Construction to start Monday on next segment of Spanish Moss Trail

emoody@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 6, 2013 

The grand opening of the second leg of the Spanish Moss Trail will coincide with the one-year anniversary of the first mile -- if everything stays on schedule.

Construction gets underway Monday in Port Royal on the next 2.27 miles of the walking and biking path along the route of the former Magnolia Line. It will begin on Ribaut Road and connect with the existing trail at Allison Road.

The grand opening is tentatively set for Thanksgiving week, said Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation. The Atlanta-based group is building this section of the trail, as it did the first section, in cooperation with local municipalities and the Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail.

"It really connects the populated area of the town of Port Royal and the city of Beaufort where most of the population is," he said. "Everyone will really be able to travel into the heart of the city basically."

The second leg of the trail will look like the first -- a 12-foot-wide concrete path -- and will pass through residential and marsh areas.

It includes three parking areas -- about 14 spaces at Broome Lane, 10 at Westvine Drive and 26 at Ribaut Road. Ribaut Road will be a trail head and include a small park between the end of the trail and the road.

The section will cost about $1.1 million, of which $600,000 is a grant from the James M. Cox Foundation.

The foundation pledged to donate up to that amount if the community raised matching money and agreed to give it even though community donations add up to about $475,000, McBrayer said.

Beaufort County donated $200,000 and $75,000 of dirt. The city of Beaufort, town of Port Royal and Beaufort Memorial Hospital each donated $50,000, McBrayer said.

The final piece came from Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling's family. Keyserling said he and his siblings agreed to give at least $50,000 -- the proceeds from a class-action lawsuit about the sale of the railroad right-of-way.

"Some people in my family didn't think we had any business suing the federal government over a right-of-way that is pretty inconsequential to the property," Keyserling said. "So we said maybe what we'll do is play Robin Hood and instead of taking what we get from the trail and putting it into our pockets we give it to the trail."

Keyserling's late mother lived along the route. He said the family agreed to give "most or all" of the money, but did not have a final figure.

Port Royal plans to eventually extend the boardwalk at Sands Beach into a walkway along the edge of the water that connects with the trail.

LOOKING AHEAD

Beaufort County plans to build the 2-mile section of trail north that will take the trail from Depot Road to Parris Island Gateway. That $1.3- million segment is not expected to begin construction until next year.

However, McBrayer refuses to slow his pace and is looking farther north. He visited Beaufort this week, scouting out the area between Parris Island Gateway and Laurel Bay Road. The 1.65 miles will cost about $850,000, including the retrofit of a bridge over Albergotti Creek, he said.

McBrayer said private fundraising has begun for the section. Keyserling said an announcement is expected next week on a "one-to-one" fundraising campaign. He did not say who agreed to provide the matching money for the funds the community raises.

"If fundraising goes like the locals hope it does, I'm hoping to have the money all put together before grand opening at Thanksgiving," McBrayer said, adding construction would begin quickly once money was in place.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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