Working on the rail trail: Community contributions sought for continuing construction of the Spanish Moss Trail

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By William Laney

I remember the skepticism that met the original proposed 14 mile Spanish Moss Trail, the 12-foot wide walking and biking trail, which when complete will connect Port Royal, Beaufort, Burton, Grays Hill and Yemassee to the Whale Branch pier on the old Magnolia Rail line.

A couple walks along the Spanish Moss Trail between Allison and Depot roads.
A couple walks along the Spanish Moss Trail between Allison and Depot roads.

And, of course, when the trail’s model mile opened last year between Allison and Depot roads, people liked it so much that that skepticism switched immediately to an urgent, “When will this path be built longer and reach my neighborhood?”

Well, now the community has an opportunity to help make that a reality. The next section to be developed (and needs your contributions to finish) will run from Parris Island Gateway to Laurel Bay Road at the Marine Corps Air Station.

With a total project cost of $850,000, and $600,000 secured in matching grants, only $250,000 dollars remains to be raised by the end of November. If Beaufortonians can’t raise the money by that time, those matching “challenge” funds could possibly be lost. So it’s crucial that if you plan to do a tax-deductible donation, you make that contribution now. Someday you will be able to ride your bike on this trail and tell your kids, “I built this.” For every tax-deductible dollar you give, it will be met with a 3:1 matching contribution.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for us to complete the first half of this trail much sooner than we ever envisioned,” said Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail Executive Director Dean Moss.  “Every dollar you give is equivalent to more than a $3 contribution due to the generous challenge grants in place until Thanksgiving.”

A big community thank you goes to Jim and Sarah Kennedy, owners of Clarendon Plantation in Grays Hill. Jim, grandson of James M. Cox and Chairman of the James M. Cox Foundation is a nature enthusiast and supporter of trails all over the Atlanta area. To date, the Cox Foundation has become the leading patron of the Spanish Moss Trail — giving nearly $1.2 million for the development of the Spanish Moss Trail in lead gifts and challenge grants — including a $567,000 gift to construct the trail’s model mile and a $600,000 challenge grant for the 2.3 mile section currently under construction between Ribaut and Allison roads. The Cox Foundation has recently issued another challenge grant in the amount of $350,000 to develop the next section between Parris Island Gateway and Laurel Bay Road — extending the trail to the Marine Corps Air Station.

Along with this Cox Foundation challenge grant, corporate contributions include a $250,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina Foundation in honor of John M. Trask, Jr. for his many years of service to their board of directors.

One of the largest private donations has been a $50,000 gift from the Keyserling family towards the Allison to Ribaut roads section being built right now.  Mayor Billy Keyserling deserves a big thank you for taking a leadership role in fundraising and working very hard to make this happen for the community, according to Dean Moss.

Time is running out to meet the challenge of all those matching grants and you can personally add your name to the list of donors. Your gift will bring health, enjoyment with friends, and easy free access to the beauty of Beaufort’s incomparable marsh and water views to your children, friends and neighbors, and for all the generations to follow.

Donors who give or pledge by December 31, 2013, will be recognized in the following ways:

• $1,000+, $2,500+ and $5,000+ will be recognized accordingly on a permanent plaque located at the beautifully restored Beaufort Depot.

• $10,000 or more will become members of the Albergotti Trestle Collaborative and will be honored on a special plaque located at the trail’s scenic Albergotti Trestle.

HOW TO CONTRIBUTE:

Tax-deductible contributions can be made to the Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail (a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization) in the following ways:

1. Donate online: www.spanishmosstrail.com

2. Donate by check: made payable to Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail and mailed to: P.O. Box 401, Beaufort, SC 29901

3. Donor cards are available at the following Beaufort stores: Higher Ground (2121 Boundary St), Lowcountry Bicycles (102 Sea Island Pkwy, and Palmetto Running Company (207 West Street)

4. For more information, please visit www.spanishmosstrail.com or if you have any questions, please email Executive Director Dean Moss or Public Awareness Consultant Sissy Perryman: info@spanishmosstrail.com