The Saluda Grade Trail Conservancy (“the Conservancy”) is pleased to share that the South Carolina State Legislature recently included $10 million in the 2023-2024 budget towards the purchase of the Saluda Grade Trail, which will run through Northern Spartanburg and Greenville Counties into the mountains of Western North Carolina.
The Conservancy, which consists of PAL: Play. Advocate. Live Well. and Upstate Forever on the South Carolina side, and Conserving Carolina on the North Carolina side, is leading efforts to construct the multi-purpose trail.
Laura Ringo, Executive Director of PAL, says, “The Saluda Grade Trail is one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to the work of the Spartanburg County delegation, especially Representative Max Hyde. This project will have a significant economic impact — as we are already seeing with the announcement of Time Bicycle — an improved quality of life, and health benefits for our community.”
"We truly appreciate the support the Legislature has shown for the Saluda Grade Trail project. I’d especially like to thank Representative Bruce Bannister for his essential role in this success. This is a wise investment that will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment,” says Andrea Cooper, Executive Director of Upstate Forever.
The 31-mile Saluda Grade Trail will pass through Inman, Campobello, Landrum, Tryon, Saluda, and Zirconia. Along its route, which includes 15.6 miles in South Carolina and 15.9 miles in North Carolina, the trail will feature rural scenery, vibrant small towns, historic landmarks, gorgeous nature preserves, lakes, and waterfalls.
While the historic Saluda Grade rail line is famously steep, the dramatic grade is only in a small section of the line where it crosses from the Piedmont to the mountains. Much of the route is level or moderate in its grade. It is expected to be a multi-use trail that will be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.
The Conservancy has a signed agreement with the railroad establishing the purchase price and other terms of a future purchase with Norfolk Southern. At the request of the railroad, the terms of the agreement are subject to a confidentiality agreement.
A preliminary impact study indicated that South Carolina’s investment will net $45 million in economic impact. Poised to be a top rail trail in the U.S., it is projected to attract an initial 125,000 visitors annually, support well over 300 jobs across the trail’s footprint, and spur development contiguous to the trail. The Conservancy has begun the process of a more detailed economic impact and feasibility study that will shed light on how the trail will shape local economies and how to move forward with the project.
The Conservancy expects to close on the rail corridor within two years and is pursuing state and federal funding opportunities.
Starting this summer, the Conservancy will reach out to landowners and stakeholders along the trail to seek their input on the opportunities and challenges presented by the trail and approaches that will best meet the community's needs. As part of this outreach, the Conservancy will host three public meetings, solicit feedback through an online survey opportunity, and conduct stakeholder interviews.
In addition, the group has launched a website for the Saluda Grade Trail at www.saludagradetrail.org where the public will be able to learn more about the project, sign up for email updates, and donate towards the trail construction.