Mother Nature decided to give Wilmington a break on Saturday, which was welcome news for the thousands who turned out for ‘Trailfest,’ a community celebration marking the opening of the new Jack Markell Trail.
The official ribbon cutting for the 7-mile trail linking Wilmington’s Riverfront to historic Old New Castle took place earlier this month so Saturday’s event at the DuPont Environmental Education Center was designed as an opportunity for the public to see and enjoy the impressive new elevated boardwalk and pedestrian bridges winding through the Russell Peterson Wildlife Refuge en route to the state-of-the-art trail heading to New Castle.
‘Trail Fest’ offered activities for trailgoers of all ages – live music, food, interactive exhibits, live animals, craft vendors, canoeing on the refuge. And a crowded fall event also meant there were plenty of politicians on hand, including Governor John Carney, State Treasurer Ken Simpler and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. A highlight for all, of course, was simply strolling, rolling or cycling the new trail, its two beautiful bridges (over wetlands and the Christina River), and Delaware landmarks along the path.
“This is the only pedestrian-only bridge in Delaware,” said Delaware Greenways Executive Director Mary Roth. “It does not close. So, you can ride it to work, on weekends, and you can use it for transportation or recreation. It truly appeals to all users — anybody who loves being outdoors.”
Ingrid Yerger got up early on Saturday to ride with friends from the beginning of the Jack Markell Trail to The Grain H2O in Middletown. “It’s truly an amazing trail. I’m so happy that it’s going to bring people back to Wilmington and rejuvenate the city. As someone who loves to be outdoors and loves Wilmington, I feel really proud,” she said.
Cindy Benedict, who also spent hours on her bike on Saturday, hails from New York but now lives in North Wilmington. She thinks Delaware has distinct advantages when it comes to amenities for bikers. “In my experience, Delaware is very bike friendly. In terms of giving you more options and being off the road, this is yet another an amazing opportunity.”
Benedict also loves something you can only appreciate from the vantage point of being on the trail. “I think it gives people a different perspective looking out from the trail out to the city. When you look at the city while crossing the bridge you say, ‘This is amazing.’ I have never looked at the city in this way before. It’s really beautiful.”
Delaware Greenways spearheaded Saturday’s celebration. But the undertaking was supported by the Riverfront Development Corporation, the Delaware Nature Society, New Castle County, and DelDOT. “Everybody came together for Trailfest.”