City considers Mallard Pond Pathway multi-use trail

The proposed Mallard Pond Pathway would connect Fox Hall West with Mallard Pond Park at the northern end of Marsh Creek Lane (shown), making it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to reach Dover High School and Del. 8. Delaware State News/Mike Finney

DOVER — The city of Dover’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee is hoping a multi-use trail less than a mile long called the Mallard Pond Pathway can help reduce some of the traffic congestion that takes place on Kenton Road near Del. 8.

Margie Cyr, the director of the city’s Parks and Recreation division, said a proposed multi-use path would serve as a connection from Fox Hall West via Pebble Valley Drive to Mallard Pond Park, located at the north end of Marsh Creek Lane.

It would be a gateway for residents from more than 200 homes in west Dover to have bicycling and walking access from their neighborhoods to Dover High School and add a recreational opportunity for area residents.

Last week, the Council Committee of the Whole’s Safety Advisory and Transportation Subcommittee approved a recommendation from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee that the city apply for a $20,000 grant from the Delaware Bicycle Council to cover a feasibility study of the proposed pathway.

“It is recommended that the city of Dover evaluate the feasibility of constructing a bicycle/pedestrian trail connection from Fox Hall West via Pebble Valley Drive to Marsh Creek Lane as a means of providing a direct, non-motorized connection to Route 8,” Ms. Cyr said.

“A trail connection could also be made to an existing sidewalk that connects the Mallard Pond community with the Mallard Pond Park, providing direct pedestrian access to Route 8. It eliminates vehicular trips along Kenton Road, provides additional recreational access for area residents and improves access to the new high school.”

The path would create a “short-cut” for pedestrians and bicyclists from north Dover neighborhoods to the area of the new Dover High School. Neighborhoods benefiting would include Fox Hall, Fox Hall West, Westfield and Maple Dale.

City Council President Tim Slavin applauded the proposed pathway and said these are the kinds of opportunities where Kent County is lagging when it comes to recreation.

“I’m fully supportive of these efforts,” President Slavin said. “These trails that are being built all across Delaware right now really have improved the lives of many, many people.

“Unfortunately, in Kent County and Dover, we’ve kind of lagged behind if you watch what’s happened in New Castle and watched what’s happened in Sussex.”

Ms. Cyr said that currently, due to the lack of pedestrian access to Del. 8, a trip from the southern end of Fox Hall West to Dover High School is 2.2 miles traveling along Kenton Road.

However, if there were direct pedestrian/bicycling access to Del. 8 via a new mixed-use pathway, the trip would be reduced to eight-tenths of a mile.

The city of Dover owns two parcels of land between Del. 8 and Fox Hall West, comprising 8.7 acres of open space — including Mallard Pond Park — which is located at the northern end of Marsh Creek Lane.

Marsh Creek Lane, which has sidewalks along its entire length, is just east of the HAWK-activated traffic signal that was installed in the summer of 2014 near Dover High School.

Ms. Cyr said the proposed pathway could alleviate some traffic congestion on Kenton Road.

“Fox Hall West is about one-quarter mile north of Route 8, however, the community does not have vehicular or pedestrian access to Route 8, so all trips traveling to Route 8 must be made via Kenton Road,” she said.

“Due to the lack of sidewalks along Kenton Road it can be safely assumed that these trips are almost exclusively done with a motor vehicle as opposed to walking or riding a bike.”

She said the city sent notice out to all the neighborhoods in the area that it was going to be discussing the possibility of installing the multi-use pathway. The public was invited to attend a meeting on June 19 to provide input, however, only one person showed up — Thomas Dix.

Mr. Dix, who lives in Bicentennial Village, said that he supported the project for the multi-purpose path, but did not support a feasibility study to do it.

City Councilman David Anderson asked Ms. Cyr if the city received any feedback from any of the homeowner associations near the proposed project. She said it has not.

Both Heatherfield East and Fox Hall West neighborhood associations own land in the project area, but it was unclear whether the homeowner groups are still active.

Ms. Cyr said the city has received estimates of what a feasibility study for the pathway would cost, ranging from a low estimate of $8,000 to a high estimate of $40,000 to $50,000.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee does not anticipate asking the city for additional funding for the study, according to James Hutchison, who chairs the subcommittee. He said he also expects further interaction with the public regarding the project.

“As part of the feasibility study that we want to submit the grant for, having advertised meetings to solicit feedback from the different residents in that area would be part of that process, so we haven’t exhausted the opportunity to receive that feedback,” Mr. Hutchison said.

“Our intention with this grant is if we can get the money, if we can get the grant, and it can cover the cost of the feasibility study then we would want to proceed ahead with it. We did not intend to undertake this study if we can’t get all the funding from the grant.”

The deadline for submitting the grant is July 31.

Construction of the Mallard Pond Pathway isn’t in the city’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen said the supporters of the pathway might consider applying to the Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization as it does have “money available for alternative studies for multi-modular modes of transportation.”

City Councilman Matt Lindell made the motion last Tuesday for the city to apply for the grant and “see what happens from there.” It was seconded by Councilman Anderson and carried by the Safety Advisory and Transportation Subcommittee

President Slavin said the pathway might not seem like a big deal, but it could help stimulate quite a stir in the area.

“An awful lot of this activity is being done there and it’s really kind of extraordinary to see what’s happening,” he said. “The one truth in all of it is that when you build it, people will come out and use it.

“It won’t be just bicyclists and it won’t be just runners, it will be people who just want to take advantage of this safe passage, take a walk on any given time of the day. Anytime we can do this it has my support.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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