Rails to trails: A few ideas to enhance the experience
REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. (AP) — Back in the day, before the advent of the Dupont Highway and GPS, the best way to visit the coastal region was to take the train. City folk flocked to the region to enjoy the clean air, the natural environment, and, of course, the beach.
This was, after all, THE beach, not the Jersey Shore.
Rehoboth Beach as a resort destination was no longer a gleam in some 19th century land developer’s eye. It was transformed, instead, into a stack of Benjamins in his (or her) hand. With the coming of the automobile, passenger rail service waned and eventually disappeared.
Ironically, the same track beds that initially brought the tourists and triggered residential development are now being transformed, with support from DelDOT and local towns and cities, into a burgeoning system of paved nature trails for pedestrians, runners and cyclists alike.
As such, they are providing outdoor recreational opportunities, and escape from the rigors of increasing population density, to the descendants of those very people who were attracted to the region’s natural beauty in the first place.
“Rails to trails,” as the local initiatives are often called, is part of a broader worldwide movement of “rails with trails,” the latter referring to the creation of paths alongside still functioning train lines.
Re-reading that last sentence, I’m struck by the difference substituting one preposition for another can make.
In that vein, consider: “rails before trails,” probably true today but historically incorrect. It ought to be “trails before rails,” recognizing the fact that some track beds in the Mid-Atlantic region followed paths established by Native American tribes.
“Rails against trails” describes the possible reaction of a homeowner whose backyard abuts one. “Rails alongside trails” are protective measures designed to keep the walker, runner or cyclist on task.
And, finally, “trails behind, on rails,” which, while admittedly containing two propositions, nonetheless quaintly describes a caboose.
While every attempt is made to keep or enhance the bucolic nature of these trails, there are points where they necessarily meet with civilization. One such intersection is where the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail crosses Nassau Road in, you guessed it, Nassau, Delaware.
Actually, it might be in Lewes, since Nassau is an amorphous, unincorporated community; it’s hard to tell, but it’s definitely on the road to wherever Nassau is.
In any case, that intersection is the location of Beach Time Distilling and of Old World Breads. The former recently indicated it will install a bike rack and bench to lure potential customers off the trail and into its establishment for a beverage or a tasting.
Beach Time Distilling encourages riders to drink and bike responsibly. Nonetheless, as the cyclists return to the trail, one can’t help but wonder whether it’s just water in those plastic bottles attached to the frame of their bikes.
This unofficial foodie trailhead is probably only the tip of the iceberg, or rather the top layer of the asphalt, in terms of the commercial opportunities that can be associated with the rails to trails movement.
Given DelDOT’s role in its creation, the state might give some thought to requiring license plates (“trail tags”) on bicycles that roll across the surface it has helped provide. Just imagine a classic, albeit miniature, white-on-black Delaware state tag hanging from the rear of the bike seat.
Since Delaware auto license plate No. 14 sold for $325,000 at a 2016 auction, it doesn’t take a latter-day Nostradamus to predict that the issuance of a new series of tags would be a sound investment, both for the state and the bike owner.
Further afield, both literally and figuratively, but commercially intriguing, would be the idea of enlisting an outdoor performance group along the lines of Philadelphia’s High Art Project.
This musical group hoists itself on individual swings suspended from large tree limbs -- 20 or more feet above the ground. Once ensconced, they play and sing pieces from their classical repertoire.
Maybe the producers of the Coastal Concerts should consider booking this group for its upcoming fall classical music series, possibly as the end-of-the-season Wild Card concert. It certainly would be a fitting choice for that designation.
Hanging from the tree canopy that lines many a trail, the High Art Project ensemble would offer the trail users below a classical musical experience that could be best described not as highbrow, but rather as high bough.
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/