A wedding reception in an old replica train depot. A bike ride to the movies. An ice cream cone from a cart vendor, or a gas-station slushie.
As the Spanish Moss Trail grows, so will the activity related to the trail. That’s the expectation of trail supporters and those who have seen similar growth in other areas.
By the end of the year, the Spanish Moss Trail will span 11 miles from Port Royal to Grays Hill. The most recently completed phase includes a pedestrian walkway crossing Robert Smalls Parkway, creating access to a hub of commercial activity.
The boom is expected to eventually draw trail-related business, whether snack vendors or bicycle rentals.
Here is a look at how activity could grow.
The trail will draw businesses
Businesses and local entrepreneurs are exploring options for reaching trail users.
Nick Gregoire wanted a storefront for bicycle rentals and coffee at the Depot Road trailhead.
He later looked at a building where the trail crosses at Neil Road and Robert Smalls Parkway, but the space would have needed several months’ work until business was viable, Gregoire said.
He now plans to move away from the trail to a location on Paris Avenue in Port Royal and dedicate most of the business to coffee, while still offering bike rentals and repairs. He expects Pluff Mudd Coffee Company to take shape in mid-April.
People’s coffee tastes are changing, Gregoire claims. He plans to emphasize the origin of the bean and the process.
Gregorie and business partner Eric Ligeikis haven’t abandoned the bike business and the idea of setting up shop along the trail. The planned Port Royal location is only five minutes from the trail and would benefit when the trail extends south of Ribaut Road, Gregoire said.
“There is no better spot in Beaufort than somewhere along that trail,” Gregoire said. “Right now, the timeline wasn’t synching up.”
There is no better spot in Beaufort than somewhere along that trail. Right now, the timeline wasn’t synching up.
Nick Gregoire, owner of Slowcountry Rentals, who sought a storefront along the Spanish Moss Trail
The gas station chain Parker’s plans to build at the corner of Roseida Road and U.S. 21 along the trail.
Those plans could include benches and a rest area near the rail, where trail users could sit with drinks or snacks, said Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail director Dean Moss.
Moss has also talked to food trucks and cart vendors about the possibilities along the trail. The building Gregoire considered abuts the trail at Robert Smalls Parkway is ideal for a trail-related use, Moss noted.
“These are business decisions that individual entrepreneurs have to make,” he said. “I think as we get more distance, somebody’s going to make the decision to take a risk on something.”
The city of Beaufort last year approved trail-related businesses in the Depot Road area after Gregoire expressed interest. While that plan is on hold, other activity in the area is picking up.
Weddings, classic cars in the Depot Road area
Multiple plans have already envisioned possible uses for what is known as the depot building but is actually a former distribution warehouse.
The Depot Road trailhead is home now to the likes of construction and plumbing businesses and the city has allowed trail-related operations as conditional uses.
The depot building is seen as a possible public events space — think wedding receptions or play performances —with the possibility of adding complementing structures like gazebos nearby. Future considerations include parking and concerns from the nearby 100 Pines neighborhood.
The city is seeking a federal grant for a restroom facility at the trailhead, which would be the only restroom on the trail.
Various groups already use the building for dog shows, dance recitals and furniture displays, said Merritt Patterson, whose Beaufort Construction is housed nearby.
An adjacent building was recently bought with plans to house a classic car collection, Patterson said.
“Most types of uses are going to develop over time,” Patterson said.
A major milestone
Moss called the recently unveiled crosswalk taking the Spanish Moss Trail across Robert Smalls Parkway a major milestone.
Numerous other small projects are planned for the trail, including a connector to allow trail users to hop off safely at Beaufort Plaza, where they can go to the movies. A park planned south of Boundary Street near Broad River Boulevard will serve as a rest stop with benches, Moss said.
Improved access to the trestle crossing Battery Creek for the safety of fishermen and a trash can at the site will allow the area to remain clean. Landscaping and pet waste stations are also planned.
“There’s a lot of stuff like that that has to be worked on,” Moss said.