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November 21, 2014

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4 FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21- MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2014 NEWS Cape Gazette OUTDOORS SUMMIT Markell: Paths are good for health, economy By Ron MacArthur Over the past four years, Delaware has spent more than $15 million in Bond Bill funds on trails, an investment that has rocketed the state from 31st on the list of bicycle-friendly states to No. 4. Delaware now has more than 570 miles of public trails with 150 miles in state parks, and with numerous projects in the works, the number of trails will only increase. "It's impossible to attain happiness without physical activity," said coordi- nator John Hollis to a room filled with legislators, state officials, business leaders and healthcare professionals during the fourth annual Outdoors Summit at Stock- ley Center near Georgetown. The theme of this year's summit was the pursuit of happiness. Hollis is Sussex manager of Community and Government Affairs with Nemours Health and Prevention Services, and founder of Sussex Outdoors, a collabo- ration of healthcare, government and recreation organizations. Using an ever-growing system of trails for cycling, walking and running has be- come a popular way to get outdoors and exercise. Over the past four years, the state has seen a spurt in trail construction with ongoing projects in every county. More than 20 projects statewide are under con- struction or in the design phase. Millions for trails over past few years It was during the initial Outdoors Sum- mit at Trap Pond State Park near Laurel that Gov. Jack Markell announced First State Trails and Pathways, an initiative to link communities with trails and move the state into the top 10 Bike Friendly states. In addition, the General Assembly passed the governor's Walkable, Bikeable Delaware resolution that requires the Delaware Department of Transportation to invest in making walking and cycling safer and more convenient when planning transpor- tation projects. That first year, there was $7 million included in the Bond Bill for trails and pathways - $2 million for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and $5 million for DelDOT, said BY THE NUMBERS 40,000 number of cyclists, hik- ers, runners who have used Gordons Pond Trail * 39,700 annual average number who use Junction and Breakwater Trail 571 miles of public trails in Dela- ware 150 miles of trails in state parks * since June 20, 2014 Susan Moerschel, Delaware State Parks chief planner. Since that announcement - just in the Cape Region - the state has pumped mil- lions of dollars into new projects including the Gordons Pond connector trail; a new section of Junction and Breakwater Trail; a sidewalk safety project along Route 1; and announced plans for the first phase of a Georgetown to Lewes rail-trail with a connection to Cape Henlopen State Park. Also, the state has moved from No. 31 to No. 4 in five years in Bicycle Friendly State rankings by the League of American Bicyclists. Over the past four years, the General Assembly has budgeted more than $15 million for trails. That figure does not include federal funding used for a variety of projects. "IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO ATTAIN HAPPINESS WITHOUT PHYSICAL ACTIVITY." - JOHN HOLLIS, OUTDOORS SUMMIT COORDINATOR Delaware spends nearly 4 percent of its federal transportation funds on pedestrian and bike projects, which is the highest percentage of any state in the country, according to the Federal Highway Admin- istration. Among some of the statewide trail projects in the works are the 2.8-mile Tri- Valley Trail to link communities in the Newark area; the 1.25-mile Assawoman Canal Trail in the Ocean View area; a trail linking New Castle to Wilmington - which includes a new bridge over the Christina By Ron MacArthur Jade Wilcoxson of Talent, Ore., grew up playing soccer as part of a team. Without a coach telling her what to do, she drifted away from sports during her college years. Then at the age of 26, during a rou- tine examination, a doctor told her she was prediabetic and on the track to type 2 diabetes. It was her older brother who moti- vated her to get on her bike and ride; it was a defining moment in her life. "That was the start that changed my life," she said. Fast forward a few years, and Wilcox- son was holding her own against some of the top cyclists in the country. In 2011, as an amateur, she finished second in the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Calif., behind Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong. At 35, she left her GOV. JACK MARKELL is among the first to ride on June. River; the 10-mile Capital City Trail in and around Dover; and a link between Delaware City and Chesapeake City, Md., using the existing 9-mile Mike Castle Trail along the C&D Canal. Jeff Niezgoda, DelDOT trails planner, said since 2012, seven trail projects have been completed; nine projects are under construction; eight projects are in the design phase; and another 14 projects are awaiting funding. Markell: Strong foundation is set Markell, an avid cyclist who did a 30- mile ride the day before the summit, said the state has a road map for trails expan- sion into the future. "We don't have all the money, and the big question is are we going to make it," he said. "Even during tough economic times, we have still found ways." Markell said there is strong momentum pushing for outdoors recreation using trails. "Do we want to be left behind, keep up or be among the best?" he asked. As governor, he said, he was willing to do what was needed balancing the other Q job as a physical therapist to become the oldest member of the Optum Pro Cycling team. She returned to the Sea Otter Classic in 2013 and won the criterium and road race titles. This year, Wilcoxson won the USA Cycling Professional Road Racing Championships as the top female cy- clist in the country. She now has her sights on making the U.S. team in the 2016 Brazil Olympics. Wilcoxson said through exercise and diet she has been able to keep her blood sugars at normal levels; she's also shed 20 pounds. "Instead of daffy medicine, pedaling my bike took me on a course I wasn't suspecting," she said. Wilcoxson was the featured speaker at the 2014 Outdoors Summit. She said she was impressed with the emphasis the state places on trails. "I might make Delaware my second home," she said. RON MACARTHUR PHOTOS the Gordons Pond Trail when it opened in mid- needs in the state, but his time is limited; his term ends at the end of 2016. He said strong advocacy groups have helped lead the fight for trails. "We have a strong foun- dation to build on," he said. Markell was among the first to ride on the Gordons Pond Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park in June, and he continued to ride on the trail five of the seven days he and his family vacationed in Lewes. "The reaction from people using it was remarkable," he said. Markell said a couple from Oklahoma told him they chose to relocate to the area because of the trail. He said the trail is not only an outlet for outdoor recreation, but also an economic development tool. Trails will open at Stockley Center As part of a plan to provide more access to the Stockley Center near Georgetown, some trails included on the 750-acre Stockley site will be open to the public. More than 300 acres in the complex has been set aside as a nature preserve. "We Continued on page 20 RON MACARTHUR PHOTO JADE WILCOXSON of Talent, Ore., was able to beat diabetes by riding her bicycle - a lot.