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 As efforts continue to turn a mountain railroad line into a recreational rail trail, a coalition of nonprofits spearheading the project, called Saluda Grade Trail "railway-to-trailway," has reached an agreement with Norfolk Southern.

The coalition, formed by three organizations, has officially signed an agreement with Norfolk Southern for the purchase of the 31-mile rail line, establishing the price and other terms of the future purchase.

Three nonprofits -- Conserving Carolina; PAL: Play, Advocate, Live Well; and Upstate Forever -- are leading the effort to repurpose the inactive rail line into a trail that will run from Upstate South Carolina into the mountains of western North Carolina.

With the goal of being a multi-use trail able to be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, the Saluda Grade Trail will feature rural scenery, small towns, historic landmarks and gorgeous natural preserves, lakes and waterfalls.

“We’re pleased to announce this exciting progress toward the goal of a rail trail that will serve as an economic engine for our communities, provide an abundance of recreational opportunities, and improve people’s health by encouraging exercise and time in nature,” says Kieran Roe, executive director of Conserving Carolina.

Norfolk Southern has requested the terms of the agreement be subject to a confidentiality agreement. The coalition expects to close on the rail corridor within two years and is pursuing state and federal funding opportunities. In South Carolina, the coalition is advocating for an $11 million investment by the state this year.

The Saluda Grade Trail will run through Inman, Campobello, Landrum, Tryon, Saluda and Zirconia.

"In addition to being beloved community assets, trails energize economies. We've seen this play out with the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is a resounding success." said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever. "The Saluda Grade Trail will bring new jobs and money to the area, encourage safe outdoor recreation, and improve quality of life for residents. It's a visionary project with a return that will far exceed any initial investment."

The coalition has also begun the process of an economic impact and feasibility study that will shed light on how the trail will shape local economies and how to move forward with the project. This summer, the coalition will be reaching out to landowners and stakeholders along the trail to seek their input on the opportunities and challenges presented by the trail and approaches that will best meet the needs of the community.

A website for the Saluda Grade Trail is expected to launch this spring, where the public will be able to find information and ways to get involved.

To learn more, sign up for emails or make a donation to the trail, visit any of the websites for the partners in the Saluda Grade Trail coalition:

Conserving Carolina is leading efforts on the North Carolina side of the trail, while PAL and Upstate Forever are leading efforts in South Carolina.


STORY COURTESY OF ABC 13 WLOSCoalition, Norfolk Southern reach agreement on future Saluda Grade Trail purchase, terms | WLOS