After nearly two decades, a pathway on Valley Road connects a significant portion of one side of Hockessin with the other. But it remains just one portion of a larger, ongoing trail network.

The cones and heavy machinery are gone, and the ribbon is about to be cut on the new Valley Road pathway in Hockessin.

But the path that stretches from the Hockessin Library to Lantana Square could be just the beginning of a project that connects the entire community in a unique and healthy way.

“It’s going to have a major impact on the whole area,” said Dick Saunders, Hockessin Greenways manager and custodian of the project over the last seven years.

It could have such an impact, Saunders said, that the end result would be a high level of connectivity numerous communities, including a proposed DelDOT project to add .87 miles of sidewalk between Paper Mill and Brackenville Roads that would create roughly four miles of continuous sidewalk from Milltown Road into downtown Hockessin.

PART OF HOCKESSIN HISTORY?

Stretching back nearly 20 years, the ambitious Hockessin Greenways Plan started as a series of proposals from former Greater Hockessin Area Development Association president Boyd Sorenson in 1997 and then- State Rep. Nick Manolakos, to create an interconnected series of paths throughout the Hockessin region.

Over the years, those plans have merged with other regional plans to the point that Saunders believes could result in connectivity spanning from Pike Creek down Route 7 to Newark and the Pennsylvania border, and from North Star Road to Yorklyn and beyond.

The Valley Road project was just the most recent phase in those ongoing plans that also included the Old Lancaster Pike Streetscape, pedestrian and aesthetic elements for Route 41, and the Swift Park Trail System, all of which were completed by 2003.

The Valley Road portion remained in limbo throughout due to financial and zoning issues. 

The roughly $800,000 project finally got underway last summer with extensive road and curbing work from June to the end of October, while some additional tasks were completed before the end of autumn.

A planned ribbon cutting last March was delayed following a customary follow-up inspection by DelDOT officials, where numerous small issues were discovered.

At the time, Bud Freel – DelDOT’s liaison for New Castle County – said that the findings were common and typical of any project.

Freel said that now, only a few minor details remain, after crews remove sewer grating protection bags, and install topsoil seed and mulch in a few spots.

“A lot of items like that, small stuff,” he said, adding that they are minor but necessary details.

A final point inspection will also be scheduled before the ribbon cutting, which is expected sometime in the middle of June.

SUBHED (MOVING AHEAD WITH PLANS?)

The recent completion of the pathway is another significant achievement for the Hockessin community on numerous levels, including safety, according to GHADA vice president Mark Blake.

“This connection enables thousands of residents to safely and easily to walk from the Hockessin Athletic Club and Lantana Square area to the nearby Hockessin Soccer Fields and Piedmont Baseball fields and right into historic Hockessin, all along safe, dedicated sidewalks and pathways, allowing families to park at one location and easily walk to others nearby,” Blake said.

Blake added that the problem of connectivity for foot traffic in Hockessin is a historic one, leaving people to often walk or jog along the roadside of some of the area’s busiest roads.

“The pathway connects two busy roads with a safe way to get from one side of Hockessin to the other, on foot or to safely run or jog without having to use those road lane edges,” Blake said.

Pike Creek resident Amelia Remington said that she often parks her car at the Hockessin Athletic Club or Swift Park when she runs, making a loop down Valley Road and into downtown Hockessin, and back to her vehicle.

Having made the run dozens of times over the past four years, Remington said the sidewalk was a welcome addition.

“I’ve almost been hit at least twice,” she said, adding that she’d often considered permanently relocating her route until she heard about the project.

“I was hitting area parks during construction, and I still do on some days. This is still one of my favorite places to run,” she said. “I hope they do make more trails, you can’t have enough if you ask me.”

“We have connected pedestrian access to multiple neighborhoods now at both ends of Hockessin that we didn’t have before,” Saunders said. “I think that’s significant, because it will impact people’s willingness to walk, which, while it’s not something that’s measurable in itself, is impacting people’s health.”

Both Saunders and Blake praised the numerous agencies and community stakeholders who have worked on the plan throughout, including Boyd, Manolakas, State Rep. Joe Miro and New Castle County Councilwoman, Janet Kilpatrick.

“Everyone worked together to determine the best possible placement of the pathway and helped shaped the final design. This truly was a community effort,” Blake said.