Greenway linking Columbia to Lake Murray has full funding to build | Colombia News


COLOMBIA — The Lower Saluda Greenway Project, an initiative to create a trail from Columbia to Lake Murray, now has full funding for construction, paving the way for sections of the trail to open over the next few years.

The $24 million in funding comes from a combination of local, state and federal sources, said Mark Smyers, director of the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission, which is in charge of the project.

“It means we have all the resources we need to build,” Smyers said. “We’ve been able to go from a 40+ year dream of ‘what if’ to now, which is only a matter of when.”

The 12-foot-wide greenway will connect Lake Murray to the existing Saluda River Greenway, which runs along the Columbia River to the Riverbanks Zoo. It will also provide directions for Lexington County residents to get to downtown Columbia by bicycle or on foot.

The greenway will increase river access and recreation in Lexington County and hopefully spur economic growth in the area, Smyers said.

The Irmo Chapin Leisure Commission and its project partners, the Central Midlands Council of Governments, the Midlands Business Leadership Group and the Mungo Foundation, have been working for a year to find funding for the greenway, Smyers said.

Lexington County committed funds early in the process, which was followed by state funding passed in early 2022. More recently, the American Economic Development Association provided a grant to the commission, and it A few weeks ago the Central Midlands Council of Governments voted to fund the final section of the Greenway as part of its transport improvement scheme, Smyers said.

The Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission was fortunate in the attention given to the Greenway while the organization sought funding, he said.

“Those (who) stand on the shoulders of giants are seen,” Smyers said. “It’s this community (that) has dreamed about this project for 40 years. So it’s landed in so many different planning documents…and this project is a high priority for all of them.”

Bridge over Broad River progresses connecting downtown Columbia to Saluda Riverwalk

The first two sections are expected to be completed in the next two to three years, but the section closest to Columbia will be several years behind schedule as it conflicts with the Carolina Crossroads Project, which will renovate the interchange between Interstates 20 and 26 .

Once the greenway is completed, the goal is to attract residents and businesses to the area, as other waterfront projects in the Columbia area have done, Smyers said.

Access to the region’s natural resources is key to attracting residents from other parts of the country, said Michael Mayo, owner of Palmetto Outdoor, a West Columbia boat and tubing outfitter.

“We don’t just want families to visit, we want families to move here from Florida and Ohio and DC because they love the area, and access to green space is what we use to let that happen,” Mayo said. “We have testimonials from individuals who have told us they moved here because they love the area and what it has to offer.”

In its 16 years in business, Mayo has found the Columbia Rivers to be an important economic asset to the region.

“People are willing to pay more to experience whitewater (in Colombia) than in other places (where) they get their kayaks and canoes,” Mayo said. “There’s a lot of value here.”

Water intake towers at Lake Murray Dam to be restored as part of years-long Dominion project

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Contact Leah Hincks at 843-830-2555. Follow her on Twitter @LeahHincks


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