Trail workshops need another component
Delaware Department of Transportation officials met with the public recently at a workshop to discuss the first phase of the Lewes to Georgetown rail-with-trail project. That project would see development over the next several years of a walking and bicycling trail on state-owned right-of-way property parallel to the railroad tracks.
The meeting consisted of several illustration boards mounted on easels for perusal by the public. They showed in great detail the proposed location of the trail between Gills Neck Road and Savannah Road and illustrations of road crossings and various associated improvements. Officials also made themselves available to answer questions.
What was missing was a presentation discussing the project and a question-and answer session. This wasn’t a legally required public hearing designed to take comments and gauge opposition and support. The state owns the property and is fully within its rights to pursue a trail project on that property long ago designated as a transportation corridor.
Still, it was an opportunity for the public to hear some of the thought behind the broader health and social benefits of linking our communities with walking and bicycling trails, and specifically how such a trail would be integrated into the community in a manner that recognizes and addresses the concerns of property owners along the state-owned corridor.
How will encroachments by property owners be handled? How are decisions made about which side of the tracks the trail will be constructed on? Has there been thought given to buffers?
The proposal constitutes a significant change in the historic use of the corridor.
While that change can bring many benefits, we, as a community and a state, need to understand the concerns of those living nearby so they can be reasonably addressed.
This is a long-term project and there are sure to be many more workshops. Adding a more formal group information and questionand- answer component would help identify issues that certainly will be repeated often, allow for development of thoughtful approaches to those issues, and help settle the minds of those feeling concerned.