I-95 Wilmington

I-95 cuts through Wilmington before the Restore the Corridor Project began

Wilmington City Council became the latest group to throw their support behind a possible park over I-95's slicing of downtown Wilmington.

City Council unanimously supported a resolution by Councilwoman Maria Cabrera to encourage the Delaware General Assembly, while also voicing hope that Congressional Delegation joins the fight, to find legislation and funding for what they hope will become a National Park.

Cabrera said the biggest benefit is to create a stronger connection to the two sides of I-95, which are now only connected by a series of street bridges after the interstate was directed through the city when it was built in the 1960s.

"The construction of a cap for an urban national park in Wilmington could reconnect those neighborhoods like Quaker Hill, Trinity Vicinity, Hilltop, Tilton Park, and West Center City, and help restore those neighborhoods and reunite Wilmington."

Councilwoman Loretta Walsh sees the Federal Government stepping in as a make-good.

"I view this as a do-over for the City of Wilmington. I think the Federal Government owes it to us, since they systematically came in here and destroyed out city."

There are precedents to placing a park over an interstate.

Seattle's Freeway Park sits over top of a one-block stretch of I-5 after the first phase was completed in 1976. In the middle of the that park, it is easy to forget the West Coast's version of I-95 is directly below you.

Nearby to that is the Aubrey Davis Park on Mercer Island just across Lake Washington east of Seattle on I-90. That lid includes tennis courts, softball fields, a playground, and a walking trail.

Dallas' Klyde Warren Park is above three city blocks worth of the Will Rodgers Freeway (Rt. 366), and was opened in 2012 after roughly $90 million was spent.

Philadelphia is working on their own cap of I-95 that would connect over to Penn's Landing. Wilmington's resolution suggests that 4-acre park would cost $225 million when it is completed in, or around, 2024.

"They themselves denoted $90 million towards their project, that's, of course, is something we never could afford to do right now."

Cabrera said the biggest members of Wilmington's business community should step to the plate. 

"We are the Corporate Capital of the World. Right adjacent to I-95, and two blocks away from Trinity Vicinity, you have the corporate icons. You have Blue Cross/Blue Shield, you have Capital One, you have Chase, these people are all incorporated here. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to get that local support."

In addition, Cabrera said Wilmington should leverage having a sitting President who lives just a few miles outside the city's borders.

"If we cannot get things done now, and take advantage of this opportunity, then shame on us for not asking hard enough, and not holding him accountable as well."

The most notable example of a National Park going over top of an interstate is Washington, D.C.'s National Mall having I-395 tunnel underneath of it.

As for why a Wilmington I-95 cap would qualify for National Park status where the other examples mentioned earlier aren't, Cabrera's resolution references riots that took place after the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with National Guard occupation of the city lasting into 1969.

Delaware currently only has one National Park, a hodgepodge of locations from Beaver Valley to Lewes known as the First State National Historic Park, that was only formed in 2013.

Councilwoman Bregetta Fields represents the 5th District, which is bisected by I-95. 

"I tell my constituents that I-95 may divide us, but it doesn't define us. When I say this, that's what I believe. I really believe that a National Park on I-95 will be beneficial, not only for the 5th District, but for the City of Wilmington, and the State of Delaware."

Walsh warned getting a park wouldn't happen immediately, but it remains the right thing to do to correct wrongs from the 1960s.

"It's going to be a long project, and a very expensive one. The longevity is going to be all of the agencies that have to be involved and all of the plans that need to be put together. I don't want people to lose hope, because hope very much needs to stay alive, but it's certainly going to take a number of years for anything to happen. It would be a reconciliation of both sides of our city, and how disgracefully our Federal Government put our city in the position of having hundreds, if not thousands, of our people move out of the city."