As a child growing up in Fairfield, Shawn Garvin and his friends often hung out on what they simply called “the trail” – a nearby dirt path leading to Creek Road and White Clay Creek State Park.
On Tuesday morning, Garvin – who now heads the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control – returned to his old stomping grounds to help Newark officials celebrate the opening of a new, paved trail connector that replaced the old dirt path.
“This was our little haven. This was our little secret. Nobody else knew about this,” Garvin recalled. “Now, we have thousands and thousands of people who are going to take advantage of it, and it is an incredible thing for the city of Newark, New Castle County and the state of Delaware.”
Improving the trail has long been a priority for residents of Fairfield, Fairfield Crest and surrounding neighborhoods, as well as the cycling community.
Officially called the Pomeroy Connector Trail, the 0.32-mile trail runs from Fremont Road in Fairfield Crest through a wooded area to the Pomeroy Trail near Creek Road. From there, cyclists and pedestrians can head north into White Clay Creek State Park or head south to downtown. The Pomeroy Trail eventually connects to the Hall Trail, which heads into Devon in one direction and the Delaware Technology Park in the other direction.
The trail is located on land owned by the University of Delaware, but the city reached an agreement with UD for an easement for the trail. The path was previously a combination of grass and gravel and was used as an access road for city workers to reach utility connections. However, it had long been used as a shortcut by pedestrians and mountain bikers.
The $110,000 project to improve and pave the trail makes it accessible to a wider range of people and eliminates concerns about the dirt path becoming muddy after a rain. Lighting will be installed within the next few weeks to allow for use at night.
Mayor Jerry Clifton called the new trail “one more piece of the puzzle” in creating an effective trail network throughout Newark and the surrounding areas.
“We can all take pride in the trail system we have,” Clifton said. “This is really adding a lot of value to your experience as a resident of the city of Newark.”
City Manager Tom Coleman noted that 2,500 people live within a five-minute walk of the new trail and 10,000 people live within a five-minute bike ride.
“All those people can now get to the east side of Main Street without having to bike or walk down Cleveland Avenue or down 896,” Coleman said. “This creates a really nice connection to our downtown to help promote alternative modes of transportation, riding your bike, walking, improving your health, getting into nature. All these things are really important for our quality of life and reasons why people would want to come to Newark and live and work here.”
Councilman Jason Lawhorn, who represents the Fairfield area, said that while he was campaigning last year, the trail was one of the biggest concerns residents brought up.
“All I heard was, ‘We need a grocery store, and when’s that trail opening,’” Lawhorn said, noting that both those issues have now been addressed.
State Rep. Paul Baumbach said the trail is a long time coming.
“We’re somewhere in the five to six year range. We’ve gone through three mayors and several council members,” Baumbach said. “But what hasn’t changed is the community and the need for this.”
He added that the trail provides an important connection for the residents of the Fairfield area.
“The connection makes all the difference here,” he said. “This connects us, the community, to the university, to the state park, to the city parks. It finishes these pieces that are so important.”
The connections the trail provides are more than geographical, BikeNewark Chair Bob McBride said, noting that he’s seen people smiling and chatting as they walk or bike the trail together.
“The trail connects with the other parks and other places, but people connect, too,” McBride said. “They connect with each other, they connect with the natural world, and they connect with their best selves.”