The newest section of the Cayce Riverwalk officially is called the Battlefield Connection, but it connects to much more than the Civil War Battle of Congaree Creek site.
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The nearly half-mile paved trail section links the 3.5-mile Timmerman Trail with the 4-mile Cayce Riverwalk. Add in more than a mile on the West Columbia Riverwalk, and you’ve got nearly 10 miles of almost traffic-free sidewalk from near I-77 to the Jarvis Klapman Boulevard bridge.
As Cayce Mayor Elise Partin said at the ceremony Friday marking the opening, it’s now suitable for training for marathon runners and “for anyone to enjoy without the traffic and with the beauty of the riverfront.”
The Battlefield Connection winds through thick woods and over a couple of skinny creeks from the Thomas Newman Boat Landing to the eastern edge of the Timmerman Trail. It connects just north of Congaree Creek, a few steps from a long mound, called an earthworks, built in 1865 for Confederate soldiers to stand behind as they took on Union Gen. William T. Sherman.
The battle proved to be a speed bump for Sherman on the way to Columbia. The west bank of the Congaree River also was the site of minor Revolutionary War skirmishes and served as a regional gathering spot for Native Americans for 900 years before European settlers arrived.
“We’ve got all of that in one square mile, and that’s just barely touching the tip of the iceberg,” Partin said.
There aren’t signs yet on the trail to mark the historic spots. That’s coming, but Cayce first is installing lights (some are up and the rest should be done in a few weeks) and security call boxes (on back order).
SCE&G, which built Timmerman Trail, recently donated 360 acres and the trail to Cayce. It will be transformed into a history park with the construction of a visitors center on Saxe Gotha Road near the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center. The city also is doubling its trail staff, hiring two more security personnel and two new maintenance employees, according to city manager Rebecca Vance.
One gap remains in the Cayce section of the Riverwalk. About a half-mile north of the boat landing, the trail empties into a small parking lot on Old State Road. Long-distance runners or bike riders for now can follow a short, lightly traveled section of Old State Road north and then turn right on New State Road/Riverland Drive through Riverland Park subdivision. The old section of the Riverwalk picks up at the end of Riverland Drive.
A sidewalk is planned for the Old State Road/New State Road/Riverland Drive section. Because that sidewalk is a Department of Transportation project, Cayce considers its portion of the Riverwalk complete.
“This project, 10 years in the making, offers so many recreation opportunities and access to the Congaree River and the Congaree Creek free of charge to families in the Midlands,” Partin said.