Beaufort County Councilman Steve Baer sums up our thoughts about a request from the Friends of Spanish Moss Trail for $200,000 to help pay for a 2.2-mile segment of a walking and biking path that would stretch from Beaufort to Port Royal.
"If we can afford it, it's a great thing," Baer said.
County administrator Gary Kubic suggests the county can find $200,000 with little trouble and can throw in about $75,000 worth of fill dirt as an in-kind donation, something the trail advocates also requested.
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 on a segment expected to cost about $1.1 million. Most of the remainder would come from grants and private donations.
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Kubic said the $200,000 that the trail group wants the county to provide to build the Beaufort-Port Royal section probably would come from the county's local accommodations tax money.
One mile of the rail trail, from Allison Road to Depot Road in Beaufort, has already been built. The new segment, considered phase three of the trail project, would extend the 12-foot-wide concrete trail from Allison Road to Ribaut Road in Port Royal.
The funding -- and the early start it would allow -- means the segment could be finished as soon as Christmas, even before ground is broken on the second phase -- a 2-mile segment from Depot Road toward Parris Island Gateway. Construction there, expected 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 by a partnership that includes the county, the city of Beaufort, the Friends of the Spanish Moss Rail Trail and the Atlanta-based PATH Foundation.
The segment already constructed is attractive and well used. The next two phases would extend the trail through more densely populated areas so that its use would probably increase.
In addition, as PATH Foundation executive director Ed McBrayer told the council committee Monday, the multi-use trail will benefit the community's health, could raise property values and attract business and retirees.
The committee forwarded the request to the full council without a recommendation and with limited debate. The measure could be up for review by Monday.
If coming up with $200,000 in funding and $75,000 in dirt is as easy as Kubic indicates, the county should help Friends of Spanish Moss Trail to move ahead with this segment.