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Ecusta Trail friends point to Upstate trail success

Riders prepare to ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail from Travelers Rest to Greenville, SC. Riders prepare to ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail from Travelers Rest to Greenville, SC.

The Friends of the Ecusta Trail hosted local officials at an event on the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest last Saturday. The goal was to encourage officials to experience a converted rail trail, see first hand the impacts the trail has made on the community and envision the potential for the Ecusta Trail, the Ecusta trail organization said in a news release.

Friends of Ecusta, a non-profit organization formed to promote the rail to trail conversion of the inactive Norfolk Southern rail line from Hendersonville to Brevard, put on the event to familiarize Henderson and Transylvania county officials with the Upstate trail and promote a 20-mile trail from Hendersonville to Brevard.

The event was well attended, with representatives from Transylvania and Henderson counties as well as Hendersonville, Laurel Park, and Brevard, the news release said. Attendees heard various viewpoints on the development of the Swamp Rabbit Trail from Travelers Rest Mayor Wayne McCall, Greenville County Greenways Director Ty Houck, and several local business owners.

Mayor McCall stressed the importance of being inclusive, with local governments and businesses finding ways to work together effectively to build and manage the trail. McCall said that 21 new businesses have opened since 2009 when the trail was opened. Houck pointed out that one of the challenges to stretch the budget was met by developing partnerships with local business and other organizations to provide rest stops along the way. The Greenville Hospital System is a major sponsor of the trail and provides annual operating funds to promote the use of the trail.

Nearby business owner Ken Duncan told the group about how the Swamp Rabbit Trail has increased business at his Handees Sports Deli convenience store, which was counter to his expectations before the trail was built. Joyce McCarrel, co-owner of the Williams Hardware Cafe, likened the value of the store's  location beside the trail to "ocean front property." Ty Houck reported that a recent study has confirmed that there are 359,000 users of the trail each year.

After an informative question and answer session, attendees moved outside to enjoy the trail. One group took a walk along the trail through Travelers Rest, stopping in at several businesses to hear how the trail had impacted them. A second group rode bicycles; additional supporters of the trail joined in as Houck led the group on the 9.5 mile ride into downtown Greenville, with informative stops at a restored caboose and the Swamp Rabbit Cafe. Greenville County Deputy Mike Jenkins, who patrols the Swamp Rabbit Trail, reported that there have been no crimes on the trail and his job is more about public relations for the Sheriff's Office.

For more information about the Ecusta Trail please contact the Friends of the Ecusta Trail at 828-490-1854 or friendsofecusta@gmail.com, or visit www.ecustatrail.org.