UPSTATE — A ceremonial ground breaking took place on Tuesday to begin construction at Stumphouse Tunnel Park on a state-of-the-art mountain biking trail system anchored by the ever-expanding Palmetto Trail.
According to Executive Director Natalie Britt of the Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF), which is building the mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail across the state, the foundation teamed up with the City of Walhalla, which owns Stumphouse Tunnel Park and the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce to extend the trail.
In the hopes of stimulating tourism and economic development, the city and chamber agreed.
Walhalla Mayor Danny Edwards said he was “thrilled with the work that is being done to bring the Palmetto Trail and a mountain biking park to the Stumphouse Tunnel Park.”
“This has been a wonderful collaborative effort across so many different groups — the City, the Chamber of Commerce, Oconee PRT & CVB, U.S. Forestry Service, State Park Service, State Department of Natural Resources, Walhalla Partners for Progress and Palmetto Conservation Foundation,” he said. “A project like this could not be accomplished without the work and cooperation of so many different agencies and organizations. We are so appreciative of everyone’s efforts and look forward to all the new opportunities for economic development and growth this will provide the area.”
The Palmetto Trail and mountain bike trail system at Stumphouse Tunnel Park is the first section of a planned 12-mile extension of the Trail from Oconee Station State Historic Site into downtown Walhalla. The Trail stretches from Walhalla across 14 counties — including Pickens — to Awendaw on the Intracoastal Waterway.
About 370 miles of the 500-mile Trail have been completed.
All passages are open for hiking and some accommodate mountain biking and other active recreation, Britt said.
“We are thrilled to break ground at Stumphouse Tunnel Park on a new passage of the Palmetto Trail and a much-needed destination for mountain biking in the upstate,” she stated. “We are grateful for the many incredible partners who support the project and are dedicated to its success.”
Additional partners to the mayor’s list include Upstate Forever as well as the hiking and mountain biking communities. The project has received funding from the City of Walhalla, the federal Recreational Trails Program, the National Heritage Corridor, Recreational Equipment Inc., Cox Industries and Palmetto Conservation Foundation.
Professional trail builder Benchmark Trails, Inc. of Greenville will begin construction in December on phase one of the trail system.
The Palmetto Trail will serve as “the spine connecting mountain bike trails that will inspire beginners and challenge experienced riders,” said Britt. Completion of phase one is planned for late March, weather permitting. The new trail system will also enhance the park’s current hiking trails, she stated.
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 Palmetto Trail.
For more information, visit www.palmettoconservation.org or Facebook/palmettoconservation.org.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.