Delaware’s congressional leaders led a groundbreaking ceremony Monday below the St. Georges Bridge to mark the beginning of the trail’s construction and to announce that the trail will be named for former United States Congressman and Delaware Governor Michael Castle.


White Clay Bicycle Club Vice President Cindy Mannis uses the trail along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal often. 

Right now, Mannis uses the area for hiking, but once the multi-use recreational trail is built, she also plans on biking along the canal. 

“It’s a pretty area,” Mannis said. “I would love to be able to ride my bike here.”

Delaware’s congressional leaders led a groundbreaking ceremony Monday below the St. Georges Bridge to mark the beginning of the trail’s construction and to announce that the trail will be named for former United States Congressman and Delaware Governor Michael Castle.

Castle’s colleagues credited him with getting the ball rolling on the project in 2004 when a group of constituents came to him asking if there were ways to better utilize the area along the canal.

The multi-use trail, which will be named the Michael N. Castle Trail at the C&D Canal, will be built in three phases.

The bi-partisan effort to utilize the land along the canal was announced in September.

Once completed, the 16-mile trail will connect Delaware City and Chesapeake City, Md.

DelDOT will be responsible for constructing the pathway along the canal, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The trail will accommodate hikers, bicyclists, fisherman and in some areas, equestrians.

Asphalt will be laid for hikers and bicyclists and a stone path will be built for horse riding.

The first phase of the project, which will construct a nine-mile pathway, will be complete by the end of this year, said project manager Jeff Niezgoda. Paving the trails will begin later this summer.

“It will include paving the stretch of land between Delaware City and the area of the Summit Marina, and will be a nine mile stretch of "safe new recreational opportunities where people can hike, bicycle, jog, skate, bird watch and ride horses," said Meredith Rosenthal, a spokeswoman for U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D- Delaware), during a press conference in September announcing the plans.

Federal funding for the first part of the project was secured in 2011.

More than $7 million has been invested in the first phase and in some of the design process for the next two parts, Niezgoda said. In all, the total 16-mile project will cost about $9 million.

There will be two trails heads in the first section of the trail – which will have picnic areas, information kiosks and restrooms – one in St. Georges and the other at Biddle Point.

The trailhead at Biddle Point will be able to accommodate horses, Niezgoda said.

The project, which began in 2004, is a partnership between congressional leaders, the Army Corps of Engineers, DNREC and DelDOT.

The trail has been incorporated into the First State Trails and Pathways Program, which is part of Governor Jack Markell’s vision to build a series of connecting, recreational trails.

Mannis enjoys the trail along the C & D Canal because it’s flat and any bicyclist, despite ability, can ride it.

“It will be nice for families with kids,” she said.

Professional riders will also benefit from the trail.

Decades ago, the Delaware Trail Spinners used the dirt path along the canal for their annual race, but 18 years ago they had to pull out because of the conditions, said club president James Ireland.

“Now we may be able to do it again in the future,” he said.

The C & D Canal has been in operation since 1829 and more than 25,000 vessels pass through it each year.

Not only will the trail bring tourism and new residents to the area, but it will also connect neighborhoods, Ireland said.

“Interconnectivity is a bonus,” he said.

Work on the second part of the Castle Trail is planned to start next summer.