By Jim Hicks, LIBPA
Northern Beaufort County is presently attempting to capitalize on an opportunity to develop a multi-purpose recreational trail that could attract tourist from throughout the United States.
This opportunity came about as a result of Beaufort and Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (BJWSA) deciding in 2009 that the 26 mile Port Royal to Yemassee abandoned rail bed posed a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to establish a utility corridor.
To the credit of BJWSA, they invested the necessary time and money to have the federal authorities place the railbed into the federal rail bank, so they could then purchase the railbed.
Once the railbed was the property of BJWSA, they offered use of the surface part of the railbed to the county in return for the county to assume responsibility for landscaping maintenance.
In 2011, the county searched, with some success, for ways to fund incremental construction of a multipurpose trail and BJWSA began removal of the rails.
Today, BJWSA is almost finished removing the rails to include the removal of the unsafe trestles over some of the waterways. A basic design for the trail has been agreed upon by Beaufort County and the City of Beaufort. A technical oversight committee (approval team) consisting of engineering and technical representatives from Beaufort County, City of Beaufort, Town of Port Royal, the Path Foundation and Friends of Spanish Moss Rail Trail has been formed and is in operation.
Certainly there are still unanswered questions regarding the long range development of the railbed. For example, some question has arisen as to the most appropriate name (Spanish Moss or Magnolia Line) for the trail. But one thing is certain, based on the number of problems overcome to date, each of the governmental and private entities involved in this project is capable of working together. As a result of this cooperation and support, barring unforeseen problems, northern Beaufort County will have a multipurpose trail from Allison Road to Depot Road by Christmas and, hopefully construction scheduled for a trail from Laurel Bay Road to Claredon Road.
What a marvelous Christmas gift to the community.
By Jim Hicks, LIBPA