Beaufort County has taken a step toward transforming an old railway line into a bike and pedestrian trail, and construction could begin next year.
The railroad corridor runs from the town of Port Royal to Yemassee, and the county has the rights to use about 14 miles from Ribaut Road to the Whale Branch River.
Of that, about 2.2 miles can be built with funding now locked in, according to Billie Lindsay, a county special-projects planner.
The county has received a $1,043,520 federal grant to help develop the trail. On Oct. 10, County Council authorized a $260,880 local match from accommodations tax funds designated for projects that would benefit tourism.
A section of the corridor between Allison Road and S.C. 170 will be developed first. Engineering plans still need to be created and environmental regulations met, however.
"I would think at best, construction will be maybe nine months away," Lindsay said. "It's federal money, so there's very stringent guidelines for the way it needs to be accounted for."
Workers are currently tearing out the old rail infrastructure.
The Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, which purchased the corridor in 2009 with plans to run pipelines through it, is supervising that work, which should be finished by the end of the year.
"We are almost done with removing all the rails and ties and ballast," said Matthew Brady, BJWSA communications manager.
Meanwhile, a group of citizens is forming a nonprofit organization, Friends of Beaufort County's Spanish Moss Rail Trail, to support the project
Jane Frederick, a leader of the group, said its members are working to write bylaws and form a board of directors.
The organization marshaled about 25 people to attend last week's council meeting and support the allocation of the local funds. In the future, it could adopt projects or clean up portions of the trail, Frederick said.
"We will evolve as the trail evolves," she said.
County officials are pursuing additional funding to complete the rest of the trail.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.