LEWES, Del.- The life and legacy of long-time WBOC owner Tom Draper was remembered Monday in Lewes during a ribbon cutting ceremony held for the completion of the second phase of a Sussex County bike trail and the unveiling of a kiosk in honor of WBOC’s longtime owner Tom Draper, who passed away in 2017.
The Delaware Department of Transportation on Monday morning held the ceremony for the completion of Phase 2 of the Georgetown to Lewes bike trail. It consists of a hot-mix trail 10-foot wide that extends for approximately 4.9 miles in length from Savannah Road to Log Cabin Road. This a new pathway for pedestrians and cyclists to and from communities and businesses in Sussex County.
Neighbors like Michael Hopkins say the trail is creating a sense of community.
“I can be there on my back deck and listen to people going by and they are enjoying themselves and they are enjoying life,” he says of the trail. “That’s what it’s all about.”
In November, DelDOT announced its plans to dedicate the kiosk in Draper’s honor. Former State Representative Harvey Kenton, Draper’s childhood friend, came up with the idea to incorporate Draper into the new trail’s creation. He says seeing it open up on Monday is special.
“This is going to help bring a little bit of a closure […] but the legacy is the big thing. His name will go on forever,” he says. “I know Tom is looking down and saying ‘Harvey, thumbs up.'”
Draper’s family was in attendance to cut the ribbon officially opening the trail, and to unveil the kiosk. Son Hank Draper says his father would be pleased with it all, and having a safe place to bike is incredibly important.
“Even more so now than ever, with the volume of traffic and the amount of people that now live here and every back road seems to be vanishing into a much busier road,” he says. “So it’s critical to have a safe place to ride your bike and enjoy yourself with your kids and your family.”
Phase Two is not the end of the trail. DelDOT is currently designing the trail from the town of Georgetown to Park Avenue. The construction of this section of the trail is proposed for mid-summer 2020. When complete, the entire trail will be a 10-foot-wide paved trail that will stretch a total of 17 miles from Lewes to Georgetown.
At Monday’s ceremony, visitors were able to review a map of the trail and read about Draper’s life through the new kiosk, which featured his biography and multiple photos of him.
“DelDOT is pleased to open this kiosk in memory of Tom Draper. His connection to the natural landscapes of Delaware and the Delmarva Peninsula was obvious to everyone familiar with his media operations, and DelDOT takes great pride in promoting encounters with those landscapes through the development of trails like this one,” said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan. “The Georgetown-to-Lewes trail will be another excellent connection in our inventory.”
While the trail was officially opened on Monday, many locals had already been using sections of the trail, Jeff Niezgoda, Assistant Director for DelDOT’s Division Of Planning says.
“We were out here on Memorial Day doing some data recovery and we started to see a lot of people parking in these designated parking areas and then biking into Lewes rather than taking their cars with their beach chairs on the back,” he says. “So that was really cool to see.”
State Sen. Ernie Lopez said, “I am thankful that the vision and legacy of our friend, Tom Draper, will be celebrated by Delawareans for generations to come through the use of this scenic trail. Mr. Draper was a champion of our beautiful and unique natural resources here in Eastern Sussex County which this new trail will showcase.”
“Tom Draper was a visionary businessman who was dedicated to improving communities throughout the region,” said state Rep. Steve Smyk. “He was also an avid bicyclist. This is a modest, but fitting tribute to a man who has left a lasting and beneficial legacy.”
“The completion of Phase II of the Lewes to Georgetown trail and the Draper Kiosk continues the linking of Lewes with Georgetown. This 4.9 mile section of trail will provide those living across Route 1 a safe and efficient alternative route to enjoy all that Lewes and the Cape Henlopen State Park has to offer,” said Mayor Ted Becker of Lewes.
Mayor Bill West of Georgetown said, “The Town of Georgetown is excited to see the progress being made on the bike trail connector between Georgetown and Lewes. We look forward to reviewing the plans for the Georgetown terminus of the trail and are excited about the opportunities bike enthusiasts will bring into our tour.”
“Sussex County is full of natural wonder and scenic places, and this trail will help showcase that beauty to our visitors and residents alike,” Sussex County Councilman I.G. Burton said. “We live in a community with many active adults and families who like to get outside and spend time together, and we’re a destination for thousands of outdoor enthusiasts and cyclists each year who love to explore our rich, rural landscapes. I can think of no better way to remember someone like my friend Tom Draper than by dedicating the kiosk in his honor. It is a legacy to his love of the outdoors, to cycling, and to the people of Sussex County.”
Mr. Draper, who was the owner of WBOC-TV for 39 years, celebrated 50 years in journalism on Sept. 3, 2017, just days before he was struck and killed by a pickup truck while riding his bike along Slaughter Beach Road in Milford.
Known as an avid cyclist, part of Slaughter Beach Road was adopted in his name.