In his remarks last week opening the new Delaware City link of the Castle Trail, Governor Jack Markell noted that most people who will enjoy this new trail in the decades to come won’t have any idea of the hard work involved in making it happen. But that’s exactly what it takes: hard work.
And money means (usually) politicians. Now, saying nice things about politicians seems to be a bit out-of-style in this election year. But I don’t know why we would expect politicians to do good things unless we are willing to say nice things about them when they actually do the good things – like funding the Castle Trail – that we want them to do. So even though, as Governor Markell said, in a few years nobody will remember, I still want to gratefully acknowledge the work of four politicians who went out of their way, and spent political capital, to secure the funding needed to build the Castle Trail:
- Former Congressman Mike Castle obtained the federal earmark for it.
- U.S. Senator Chris Coons – concerned that the federal earmark would be lost – lobbied for additional state funding to supplement the federal earmark and get the project started.
- Governor Jack Markell proposed that additional funding to the state legislature.
- Former State Senator Bob Venables, chair of the powerful capital committee in the state legislature, backed Governor Markell’s request.
None of these politicians is up for re-election in November. (In fact, two of these politicians are actually ex-politicians.) So we can’t vote for them anytime soon. But we can thank them.
Besides money, completing the Delaware City end of the trail required the cooperation of many organizations, in part due to the challenges of building the trail through wetlands and marshy areas. Delaware City, the New Castle County Conservation District, DelDOT, DNREC and the Friends of the African Union Church Cemetery all worked together to create the eastern terminus, arguably the most interesting and scenic section of the trail. Funding came from state and federal agencies, Delaware’s Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund, the Community Environmental Trust Fund and the New Castle Conservation District. Representative Valerie Longhurst and Senator Nicole Poore, whose districts the trail is in, supported state funding in the Delaware Legislature. Behind last week’s ribbon cutting were a lot of meetings, conference calls, reports, and site visits, not to mention the actual literal physical work of building the thing.
Many times with challenging projects, 90% of the project can be accomplished with a mere 10% of the effort. Then the remaining 10% requires 90% of the effort. The first five miles of the trail, starting at St. Georges Bridge, seemed to get completed relatively quickly, with its dedication in October, 2013. But as with so many trails, it led nowhere. Other pieces fell into place until the last two short, seemingly easy, segments remained for many frustrating months. There is still one remaining half-mile section that won’t be paved until August!
But even before the Delaware City link was done and even with the remaining little piece still to be done, this new trail is already being used by thousands:
“It is being used by a wide variety of people from all economic backgrounds- that’s the first thing I noticed. It’s not an elitist demographic at all. It costs nothing to take a walk. Black, white, Hispanic, heavy, slim, old, young, bikers, walkers, horses, scooters, you name it. I am a single parent with a child in college and I love to bike but my knees can’t take steep hills. Can’t really afford a health club membership. This is my health club. Here I can ride 14 easy miles and enjoy some of the most gorgeous scenery. I’m dropping weight little by little and that means I’m getting healthier.”
The Castle Trail is a really good thing.
Carol Ireland is a bicycle advocate.