INMAN, S.C. (WSPA) – A new trail will follow the path of the railroad line after a coalition of nonprofits both in North and South Carolina have now agreed to purchase the Saluda Grade Railroad that has not been used since 2001.
Conserving Carolina, Play Advocate Live Well, and Upstate Forever are the three nonprofits that have signed an agreement with Norfolk Southern for the purchase of the rail line.
The new project will consist of a trail that will stretch 31 miles from Inman South Carolina to Zirconia, North Carolina.
Organizers say it will draw hundreds of thousands of visitors and that it will be an economic engine.
“People who come and visit the Saluda Grade Trail, when it’s complete, will hopefully stop in some of the small towns along the way,” Executive Director of PAL Laura Ringo said. “Eat lunch, spend their dollars, go shopping, and hopefully spend the night too. They really are great tourism and economic development, drivers.”
Local leaders whose communities are being impacted by the project call this new trail project generational.
“I don’t think I’m understating it,” Inman City Administrator Joe Lanahan said. “I have been fortunate enough to be involved with a trail project here in the Upstate. I worked for Greenville County for 13 years and saw the birth of the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail and saw what it did to communities along that line, Travelers Rest comes to mind. That was a really good incubation of what is going to happen here.”
During the next two years, the organizations involved plan to conduct an economic impact study and feasibility study hoping for feedback from the community.
“We will be looking at what kind of impact the trail will be having on these communities,” Ringo said. “In terms of what they are going to need related to restaurants and destinations for the trail. It will also help us figure out what it’s going to take to get this trail constructed and how much it is going to cost to build it. Those will be our next really big steps in this process.”
The project is expected to take around 5-6 years to complete.