Two for the Show

Trailfest, River Towns showcase bike trails connecting riverfront communities

When it comes to walking and biking trails, the State of Delaware has certainly put its money where its mouth is.

Since June 2016, the state has earmarked more than $20 million to Delaware trails and walking improvements. Delaware’s network of trails now totals more than 580 miles.

This fall, cyclists can experience the latest fruits from that investment as two events showcase major enhancements to New Castle County’s trail system as well as bring visitors to three communities connected by those trails.

Trailfest, a fundraising event for Delaware Greenways and Bike Delaware, is set for Saturday, Sept. 22. Trailfest will feature two morning rides (15 miles or less; 50 miles) that give cyclists the opportunity to experience the new Jack A. Markell Trail, an eight-mile pathway from the DuPont Environmental Education Center (DEEC) to Historic New Castle’s Battery Park. The Markell Trail features an impressive bridge and boardwalk path over the Christina River and marsh of the Russell Peterson Wildlife Refuge. Cyclists choosing Trailfest’s 50-mile Challenge Ride will also experience the Mike Castle Trail, a route completed in 2017 that parallels the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

“We hope the impact of Trailfest will be awareness for the [Markell Trail], and with awareness will come use,” said Mary Roth, Executive Director at Delaware Greenways. “Recreation or transportation, it’s a great option. For residents, visitors and employers in Wilmington and New Castle and along the trail, it’s a tremendous amenity.”

Trailfest, however, includes much more than a pair of bike rides. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a free festival will be held in and around DEEC that includes live music by The Honey Badgers and The Stone Shakers, food trucks, craft beer, canoeing, games, interactive exhibits, DEEC’s Nature Mobile, and more. In addition, attendees will be able to sample a short stretch of the Markell Trail as complimentary bikes will be on hand courtesy of the Riverfront Development Corporation.

To register for the Trailfest rides or for additional information, visit TrailfestDe.com.

Two weeks later, Delaware City and New Castle take center stage as they partner to present the sixth annual River Towns Ride & Festival on Saturday, Oct. 6. The ride kicks off at 11 a.m., with a free festival in both towns running from noon-5 p.m.

The River Towns Ride has become a popular draw for regional cyclists as it rewards participants for the number of times they complete a round-trip on the 10-mile bike-friendly road between the two towns. This year, however, River Towns is working in another option and including the Markell Trail among its routes. Bronze, silver and gold medals can be earned, depending on the distance. Visit RiverTownsFestival.com for ride registration and details.

“We have really committed as both a city and state to maintaining safe and accessible bike-friendly roads,” said Bill Barthel, City Administrator for the City of New Castle. “River Towns is a perfect opportunity for us to feature these roads to Delawareans and invite visitors into our town. We have been emphasizing the popularity of biking and the trails, while showcasing the great things that each city has to offer.”

As with Trailfest, cycling is merely the kick-off component of River Towns. Beginning at noon, both towns will present free festivals in two settings ideal for an outdoor celebration: The Green in Historic New Castle and Battery Park in Historic Delaware City. In New Castle, expect live music throughout the day, pumpkin decorating, kids games, a hayride, food trucks and craft beer. Delaware City will feature live music from noon-5 p.m., craft beer and food, pony rides, kids rides, corn hole, walking tours and more.

“From the beginning we have had a great working relationship with the folks from Delaware City,” said Barthel. “This has been a really positive cooperative partnership between the two towns.”

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