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.
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