New trail's first mile offers glimpse of potential

info@islandpacket.comNovember 28, 2012 

Teamwork and tenacity paid big dividends last week with the ceremonial opening of the first mile of the Spanish Moss Trail in Beaufort.

The 12-foot wide concrete trail opens a new era with great promise, just as the rail line it replaces signaled new industrial hope for the area following the Civil War.

Quality of life is an industry in today's economy, which is powered locally by real estate, tourism and natural resources. The Spanish Moss Trail will help, especially if it reaches its full length of almost 14 miles.

To date, the trail is the result of cooperation between municipal, county, state and federal governments. The dream began a dozen years ago, and it has involved cooperative planning and fund-raising to produce the first "model mile" between Allison and Depot roads.

Key players have included the Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority, which acquired the right of way of the abandoned rail line to use as a utility corridor, and granted a surface easement to Beaufort County to develop the recreational trail.

The PATH Foundation of Atlanta brought planning and technical assistance to the table, as well as a $567,000 grant from the James M. Cox Foundation. The Cox family has owned Clarendon Plantation in Grays Hill for 50 years, and the PATH Foundation has more than two decades of experience in building 170 miles of trails in the north Georgia region. It has helped lay out the future for the Spanish Moss Trail, expected to be built in 10 segments over five or six years. And it has arranged for a second grant of up to $600,000 to match money raised locally.

The Pathways Connect organization of bicycling advocates kick-started the concept. More recently, employees of The Greenery donated $17,000 worth of elbow grease to have the trail well landscaped around the Depot for the grand opening. Earlier, Bartlett Tree Experts cleared brush in the Deport area in a way to protect mature and seedling oaks.

Getting to this point has not been a downhill glide. Pushing the trail to its limit will be even harder.

Support for Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail will be needed for what the group estimates will be a total cost of $12.5 million. At least $4 million is to come from private funds. To claim the $600,000 challenge grant, and complete the trail's first two segments, the group must raise $2 million by December 2013.

But the public can now see why the trail is worth the effort.

To learn more, go to the Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail's website: www.spanishmosstrail.com.

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