Gov. Carney and state officials cut the ribbon to the revamped trail east of Dover.
Walking along the Little Creek Wildlife Area’s new boardwalk through the woods, the sudden site of the marshy Delaware Bay can take your breath away.
“For me, this place is incredibly special,” said David Small, former secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. “Every time I come here, the light is different, the species I see are different, the weather is different.”
And he’s not alone. People have come to the wildlife area and observation tower for decades to birdwatch, hunt and fish.
But, the old trail and the tower were not accessible for everyone. Anthony Gonzon, Delaware Bayshore Initiative Coordinator, said the boardwalk was grade-level and didn’t have any bumpers to prevent people in wheelchairs from sliding off, and visitors had to climb steps to access the tower.
A completed vision for a more accessible trail, tower and parking area was what Gov. John Carney, DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin and others celebrated Friday, Nov. 8.
“The accessible features of this specially-designed tower, boardwalk and parking make it convenient for all visitors, including those with disabilities, to see and enjoy this part of our beautiful Bayshore,” Carney said.
The trail is now an elevated boardwalk with railings, and the lower level of the tower accessed by a ramp includes a railing design that allows disabled visitors to get a better view.
The second level reaches 30 feet and is almost double the size of the original, Gonzon said.
While DNREC began the design in 2016, construction started in the spring and was completed in six months.
“The most rewarding [part of my job] is I get to see people enjoy these things after they’re done,” Gonzon said. He said he has enjoyed birding at the tower for several years and loved seeing all the smiling faces of people experiencing it for the first time.
Funding for the $1.06 million project came from the Delaware Bayshore Initiative Bond Bill, the Trails and Pathways Bond Bill and the Federal Highway Administration Scenic Byway Grant.
Carney said areas like this are “cool stuff” that can help attract young workers to Delaware.
“Having trails like this and viewing areas where you can enjoy the beautiful Bayshore here in Delaware is the kind of stuff we need to attract people to our state,” he said.
The new boardwalk and trail is the second wildlife project in the village of Little Creek this year. In April, DNREC opened a new boat ramp with kayak launch, an 80-foot aluminum fishing and crabbing pier and a paved parking lot with 21 parking spaces for vehicles and boat trailers.
“This is a really cool place,” Mayor Glenn Gauvry said. “I’m happy I live here, and I hope more people pay attention and visit it.”
Beyond ecotourism, the new trail and tower in Little Creek has a special draw on the local community, even as a romantic site for a marriage proposal.
After asking for permission to marry his daughter, David Small’s son-in-law chose the site to ask a big question.
“I didn’t know he knew about this place,” Small said. “And he proposed to her at the top of the old tower.”
Keeping the memories in the family, the trail is now named the David Small Trail.