The Trails Master Plan for the People and Communities of Laurens County is now available for public review and input. Produced by the Laurens County Trails Association and broadly supported by community leaders, this master plan offers citizens a thorough analysis and comprehensive proposal for a countywide network of many different kinds of trails for non-motorized traffic linking communities throughout the county and beyond.
Trails for walking, running, hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, and canoeing are proposed around the county for the benefit of all the county’s citizens and to support the county’s economic development.
The plan’s primary focus is to extend the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail through Laurens County and to connect it to the South Carolina Palmetto Trail that runs from the coast to the mountains, passing through the eastern corner of Laurens County in Sumter National Forest.
The Swamp Rabbit would make the communities of Gray Court, Laurens, and Clinton attractive destinations for the growing number of people using the Swamp Rabbit in Greenville County, which last year numbered more than 500,000.
The economic advantage is clear, as Travelers Rest shows and as a recent three year study demonstrates. Last year, 125,000 users alone from outside the Greenville region contributed $6.7 million to Greenville’s economy.
Because national studies show that cyclists and hikers like long trails, the trails extension would garner both local and national attention as outdoor recreation destinations, as the current 17-mile Swamp Rabbit already has. The proposed extension, for example, would add about 45 miles to the trail and also make possible a several hundred mile loop trail with the Palmetto Trail.
The master plan also calls for additional bike routes, hiking trails, water trails along the Reedy, Saluda, and Enoree Rivers, and the creation of horseback riding trails. Over time, many of the existent and new trails would be joined to the Swamp Rabbit to increase the attractiveness and value of Laurens County’s trails.
Along with the economic benefits, the master plan highlights the health and fitness benefits for the county’s citizens, the cultural benefits of highlighting many of the county’s important historical sites, the environmental benefits of preserving and promoting some of the county’s natural beauty, the educational benefits for our public schools and colleges, and the transportation advantages for commuting to work, school, and other communities in non-motorized ways, like cycling and walking.
The 74-page comprehensive master plan provides the project’s background and covers the benefits, existing conditions, proposed trails, implementation, and a conclusion. An additional 31 pages of appendices follows with a summary of the public survey and public meetings held last year, matters of conservation of the county’s natural resources, sources for funding trails, and five pages of maps showing proposed trail routes. The Swamp Rabbit route is drawn broadly and not actually connected to the Palmetto because the route is undetermined.
The plan also offers a 4-page Executive Summary of the whole proposal along with a list of the 21 partner organizations already supporting the development of trails in Laurens County.
The complete plan is available to download at www.lctrails.org. Public meetings will be held again around the county in August for additional public input before the plan is finalized and taken to community councils for adoption.
Contributed by Bob Bryant (firstname.lastname@example.org)