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As the Saluda Riverwalk heads into the summer in its seemingly never-ending limbo – officially not open, yet heavily used – the City of Columbia continues making strides to improve management of the trail.

Trail users have noticed blue oval signs installed recently on the numerous wooden bridges throughout the greenway. These are the first of a series of wayfinding improvements designed to help with location on the greenway system.                                                                             

The numbers on the signs aren’t related to distance, so they aren’t useful for determining how far you have walked or biked or how far you have to go. Rather, they are based on the number of light poles along the trail, starting with the number 800 at the western end near I-26 and counting up as you head east, and then again with 900 at the (still unopened) parking lot heading to the eastern end of the current trail.

If you look closely, you can see where numbers were scratched onto each of the light poles as part of an inventory of the infrastructure of the system. Soon, more noticeable numbers will be affixed to each pole. If you frequent other sections of the Three Rivers Greenway, you might have noticed similar numbers on the poles. (They helped me aim folks to some of the largest trees along the greenway system in an earlier blog post.)

Location numbers along the trail serve as a public safety feature. If someone in your group falls off a bike and severely injures themselves, you can call for help and provide the number of the nearest light pole or bridge. Same if you notice someone stranded on the rocks after the river rises rapidly. Or if you’re the first to spot a tree blown across the trail by a wind burst or if you come across an injured or strange-acting animal.

When the park officially opens, the city will post a phone number to call to reach the Park Rangers patrolling this section of the riverwalk, just like they do for the Riverfront Park and Granby Park sections. That’s another imperative reason for the city and Richland County to finish the legal and political process of turning the park over from the county to the city. In the meantime, if a true emergency crops up along the Saluda Riverwalk, the best choice is to dial 911.

Of course, the new numbered signs also can help friends and family members who reach the greenway at different times but still want to get together. For instance, early arrivals can text the late-comers: “Meet me at the picnic table just past bridge number 937.”

And for trail users who long for distance markers, those are coming soon, too. The city plans to note quarter-mile distances as is done at Riverfront Park.

City crews also are making progress on the secondary parking lot at Saluda Riverwalk. Sure would be nice to have two parking lots and two restrooms open by the end of May and throw open the gate that has been closed for the past two years.