Efforts to complete a section of the Spanish Moss Trail are likely to get a shot in the arm courtesy of Beaufort County’s tourists.
The Beaufort County Council’s Finance Committee recommended Tuesday that $250,000 in local accommodations tax revenue — generated from money spent overnight lodging and used to help fund local organizations supporting the tourism industry — be used to finish the seventh phase of the trail project.
That segment stretches about three miles from Laurel Bay Road to Clarendon Road.
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Once this phase is completed, the trail — a joint project of the county, Port Royal, the city of Beaufort, the Friends of the Spanish Moss Trial, and the PATH Foundation of Atlanta — will stretch about 11 miles from Port Royal to Grays Hill.
“The PATH Foundation has allocated $900,000 for the design and build” the seventh phase, according to county documents.
The foundation requested local groups, such as the county or the Friends of the Spanish Moss Trial, provide $750,000 in matching funds, deputy county administrator Josh Gruber said Tuesday.
The County Council already approved using $250,000 in bed tax funds earlier this year for the seventh phase of the trail, which was expected to be completed around Labor Day.
Another $250,000 is still needed to complete the phase, county leaders say.
“The Friends of Spanish Moss Trail are actively working to fund-raise and identify sources of funding to make up that difference,” Gruber said.
County Councilman Jerry Stewart said the funding request before the Finance Committee was not a surprise, “and we felt that the odds were that the bulk of that was going to have to be funded (with) accommodations taxes.”
While members of the committee expressed support for the trail, there was some question Tuesday as to how much involvement the county will have in funding the project moving forward.
“We’ve continued to fund (the trail project) over and over and over again — and I’m not questioning that — but what’s the end game?” Councilman Steve Fobes asked.
Gruber said once the seventh phase is complete, the remaining work on the trail will be in the Port Royal area south of Ribaut Road.
The county and its partners on the trail are working with the state — owner of part of the land through which the trail would run — “and there are still a lot of moving pieces,” he said.
County officials estimate that final stretch will cost about $1 million.