Coming on the heels of the Emerson Bridge project completion in 2022, the City is moving forward with plans to construct two off-road paved trails, one through Kershaw Park and the other through Olan Thomas Park, which will connect the bridge with the Pomeroy Trail. The project began in January 2023 with a meeting of engineering representatives from Pennoni Associates, City staff, and members of BikeNewark to discuss design project issues and parameters, around which Pennoni will design.
This project had long been in BikeNewark’s plans for connecting the bridge, once built, to Curtis Mill Park and then adding wayfinding signage north and east along Old Paper Mill Road to complete the Northeast Bikeway segment of the Newark Bikeways network. This segment will provide lower-stress options for residents in neighborhoods along Old Paper Mill Road to bike in a couple directions, either downtown or to points north and west of Newark.
Along with generous funding from New Castle County, project funding has been earmarked in the City’s 2023 budget.
The relatively new bike/ped bridge over the White Clay Creek has been utilized by the public now for several months, but on Wednesday, Aug. 10, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)—one of BikeNewark’s partner organizations—held a special ceremony to honor Charlie Emerson, for whom the bridge is named.
Emerson, the former director of the Newark Department of Parks & Recreation, was there with his family to celebrate the dedication of this bridge. The concept was initiated back in 2011 while Emerson was the Parks & Rec director, but the development, fundraising, engineering design, and construction of the Emerson Bridge took about ten years in total to accomplish.
Delaware Secretary of Transportation Nicole Majeski, who emceed this event, emphasized that her department now thinks in a multimodal way when it comes to transportation. She cited all the partners who provided support and/or funding for this $2 million project, including BikeNewark. Special thanks was given to New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer for getting the county to step up to help fund this project in a big way. Our local state legislators—Sen. Dave Sokola and Rep. Paul Baumbach—were responsible for securing significant funding for the bridge as well.
Both Sokola and Baumbach stressed that, whether a bicyclist or pedestrian, crossing the vehicular bridge that was built in the 1940s was not very safe.
Governor Carney couldn’t be there, but Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long was, and she spoke about the importance of creating better opportunities for people to engage in healthy lifestyles. She said that this bridge is a good example of infrastructure that advances such opportunities.
Several speakers alluded to the critical lower-stress connection that this bridge makes both for bicyclists and pedestrians between Newark’s two popular city trails—the Hall and Pomeroy, which were Charlie Emerson projects—and city, county, and state parkland north of the White Clay Creek.
Newark Mayor Stu Markham gave credit to his two immediate predecessors, Jerry Clifton and Polly Sierer, for seeing that this project moved along, even when in 2017 it looked like it was dead for lack of necessary funding.
Current Parks & Rec director Joe Spadafino thanked all the partners involved in this project and gave special mention to BikeNewark for its advocacy efforts on this project. He went on to laud the great legacy that Charlie Emerson (and JIm Hall before him) had created in terms of development of city parkland and trails.
Then Charlie Emerson stepped up to the podium and shared about his many years of experience as the city’s Parks & Rec director and what an honor it was to have this bridge named after him.
Members of Emerson’s family who were present then joined the officials involved in the project to walk to the northern end of the bridge and cut the ribbon, officially dedicating it as the Charles R. Emerson Pedestrian & Bicycle Bridge.
The City plans to create two paved trails—to the south through Olan Thomas Park and southwest through Kershaw Park—from the southern foot of the bridge, each creating the key connections to the Pomeroy Trail. BikeNewark will then work with the City to have wayfinding signs placed for its planned Northeast Bikeway—a segment of its Newark Bikeways low-stress network.
City Council meeting this Monday, July 8, at 7 p.m.
The White Clay Creek/Emerson Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge Cost Estimate and Funding is on the agenda for the Monday, July 8, Newark City Council meeting. The Emerson Bridge will be located over the White Clay Creek immediately west of the existing Paper Mill Road vehicular bridge (see figure above).
The meeting will be held at the City of Newark Municipal Building, 220 South Main Street and the will begin at 7:00 p.m. Along with Council voting on allocating additional funding for the project, there will also be discussion on potential cost saving measures that was a part of value engineering completed for the project. One of the potential cost saving initiatives includes a reduction in the width of the proposed 194 ft.-long structure from 12 ft. to 10 ft. for a $60,000 savings. Attached is informational material on the project that was included in a public workshop that was held in April.
This will likely be the last time you will be able to comment on the bridge project with City Council.
Note: The current plans contain no physical connector to the Pomeroy Trail, which is part of our proposed Newark Bikeways low-stress network; however, we’re told it is included in the city’s 2021 Capital Improvement Project budget. We’d also like your support for voicing the need for associated funding for this paved off-road conduit from the Pomeroy Trail to the bridge approach pathway (see figure), so that low-stress connections can be made to the Newark Reservoir and trails beyond.