Standing at a trailhead of the new Tri-Valley Trail on a perfect fall afternoon, State Rep. Paul Baumbach looked around at the scenery and offered a corollary to the old expression, “If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound.”

“If a park is beautiful, but nobody sees it, is it a park?” Baumbach asked last Friday. “This stretch up here is a beautiful stretch that very, very few people have seen. This phase two of the Tri-Valley Trail is part of a vision of making sure that beauty is seen.”

In the works for years, the paved trail links Newark and Pike Creek and is the first continuous trail that allows visitors with mobility challenges to enjoy the opportunity to hunt, fish, and participate in accessible hay wagon rides, officials said.

The 2.8-mile trail runs between Thompson Station Road and Smith Mill Road, with an additional spur running to the intersection of Paper Mill and Polly Drummond roads. It offers connections to Newark’s Redd Park and New Castle County’s Paper Mill Park and Middle Run Valley Natural Area Park.

“This trail is a vertebrae, but we have a lot of different appendages going off,” Baumbach said.

The $2.3 million trail project, much of which was funded by the federal government, also included a parking area and bathrooms off Smith Mill Road. The parking area and part of the trail opened in 2017, while the second phase opened this fall. Meanwhile, work is underway on primitive campsites near the trail, which will open later this fall.

Sen. Tom Carper said trails like this encourage people to walk rather than drive, which helps improve the environment while also tackling obesity.

“This planet of ours is a gift,” Carper said. “We’re expected to be its stewards. There’s been times in my lifetime where we haven’t been good stewards. As it turns out, we’re getting a lot better.”

State Rep. Mike Smith said the local trail system is also an economic driver.

“A lot of people from out of state are coming here and parking in our areas, they’re going on their bikes, they’re taking walks, they’re doing all these things,” Smith said. “And then they’re buying the Gatorade or the water and everything up the street at our local shops.”

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