Published by: The Wave
Through a questionnaire mailed to all property owners, town officials have determined citizens are in favor of the Assawoman Canal pathway project.
The survey was distributed Nov. 9 to gather public opinion on the possibility of constructing a trail along the waterway. Of the nearly 600 responses, 459 individuals were in favor of the trail, 83 were opposed and 43 were undecided.
Of those in support of the project, some said it would be an alternative to walking on the beach or streets, especially with the lack of sidewalks, and that it would improve property values.
Most of those in opposition expressed concerns about security and vandalism, privacy, the displacement of wildlife and a lack of privacy.
Councilwoman Carol Olmstead, a member of the Assawoman Canal Working Committee, said the next step for the Town Council is to pass a resolution either in support or against the concept plan, which was presented in September. Neighboring towns South Bethany and Ocean View have already passed supporting resolutions, she said.
“After (the resolution), it will be in the hands of (the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control) and the working group to move forward with funding and the engineering aspect,” she said.
DNREC first proposed the pathway on the state-owned land in 1995. Officials said they wanted to create a scenic walking and biking trail that would connect South Bethany and Ocean View.
In 2009, officials from the municipalities affected by the trail contacted DNREC in hopes of reviving the plans. Since then, state and local officials have evaluated current conditions, public input, natural and cultural resources and recreation preferences for the pathway, which would extend for more than three miles, said Bob Ehemann of DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation.
Bethany West resident Curt Callahan said he’s against the pathway for many reasons, including the limited access points to the trail. He worries people will cut through private property and park in his community before walking the trail.
“It’s human nature,” he said. “You’re going to take a shortcut.”
But residents like Bill Ziegler only see benefits.
He said he loves to walk his dogs along the beach during the fall and winter and would love to walk along the canal. He said the trail would mirror what’s offered by the ocean and boardwalk on the other side of town.
“This project will provide a natural, quiet walking path on the west side of Bethany Beach,” he said.