Instead of falling into a turkey-induced coma this Thanksgiving, Beaufort residents should be able to burn off those feast calories by walking or biking the Spanish Moss Trail.
Ed McBrayer, executive director of the Atlanta-based PATH Foundation, which is helping to develop the trail, said it will take about seven weeks to construct the first mile, between Allison and Depot roads. A groundbreaking ceremony Thursday marked the work's start.
"It is really something that is going to tie this community together physically, spiritually, politically, socially and, hopefully most of all, healthfully," said Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling.
Through a partnership among the city, PATH, Beaufort County, Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail and Port Royal, the trail is being built on the former Magnolia rail line and will eventually stretch from the Port of Port Royal to the Whale Branch River and beyond.
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Construction and planning for the first mile is being paid for with a $567,000 grant from the James M. Cox Foundation. A second Cox grant of up to $600,000 will be given to match money raised locally.
The city and county have obtained additional grants totaling $1.2 million that can be used for subsequent legs of the trail.
PATH, which has built more than 200 miles of trails, is helping design and plan the first mile, which will be used as a blueprint for future work. Officials hope this means subsequent miles cost less.
"That expertise, with the seed dollars to start, is going to make that happen a lot faster, a lot smoother, with a better product," Keyserling said.
The asphalt path will be 12- feet wide and 5-inches thick. The first mile will include construction of a small bridge behind the Technical College of the Lowcountry. Signs, benches, trash cans and road crossings will also be included.
The path will run through the Beaufort Depot building, with a secondary path going around it so the Depot's doors can be closed at night. City officials are talking with developers about renovating the building and the Depot area to create a shopping area.
"This really is a tremendous opportunity for the people in the Lowcountry and an unbelievable way to showcase the beauty of our natural resources," County Council Chairman Weston Newton said.