Naturaland Trust aims to protect natural areas for the enjoyment of the public in order to maintain the critical link between local communities and the outdoors.  We have played a key role in protecting the Jocassee Gorges, Caesar’s Head State Park, Raven Cliff Falls, and Jones Gap State Park, which are now integral parts of the lives of local residents and magnets for visitors from near and far.

Thankfully, our city has been fortunate enough to have visionaries who have helped shape Greenville into the thriving city we know today. River Falls Park and other green areas around Greenville are living testaments that the city not only uses these spaces daily, but is also defined by them. City planners from all over the country come to Greenville to admire its incorporation of natural areas into the life of the city.  After the pedestrian bridge was constructed over the Reedy River, the entire South Main Street was transformed and revitalized with new businesses, recreation, and an intangible “happiness factor,” leaving many to wonder how the city ever functioned without it beforehand.

Effective philanthropy is a balance between support for compelling human needs and investments in the initiatives that can transform a community and change its overall quality of life.  What has made the greater Greenville community great is the vision of community leaders who, with an eye to the long term, have directed community investments to initiatives that have changed the community for the better.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is such an initiative.  It connects neighborhoods, cultures, businesses, universities, zip codes, and even cities. The Swamp Rabbit Trail not only connects these places, but also builds and fortifies them as well. Real estate values along the trail are increasing annually, crime rates fall where the trail bisects, and local businesses close to the trail’s access points are reporting increases in revenue as high as 85%. As of last year the Swamp Rabbit estimated 360,000 users and is expecting an 11% rise this year. Downtown Greenville and Travelers Rest have been literally transformed.

We now have a chance to bring the benefits of the trail to Marietta, a community that has struggled as the textile industry has receded. Naturaland Trust is working with the Recreation District to secure the trail links in and around Marietta.  This connection can change a community long term and also benefit the people who live there now. A comprehensive study was conducted on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and in two of the focus groups when asked to describe the trail common responses were: “One of Greenville’s primary assets,” and “Excellent for the economy.” When asked why they use the trail the responses were: “Healthy living,” and “Get the family moving.”

As with Falls Park, the communal need was not realized until the project was complete. The same positive domino effect is realized within the town of Traveler’s Rest. Since the trail’s presence, the downtown has completely changed for the better with new businesses, robust infrastructure, and a heightened sense of community and wellness. The key to accomplishing such feats, however, is the foresight and collaboration of organizations and individuals.

Future trail bed of the SRT extension in Slater-Marietta. Photo © Mac Stone