COLUMBIA, S.C. — Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) and its partners received a national achievement award recently in Washington, D.C., for developing Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park (MBP) on city of Walhalla property in Oconee County.
The awards program is related to the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which provides competitive funding for trails and greenways nationwide. PCF and its partners received the award in the category that recognized “Public-Private Partnerships and Access to/Use of Public Lands.” The Coalition for Recreational Trails, a federation of trail-related organizations, presented the award.
“Our strong partnership, especially with Walhalla and Oconee County, is worthy of this national award,” PCF Executive Director Natalie C. Britt said. “Partnerships make projects like Stumphouse achievable, and our partners’ financial and in-kind support have made the Stumphouse bike park a reality,” she said.
RTP funds were received in 2016 and used to build Stumphouse Passage of the Palmetto Trail and the first miles of Stumphouse MBP. The Palmetto Trail anchors the 442-acre bike park, which will expand in phases to approximately 20 miles of recreational trails.
“The Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park, when finished, is going to be a dream come true for our city and county,” Walhalla Mayor Danny Edwards said. “It’s already attracting visitors to our area, exciting our citizens, merchants and restaurant owners. Thank you PCF, Oconee County, State of S.C., and all the volunteers who made this happen!”
“This national award is a shining example of the success of working together in great partnerships and what can be achieved,” State Senator Thomas Alexander said. “The Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park allows citizens to utilize a beautiful mountain area while preserving the natural resource for our future.”
RTP grants require matching funds and encourage community-based partnerships between public and private entities, which in turn support trail projects that increase public access. By Act of Congress, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration uses a portion of gasoline taxes to support recreational trails. The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) administers the state’s RTP grants.
“Projects like this improve the quality of life of South Carolinians, attract tourists and grow our economy,” SCPRT Director Duane Parrish observed. “We’re proud to do our part in developing such a significant park,” he said.
In addition to PCF, city leaders in Walhalla and SCPRT, other partners and sponsors include Walhalla Partners for Progress, Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, Oconee County Council, Oconee County Parks, Recreation & Tourism, Visit Oconee SC, Oconee Economic Alliance, Oconee Forever Land Trust, SC Department of Natural Resources, SC State Legislature, SC National Heritage Corridor, Oconee Hiking Club, Issaqueena’s Last Ride, Upstate SORBA, and REI.
“The Chamber of Commerce joined with the City early in the process because of the economic opportunities that trail systems like this bring to an area,” said Vanessa Penton, Executive Director, Oconee County Chamber. “It has been wonderful to see the impact it has had on Walhalla and the surrounding area. New businesses, renovation of downtown buildings, and new energy are being seen as trail development continues.”
Stumphouse MBP is a state-of-the-art mountain biking facility and meets all trail-building standards of the US Forest Service and the International Mountain Biking Association. Benchmark Trails of Greenville is building the bike trails with assistance from PCF, the Palmetto Conservation Corps, city employees and a host of volunteers. Trail design and construction minimize erosion and habitat disturbance, and maximize long-term sustainability.
The bike park is the only recreational resource of its type open to the public in the South Carolina upstate. Officials opened the first four miles of trails in May 2018, including the 1.5-mile Stumphouse Passage of the Palmetto Trail. When the multiphase project is completed, the park will have 20-plus miles of mountain biking flow trails and other features for beginner through advanced riders.
In conjunction with the Stumphouse MBP project, PCF and partners are extending the Palmetto Trail from the southern trailhead of Stumphouse Passage into Walhalla’s downtown and from the northern trailhead into Oconee State Park. Both sections will accommodate hiking and mountain biking. The cross-state Palmetto Trail connects Walhalla and the Blue Ridge Mountains in Oconee County to Awendaw on the Intracoastal Waterway in Charleston County.
Palmetto Conservation Foundation is a statewide nonprofit organization, founded in 1989, whose mission is to conserve South Carolina’s natural and cultural resources, preserve historic landmarks, and promote active outdoor recreation. PCF’s largest and best-known project is the mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail. PCF’s newest program is the Palmetto Conservation Corps, South Carolina’s only trail-based AmeriCorps service and training program for young adults. For more information, visit www.palmettoconservation.org or Facebook/palmettoconservation.org.
Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) Executive Director Natalie Britt (center) holds the Recreational Trails Program national award recognizing Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park and the Palmetto Trail passage that anchors the bike park in Oconee County. Project partners at the awards ceremony in Washington, DC, are (l to r) Neal Hamilton, SC Parks, Recreation and Tourism; Vanessa Penton, Oconee County Chamber of Commerce; Brent Taylor, Walhalla City Administrator; Darlene Greene, Oconee County Chamber of Commerce and Bank of England Mortgage; Grady Johnson, PCF Board of Directors and SC Biz News; Mikee Johnson, PCF Board of Directors and Koppers Utility and Industrial Products; Britt; Rob Achenberg, PCF Regional Coordinator; and award presenters Derrick Crandall and Marianne Fowler, Coalition for Recreational Trails.
About the Palmetto Trail
The scenic Palmetto Trail, one of 16 cross-state trails in the United States, inspires active, healthy living and showcases the state’s diverse natural beauty, fascinating history, and rich rural and urban culture. From mountains to sea, the Palmetto Trail connects Oconee County to Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg, Union, Laurens, Newberry, Fairfield, Richland, Sumter, Clarendon, Orangeburg, Berkeley and Charleston counties. When finished, the Trail will extend about 500 continuous miles from Walhalla to Awendaw. With 29 marked passages and multiple trailheads, the Palmetto Trail is accessible from anywhere in the state for day trips, weekend jaunts and longer treks. Passages are typically fewer than 15 miles in length, but range from 1.1 to 47 miles and feature wilderness and backcountry paths, urban bikeways, greenways, rails-to-trail conversions, city sidewalks, and even the steps of the State Capitol. The Trail connects private and public lands, state parks, national and state forests, Revolutionary and Civil War sites, and numerous cities, towns and communities. For information and downloadable maps of Palmetto Trail passages, and to become a Trail supporter, visit www.palmettoconservation.org.
About the Coalition for Recreational Trails
The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) is a federation of national and regional trail-related organizations. Its members work together to build awareness and understanding of the Recreational Trails Program, which returns federal gasoline taxes paid by off-highway recreationists to the states for trail development and maintenance.
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