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The Daily Planet's Opinion: Saluda Grade rail trail plan? It could be an asset for area
Sunday, 07 August 2022 22:37

We enthusiastically support the effort by three local nonprofit groups to transform the inactive 31-mile Saluda Grade railroad corridor into a rail trail from Inman, S.C., to Zirconia, N.C., that could be used by local residents — as well as visitors and tourists — to walk, run, bike, or whatever.

If the plan is realized, it would provide a delightful (albeit steep) connection 

from Upstate South Carolina through Western North Carolina.

(As to whether the Saluda Grade too steep to be a rail trail, the website stated, “While the Saluda Grade rail line is famously steep, the dramatic grade is only in a small section of the line. Much of the trail is level or moderate in its grade.”)  

In essence, a coalition of three local nonprofit organizations — Upstate Forever, PAL, and Conserving Carolina — “are working together to transform this unused line into a vibrant trail corridor passing through downtown Inman, Gramling, Campobello, Landrum, Tryon, and Saluda, as well as the picturesque Piedmont countryside, the Pacolet River valley with its plunging waterfalls, and the spectacular scenery around the Green River and Lake Summit,” according to

“Converting the inactive Saluda Grade rail line into a ‘rail trail’ would expand access to outdoor recreation, leading to a wide range of health benefits for local communities

“It would make our communities better places to live, with more economic opportunity and more ways to explore the beautiful countryside and charming small towns,” noted. 

 Details of the plan have not been hammered down permanently yet, but the coalition reportedly “envisions the Saluda Grade as a multiuse path that will beckon people outdoors for walking, running, biking, adaptive mobility, and other compatible modes of recreation and travel.” 

Morever, the website reported, “Following in the footsteps of Greenville County’s beloved Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, which has revitalized communities along its nearly 20-mile stretch, the Saluda Grade Rail Trail would serve as an economic engine to attract tourists, strengthen local businesses, and grow the local tax base. “

The Saluda Grade Railroad, built in the 1870s, operated for more than a century. “It holds a special place in history as the steepest standard-gauge mainline railroad in the United States,” noted.

“To link Spartanburg, S.C., and Asheville, trains crossed the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment, with its treacherous grade (as high as 5 percent). The line has been owned and operated by Norfolk Southern since 1982, and the last trains ran on this line in 2001.”

We encourage community members to actively show their support for this abundantly worthwhile rail-trail project.



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