This rail trail would greatly expand access to outdoor recreation, providing places where people can easily get outside to walk, run, bike, and play. The trail would be accessible to people of all abilities. And it would provide a safe way for kids to get outside, without needing someone to drive them. This 31.5-mile linear park would be convenient to many homes and neighborhoods, inviting people of all ages to exercise and enjoy the great outdoors.
When people have more access to parks and trails, they get more physical activity. That’s across all ages, abilities, and income levels. More physical activity reduces the risk of disease, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. In addition, exercise—especially outdoors—improves mental and emotional wellbeing. One study showed that every $1 spent on greenways leads to $3 in health care savings.
Numerous case studies testify that rail trails become economic drivers for local communities. The trails bring customers to local businesses, attract tourists, and appeal to companies looking to locate in areas with high quality of life. A study by the Trust for Public Land found that every $1 invested in land conservation (including parkland) returned $4 in economic value. An economic impact study of the Saluda Grade Trail commissioned by Spartanburg County found that the trail would benefit our local economy at every step of its development, including $11 million of economic impact every year after the trail is built.
The Saluda Grade Trail coalition has also embarked upon a new in-depth study of how the trail could shape local economies, in ways that protect the character of the community and support local goals.
Inviting people to travel the historic Saluda Grade—the steepest standard gauge mainline railroad ever built in the United States—engages them with a unique historic landmark. The Saluda Grade rail line is justly famous for the feats of engineering, daring, and will that it took to run trains up the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment from the Piedmont to the mountains. The Saluda Grade Trail route also passes through historic downtowns and other sites with a story to tell. And people are far more likely to pause and look at historic signage if they’re traveling by foot or bike.