New walking trail announced in Elsmere

 Elsmere town officials join Sen. Patricia Blevins, Gov. Jack Markell and DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara for a check presentation (Shana O'Malley/for NewsWorks)

Elsmere town officials join Sen. Patricia Blevins, Gov. Jack Markell and DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara for a check presentation (Shana O'Malley/for NewsWorks)

A new walking and biking trail is scheduled to be constructed in the town of Elsmere.

The one-mile trail will connect Maple Avenue Park with Fairground Park and provide new access to thousands of residents.

“What an incredible difference it makes for a community when people can get out, walk, bike, take their kids out when they’re learning to ride,” Gov. Jack Markell said on Monday.

The trail is one of many that Markell helped create since Trails and Pathways initiative was established in 2011. The goal of the initiative is to make Delaware more walkable and bikeable by connecting pathways across the state.

The new trail is scheduled to be completed by summer of 2015. Elsmere officials began talking about the trail in 2009 but lacked funding to get the project started.

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara explained that the town was able to secure federal funds for the bulk of the $760,000 project. State officials were able to provide additional funding from the state’s Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund.

“In this case we’ve established a state grant program that Elsmere competed for and won, to provide the gap financing for the $115,000 they needed to make the project a reality,” O’Mara said.

Sen. Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, said the trail will allow thousands of residents easy access to the two parks that the path will connect.

“The people in the community, they walk a lot,” Blevins said. “There are sidewalks in the community, but this kind of trail is the kind of amenity that will bring people together, and they will walk as a family. It will be a wonderful connection between the two parks.”

O’Mara added that the project will be one of his last with DNREC as he prepares to take over as president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation next month. He was tapped for the position in May but decided to stay on board with DNREC until the end of the legislative session, which concludes on June 30.

Fate of the Clean Waterways Initiative

On the eve of his departure, and with one week of legislative session left, O’Mara shared his thoughts on the Clean Waterways Initiative, which aims to clean up Delaware waterways. The project, first floated by Markell earlier this year, would be funded by a service fee placed on residents.

O’Mara was not optimistic about the initiative’s short-term future.

“I think it’s rough this session,” O’Mara said. “I think there were just too many other economic factors, and the politics got tough, but the problem remains. So we’re going to keep pushing over the next several months. My new role, I’ll be pushing from the outside because these are investments that are needed. Whether you’re worried about flooding or the quality of your drinking water or the quality of your fishing or your swimming, this is something that effects everybody, and we need to make these investments and we need to have the courage to do that so we’ll keep encouraging that.”

However, Blevins said it is not uncommon for new legislation to be introduced during the last week of session. She expects to see many new bills over the next few days.

“They’ll be surprises and they’ll be a lot to do in this last week,” she said.

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