The Friends of Spanish Moss Trail has asked Beaufort County for $200,000 to help pay for a 2.2-mile trail segment from Beaufort to Port Royal.
The group also seeks nearly $75,000 in "in-kind" donations for dirt and hauling services from the county to reduce construction costs.
In a presentation Monday to the County Council's Finance Committee, trail board member David Tedder said the county contributions would allow construction to begin later this year.
"If we can get this pledge in hand very soon ... we can begin in late summer or early fall and hopefully have another 2.2 miles to add to this by Christmas if not earlier," he said.
The total cost of the new section is estimated to be $1.1 million.
The $200,000 that the Friends of Spanish Moss Trail wants the county to provide for the Beaufort-Port Royal section probably would come from the county's share of local accommodations-tax revenues on short-term lodging. County administrator Gary Kubic said there is more than enough money in the local account to make the donation.
He says the county also has plenty of dirt and has included it in the past in economic-development deals.
"We have an ongoing program that whenever we can capture dirt from a government project, we store it," Kubic said, calling the material a "sometimes difficult item to get in the Lowcountry."
One mile of the rail trail, from Allison Road to Depot Road in Beaufort, has already been built. The proposed new segment, which marks the third phase of the trail, would extend the 12-foot-wide concrete trail from Allison Road to Ribaut Road in Port Royal.
Meanwhile, the county is working with contractors to design the second phase of the trail, a 2-mile segment from Depot Road toward Parris Island Gateway. Construction on that segment, projected to cost $1.3 million, likely won't begin for at least a year, according to Rob Merchant of the county's planning department.
The trail is being built on the former Magnolia rail line and one day could stretch from the Port of Port Royal to beyond the Whale Branch River. It is being developed as a partnership that includes the county, the city of Beaufort, the Friends of the Spanish Moss Rail Trail and the Atlanta-based PATH Foundation.
Ed McBrayer, executive director of the Atlanta-based PATH Foundation, urged council on Monday to support the third phase. He said multiuse trails like this one improve a community's overall health and can raise property values. They also can help attract business and entice retirees to buy property here, he said.
The committee forwarded the request to the full council without a recommendation and with limited debate. The measure could appear for review by June 24.
"If we can afford it, it's a great thing," said Councilman Steve Baer.