Palmetto Trail ready to expand in Upstate


Staff Report



Staff Report

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NEWBERRY COUNTY — Two new sections of the Palmetto Trail in the Upstate have been recommended for funding through the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

The Palmetto Trail is the longest trail and the largest trail construction project in South Carolina, with approximately 360 miles completed and another 140 miles planned.

From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Intracoastal Waterway, the Trail winds through 14 counties — Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg, Union, Laurens, Newberry, Fairfield, Richland, Sumter, Clarendon, Orangeburg, Berkeley and Charleston.

Multiple passages and trailheads make accessing this free public resource easy from anywhere in the state. As it meanders, the Trail’s 27 passages connect state parks, national forests, Revolutionary War battlefields, county recreation areas, and historic military posts.

The Trail showcases the state’s diverse natural beauty, fascinating history, and rich cultural heritage.

The Palmetto Trail inspires active, healthy living. Built as a series of passages, the Trail is accessible for day trips, weekend jaunts, and longer treks.

Passages lead users along wilderness and backwoods paths, urban bikeways, converted rail-trails, greenways, country roads, and even the steps of the State Capitol.

The Palmetto Conservation Foundation said the two construction projects in Oconee and Pickens counties are part of PCF’s “Finish the Trail” campaign.

S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism administers the state’s Recreational Trails Program for the Federal Highway Administration. RTP grants are distributed through a competitive application process.

“We are thrilled to learn these two important Palmetto Trail projects were recommended for funding,” said Natalie Britt, executive director of the PCF. “We are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support for Trail development in the region. The City of Walhalla, Oconee County, and Pickens County have been exceptional partners in moving the mission of the Palmetto Trail forward.”

In Oconee County, the new section of Palmetto Trail is part of a 16-mile extension from Oconee Station State Historic Site into downtown Walhalla, the Trail’s western terminus. The 1.5-mile section will accommodate mountain biking and hiking, and will anchor an extensive mountain biking trail system planned for Walhalla city property on Stumphouse Mountain.

The popular Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls are next to the site.

“There is no question that countless communities across America are experiencing an economic revitalization due in whole or in part to trails and greenways,” Britt said.

PCF is working closely with Walhalla’s Mayor and City Council, Chamber of Commerce, Upstate Forever, and Partners for Progress to create the mountain biking park for beginner through advanced riders.

For Walhalla, the Palmetto Trail is viewed as an exceptional opportunity to increase tourism, stimulate economic development, and provide a fun recreational venue with potential impact on local public health.

“Walhalla is now poised to take advantage of and support all the opportunities that will come from the extension of the Palmetto Trail through our Stumphouse Tunnel property into our downtown,” said Mayor Danny Edwards. “We have just recently completed our downtown streetscape renovation and funded development of a master plan for the downtown area surrounding the path of the Trail.

“This will allow us to maximize its benefits, not only for visitors, but also for our local community members, by creating more outdoor activity and event venues,” he added. “Helping improve the quality of life for our local citizens is an important benefit of the Palmetto Trail coming to our downtown. Our folks will be able to walk, hike and bike safely.”

In Pickens County, the new section of Palmetto Trail will follow the lower reach of Eastatoe Creek through Jocassee Gorges from the fishing access on Roy F. Jones Highway to Keowee-Toxaway State Park.

This section is part of the larger plan for the Palmetto Trail to connect state parks in the Upstate: Croft, Jones Gap, Caesars Head, Table Rock, Keowee-Toxaway, Devil’s Fork, Oconee, and Oconee Station.

This new section of the trail will add approximately four miles toward completing the link between Keowee-Toxaway State Park and Table Rock State Park.

PCF is partnering with the Department of Natural Resources, Naturaland Trust, and Keowee-Toxaway State Park to create this section.

Visit www.palmettoconservation.org for information and downloadable maps.

The mission of the Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) is to conserve South Carolina’s natural and cultural resources, preserve historic landmarks, and promote outdoor recreation through trails and greenways.

Founded in 1989, PCF is a statewide nonprofit organization with offices in Columbia and Glendale in Spartanburg County. PCF’s largest and best-known project is building and maintaining the mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail.

Supporting Trail use is the Glendale Outdoor Leadership School, a PCF program. GOLS teaches courses in wilderness medicine (certified first aid and first responder) and active recreational sports, including rock climbing, mountain biking and kayaking.

To learn more about Palmetto Conservation, the Palmetto Trail and GOLS, visit www.palmettoconservation.org and Facebook/palmettoconservation, or call 803-771-0870.

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) provides funds to the States to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses. The RTP is an assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/ for more information about RTP.

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