Private assistance from the family that owns Clarendon Plantation, as well as the Cox Enterprises media company -- should breathe life into a proposed bike trail in Beaufort County.
It is a wonderful gift of money and professional help.
More importantly, it includes a challenge to the community to match the family's generosity, and by doing so, make the trail truly its own.
Jim Kennedy, whose family has owned Clarendon Plantation in northern Beaufort County for about 50 years, is on the board of the Atlanta-based PATH Foundation, which has helped build more than 200 miles of paths in Georgia. The James M. Cox Foundation has donated millions of dollars to PATH through the years, and at Kennedy's urging, the organization will provide planning and design services for the first mile of trail along an old railroad right of way, between Allison and Depot roads in Beaufort.
Work on a project that has been much talked-about and eagerly anticipated by many could begin by fall.
A $567,000 grant will pay for design and construction of the first mile, and a second grant of as much as $600,000 will be available to match money raised by the Friends of the Spanish Moss Rail-Trail.
Additionally, the city of Beaufort and Beaufort County have secured grants totaling $1.2 million that now can be used for subsequent legs of the proposed 14-mile path. Initial designs by the county were for a 12-foot-wide paved path connecting neighborhoods and attractions.
"These trails are wonderful, and with the kind of weather we have in the ... area and the number of cyclists we have here, it would just get such use," Kennedy said.
He is right.
And the trails will not only be a useful amenity to residents, but will also entice tourists attracted to outdoor activities and natural beauty, which Beaufort County offers in abundance.
Now it is time for people who tout the myriad virtues of the rails-to-trails project to put their money where their ideas are, and to thank the Kennedy family for a kind gift that will help blaze the trail.