The paved trails for walkers, runners and bicyclists connect Delaware City and the Delaware River with Chesapeake City and the Chesapeake Bay

The grand opening of recreational trails along the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal was celebrated Friday in Delaware City.

Officials at the ceremony included Gov. Jack Markell, U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Michael Bliss, USDA Rural Development State Director Bill McGowan, DNREC Secretary David Small, DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan, Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore, Delaware City Mayor Stanley Green and Chesapeake City Mayor Dean Geracimos. They were joined by other officials, scores of trails partners and enthusiasts, and special guest, former Delaware Governor and Congressman Michael N. Castle.

The event marked the completion of the 14.3-mile continuous trail that includes the Michael N. Castle and Branch Canal Trails in Delaware and the Ben Cardin Trail in Maryland. Some sections of the project had already opened but now the entire trail is completed.

The Castle and Cardin Trails run along the north bank of the C&D Canal and meet at the state line, while the Branch Canal Trail connects the Castle Trail to Delaware City’s Canalfront Promenade.

The entire trail connects travelers to the historic towns of Delaware City and Chesapeake City in Maryland.

The trails in Delaware are part of Markell’s First State Trails and Pathways Initiative that expands a statewide network of new and enhanced trails and pathways for walking, biking, hiking and active living. Delaware’s trails promote the growth of the recreation and tourism industries, enable people to connect with the outdoors and improve the quality of life for all Delawareans.

“The opening of the recreational trails along the C and D Canal marks another great milestone in expanding Delaware’s trail network of more than 571 miles of trails,” said Markell. “Building the trails linking two historic cities was a tremendous collaboration among state, federal and city partners. With the trails now completed, more residents and visitors will be drawn to the wonderful amenities that Delaware City and Chesapeake City have to offer, expanding tourism and boosting the local economies. As a cyclist, the Michael Castle Trail with its natural, scenic beauty along the C and D Canal is one of my favorite trails to ride.”

U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons were among the speakers at the ceremony.

“This project has had 360 degrees of support,  receiving funding on the federal, state and local level,” said Carper. “The trail provides a great opportunity for anyone to walk, run, bike, bird-watch, fish, and ride horseback in a scenic area. As our nation’s health care costs rise, projects like these that support healthy lifestyle choices are increasingly important.”

Coons said the opening of the trail marks "an exciting time for cyclists, walkers, joggers, and anyone who enjoys the outdoors.”

“Completing the trail on the north side of the C and D Canal has been a terrific group effort of federal, state and local agencies," said Coons. "I am delighted that the completed Castle and Cardin Trails will attract more visitors and encourage more families to get outdoors and enjoy this resource that connects two great small towns, Delaware City and Chesapeake City.”

The property along the north and south banks of the C&D Canal is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and leased under a long-term agreement to the States of Delaware and Maryland. In Delaware most of the 5,178 acres is managed by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife as the C&D Canal Conservation Area. A small portion, including Fort DuPont, is administered by DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation, which also operates nearby Fort Delaware and Lums Pond State Parks. In Maryland the property is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Abundant wildlife and scenic views along the C&D Canal made the area a perfect location for a multi-use trail that provides recreational opportunities for pedestrians, bicyclists, anglers, equestrians, bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts. Trail users can view wildlife, such as deer, turkeys and raccoons, along with rarer species, that include peregrine falcons, pied-billed grebes, and bald eagles as they travel along the banks of canal and past the area’s grasslands, forests, tidal marshes and ponds.