Agreement reached to turn Upstate rail line into trail

A closeup of some weathered railroad tracks.
A closeup of some weathered railroad tracks.(
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 9:24 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A coalition of nonprofits has reached an agreement with Northfolk Southern to sell Saluda Grade Trail, a 31-mile rail line, for use as a recreational rail trail.

The coalition consists of Conserving Carolina, PAL: Play, Advocate, Live Well and Upstate Forever. These nonprofits are leading efforts to repurpose the inactive rail line as a trail that will run from Upstate, South Carolina into the mountains of Western North Carolina.

The Saluda Grade Trail will run through Inman, Campobello, Landrum, Tryon, Saluda, and Zirconia. Organizers said along its route, the trail will feature rural scenery, vibrant small towns, historic landmarks, and gorgeous nature preserves, lakes, and waterfalls. It is expected to be a multi-use trail.

“We’re pleased to announce this exciting progress toward the goal of a rail trail that will serve as an economic engine for our communities, provide an abundance of recreational opportunities, and improve people’s health by encouraging exercise and time in nature,” says Kieran Roe, Executive Director of Conserving Carolina.

At the request of the railroad, the terms of the agreement are subject to a confidentiality agreement. The coalition expects to close on the rail corridor within two years and is pursuing state and federal funding opportunities. In South Carolina, the coalition is advocating for an $11 million investment by the state this year.

“In addition to being beloved community assets, trails energize economies. We’ve seen this play out with the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is a resounding success.” said Andrea Cooper, Executive Director of Upstate Forever. “The Saluda Grade Trail will bring new jobs and money to the area, encourage safe outdoor recreation, and improve quality of life for residents. It’s a visionary project with a return that will far exceed any initial investment.”

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