-motorized travel alternative to Route 1. While the beach traveling is best suited to walking, the Junction and Breakwater Trail and the paved loop trail through Cape Henlopen State Park are equally well suited for walkers and bicyclists.

The Lewes/Rehoboth Rotary Club publishes an annual guide called Great Walks and Trails in Sussex County. The guide provides maps and descriptions of most of the trails in the Lewes area and is available in the Lewes Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau in downtown Lewes. The guide is also available by sending $5, for shipping and handling, to Lewes/Rehoboth Rotary Club at P.O. Box 91, Lewes, Delaware 19958. Include your address and note that you would like one of the guidebooks mailed to you.

MORE INITIATIVES IN THE WORKS

In a nation seeing the importance, beauty and attraction of being outdoors as we strive to be healthier, Lewes, in the years ahead, will become even more important as a destination for tourists and visitors looking for an active, interesting and fun vacation or getaway. There is more and more emphasis being placed on transportation becoming part of the vacation experience. Three significant transportation initiatives are currently in the works that could take Lewes to the next level of outdoor fun in the next several years.
Water Shuttle Between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach – A committee is working on using the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal as a waterway transportation corridor between these two popular tourist destinations. Each of the towns has a waterside park – Canalfront Park in Lewes and The Grove Park in Rehoboth Beach – that front on the canal. If the shuttle moves ahead as envisioned, a quiet, partly solar-powered water bus would make its way back and forth between the downtowns of both communities providing a great way to experience the interior wilds of Cape Henlopen State Park while also making a travel connection.
Linking the Junction and Breakwater Trail with the Cape Henlopen State Park trail system around Gordons Pond. This is the simplest and easiest of the three initiatives. It involves making a more formal connection between the interior biking and hiking trail system in the northern end of Cape Henlopen State Park and the trail system in place around Gordons Pond in the southern, beachside section of Cape Henlopen State Park. In between would be a pleasant ride through Rehoboth Beach which has a constant eye on becoming a more bicycle-friendly community. The link would create a loop of 20 to 30 miles, depending on how many side trips are taken, that would draw outdoors enthusiasts from the surrounding region. The trails are all in place. The only more formalized link that needs to be made, as currently envisioned, would involve construction of a boardwalk across a marshy area separating the Gordons Pond Trail and the Salt Marsh Trail in the northern end of the park. Discussions are underway as of this writing in late 2010 as to how to effect this link.
Addition of a hiking and biking trail to the Lewes to Georgetown railroad right-of-way. This is the most ambitious of the three tourism/transportation initiatives in the planning stages. An active, albeit lightly, rail line links Lewes and Georgetown, the seat of government for Sussex County. Following the trend around the country to add other transportation options to railroad rights-of-way, Delaware’s Department of Transportation is looking at ways to have a trail alongside the rail line which would link Georgetown and Lewes – and Rehoboth Beach via the Junction and Breakwater Trail. Many communities have sprung up in recent years in proximity to the rail line and such a trail would offer residents of those communities an alternative for coming into Lewes or visiting others in communities along the way. Discussion of this rail trail has included the possibility of a park and ride link west of Lewes near Route 1 where people could leave their vehicles and come into town via bicycle. There has also been discussion of multiple use of the railroad tracks by people-powered hand cars during the many days of the week when trains don’t use the line.

When and if these initiatives come to fruition remains to be seen but they are indicative of a society opening itself to new possibilities and a Lewes tourism industry looking for ways to tap into a transportation/tourism trend sweeping across the nation.

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