Sentinel Progress

Palmetto Trail, Jocassee Gorges Waterway get $100,000 Duke Energy grant

COLUMBIA – Palmetto Conservation Foundation received a $100,000 grant to protect a picturesque Jocassee Gorges waterway in South Carolina and provide public access via the Palmetto Trail.

The grant is part of the Water Resources Fund, a $10 million commitment from Duke Energy.

Palmetto Conservation is one of 14 organizations across North and South Carolina to collectively receive more than $1 million in the fifth grant announcement. The Water Resources Fund is a multi-year commitment that will leave a legacy of improved water quality, quantity and conservation in the Carolinas and neighboring regions.

“This grant will help us protect the Jocassee Gorges environment and better serve our community for years to come,” said PCF Executive Director Natalie Britt. “We thank Duke Energy for its support and are eager to start building the Palmetto Trail along an incredibly beautiful waterway.”

PCF will use the funds to construct a new passage of the Palmetto Trail along Eastatoe Creek near Duke Energy’s Lake Keowee.

The four-mile hiking trail in Pickens County will connect Keowee-Toxaway State Park with the Dug Mountain Fishing Access off Roy F. Jones Highway. The lower Eastatoe watershed is part of the internationally recognized Jocassee Gorges Wilderness Area, a pine-hemlock-hardwood forest that provides habitats for a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

The watershed supports wild turkey, migratory songbirds, infrequent peregrine falcon and bald eagles, and small and large mammals. The streams are stocked with several trout species, and the banks host diverse salamanders and amphibians.

When the Trail is completed, anglers will appreciate improved fishing access along the stream bank and from a new bridge across Eastatoe Creek.

“Duke Energy is closely connected to the rivers and waterways that power our regional economies,” said Cari Boyce, president of the Duke Energy Foundation. “These waterways are valued resources we strive to protect and restore. We look forward to our partnership with Palmetto Conservation and the impact this grant will have on the Palmetto Trail in South Carolina.”

Investment decisions are carefully reviewed by the Water Resources Fund committee. This group is an independent body that includes five environmental experts and two Duke Energy employees. Selected projects are chosen on several criteria, including whether the project is science-based and research-supported.

Duke Energy anticipates two grant announcements per year over the course of the Water Resources Fund. Visit nccommunityfoundation.org for more information on how to apply and register for the session.

The mission of Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) is to conserve South Carolina’s natural and cultural resources, preserve historic landmarks, and promote outdoor recreation through trails and greenways. Founded in 1989, PCF is a statewide nonprofit organization with offices in Columbia and Glendale in Spartanburg County.

PCF’s largest and best-known project is building and maintaining the mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail. Supporting Trail use is the Glendale Outdoor Leadership School, a PCF program. GOLS teaches courses in wilderness medicine (certified first aid and first responder) and active recreational sports, including rock climbing, mountain biking and kayaking.

In 2016, PCF inaugurated the Palmetto Conservation Corps to help interested young adults in South Carolina learn skills in trail maintenance and construction, assist with disaster recovery, and develop as the next generation of conservation stewards and leaders. The Palmetto Conservation Corps is South Carolina’s only trail-based AmeriCorps service program for young adults.

From Walhalla in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Awendaw on the Intracoastal Waterway, the 500-mile-long Palmetto Trail connects 14 South Carolina counties from mountains to sea — Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg, Union, Laurens, Newberry, Fairfield, Richland, Sumter, Clarendon, Orangeburg, Berkeley and Charleston.

The Trail inspires active, healthy living and showcases the state’s diverse natural beauty, fascinating history, and rich cultural heritage. Visit palmettoconservation.org for information and downloadable maps of the Trail’s 28 passages.

Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe (right), Duke Energy state president, South Carolina, presents a $100,000 Water Resources Fund grant to Natalie Britt, Palmetto Conservation executive director, and Jim Majors, Palmetto Conservation upstate trails coordinator. The grant will help fund a new passage of the cross-state Palmetto Trail.
https://www.sentinelprogress.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/web1_palmettotrailgrant.jpgKodwo Ghartey-Tagoe (right), Duke Energy state president, South Carolina, presents a $100,000 Water Resources Fund grant to Natalie Britt, Palmetto Conservation executive director, and Jim Majors, Palmetto Conservation upstate trails coordinator. The grant will help fund a new passage of the cross-state Palmetto Trail. Courtesy photo

Staff Report