A recent social media post asked for input for the Lower Saluda Greenway Feasibility Study being conducted by the Central Midlands Council of Governments.
What’s this Lower Saluda Greenway, you might ask? You’ve been following the progress on the new Saluda Riverwalk around Riverbanks Zoo, and you might have walked, jogged or biked on West Columbia Riverwalk, the Cayce Riverwalk, and the Timmerman Trail. In Columbia, there’s the paved trail in Riverfront Park, and there’s another trail along the river in Granby Park that curls up into the former Granby Mill village.
So where does the Lower Saluda Greenway fit into this?
Think of it as another entry in the Three Rivers Greenway branding conundrum. Every trail mentioned above is part of the Three Rivers Greenway, the flagship project of The River Alliance. (If branding were the overriding goal, the non-profit guiding the development of trails along the Saluda, Broad and Congaree rivers might be The Three Rivers Alliance, but that would be too simple.)
Back when I wrote about recreation at The State newspaper, the various names for what amounts to one larger entity often confused copy editors. “Why is this referred to as the Three Rivers Greenway in one reference and the Cayce Riverwalk in another?” they would ask. And I’d try to explain.
It’s sort of like the shrimp, sausage and corn concoction called Beaufort Stew in some locales, Frogmore Stew in others and Lowcountry Boil in others. Everyone who makes it claims some ownership in terms of the name. While there might be some slight variations in ingredients, it’s the same dish.
So West Columbia calls its trail a Riverwalk and tosses in an amphitheater. Cayce also uses the Riverwalk term, but branches out slightly inland with the Timmerman Trail, originally built by SCANA and named for a former company executive before being turned over to the city. Much of the Timmerman Trail runs through what is planned to be the 12,000-Year-History Park, so signage on portions of it refer to the 12KHP Trail.
Columbia’s Riverfront Park opened in 1983, before The River Alliance had formed. Sections of the trail there have been improved or built since it officially was added to the Three Rivers Greenway system, but the trail itself isn’t branded as the Columbia or Broad River Greenway. In some references, it’s the Columbia Canal Path. In others, it’s simply Riverfront Park.
Columbia treats Granby Park the same way, though The River Alliance sometimes refers to the trail that continues up to the mill area as the Mill Village Riverlink.
Now let’s add the Lower Saluda Greenway, which builds on the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ reference to the 10-mile section of the Saluda River downstream of the Lake Murray dam through the confluence with the Broad River. It was designated as a State Scenic River in 1991, recognizing its “unique or outstanding scenic, recreational, geologic, botanical, fish, wildlife, historic or cultural values.” Another section near the waterway’s headwaters in the South Carolina mountains is designated the Middle Saluda Scenic River, so the section near Columbia was called the Lower Saluda Scenic River.
Back in the 1990s, public planning meetings were held to discuss the potential route of the Three Rivers Greenway on that section of the Saluda. As a result, maps were created to guide the process. The built-but-not-officially-open Saluda Riverwalk around the zoo follows a portion of that route. Maps were tweaked a few years back as Lexington County considered a penny sales tax to fund construction projects, which residents eventually voted down.
With interest in pedestrian and bike trails growing lately, the Central Midlands Council of Governments is conducting a new feasibility study to examine how a trail that runs on the north side of the river from the Lake Murray dam to the Saluda Riverwalk section at the zoo can connect to residential and commercial areas. Fortunately, a 2.5-mile section through Saluda Shoals Park already exists, built by Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission to the same standards as other sections of the Three Rivers Greenway. (One important factor in the planning is that the connection likely can’t be made until the S.C. Department of Transportation is well into its major reworking of the Malfunction Junction of I-26, I-126 and I-20.)
The goal of the feasibility study is to get public input to better define the purpose and need of completing the trail and the opportunities and constraints in doing so. The original plans called for routing the trail away from the river to Bush River Road, where it would connect to the pedestrian walkway over the dam. Between the Saluda Shoals trail’s south end and I-26, a riverfront wastewater treatment plant presents a hurdle. How to navigate these challenges, and how best to connect with neighborhoods and businesses along the way, will be discussed in the feasibility study final report.
Somewhere in that document, branding for the full section might be addressed. But regardless of what it is called, it will be part of the Three Rivers Greenway.
_ Joey Holleman