SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – A million dollar project to extend the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail in Spartanburg starts this year.
“We’re already seeing that it’s in heavy demand,” said Spartanburg City Manager Chris Story. “Proven to be our most heavily utilized recreational amenity.”
The Partners for Active Living reported that use of the trail climbed to over 130,000 annual uses in 2018.
“We just wanted to get outside – it’s Friday!” said Kristen Cochran.
She and Harry Cochran rented bikes to ride on the trail on a sunny Friday afternoon.
“Relieve stress, enjoy nature, and kinda get back to the simple things in life,” Harry Cochran said.
Hannah Derrick lives in Greenville and runs the trail with her dog, Sadie.
“It’s a flat surface so for runners it’s really nice,” Derrick said. “It also has the dog park so we usually stop halfway through our run.”
Soon, they’ll have a lot more trail to run on as an extension project gets underway.
“This is a goal we’ve been working towards for years,” Story said.
The plan is to extend the 2 mile Rail Trail through downtown from where it ends at Union and Henry streets.
It’ll head up Union Street, turn left onto East Kennedy Street, then right onto South Converse Street before ending a Barnet Park and the Chapman Cultural Center.
“For long distance runners it would be really nice to be able to run a farther distance,” Derrick said. “I’m actually training for a half marathon coming up.”
Story said the trail will include South Carolina’s first curb-protected bike lane where there’s a physical median separating cyclists from two or three lanes of traffic.
“I think that’s huge, you know, to keep the bikers safe,” Harry Cochran said.
Story said it’s a feature often seen in bigger cities.
“It’ll ensure that there’s minimum opportunity for there to be any kind of conflict with cars and trucks,” Story said. “Anytime you do something that’s a first of its kind, the approvals and the like take a good bit longer than projects that have been done multiple times before.”
Story said the project will soon enter its bidding phase, and city officials are in the process of acquiring right-of-ways.
He said the project will cost about $1 million and will be paid for through a combination of city funds and grant money.
“Certain types of infrastructure are vital to the health and well-being of the community, not only in directly providing transportation connections that folks need but providing recreational options,” Story said.
They’re aiming to start the 6-9 month construction this summer, and there are plans to extend the trail even further into the Northside.
Click here to learn more about the extension project.