The statewide group that is trying to complete a 500-mile trail to connect South Carolina’s Upstate mountains to the coast says $150,000 that Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed from the state budget would have helped build a trail link through Pickens County.
The Palmetto Conservation Foundation released a plan earlier this year to complete the cross-state Palmetto Trail — which runs through state parks and national forests — within five to eight years, said the group’s executive director, Natalie Cappuccio Britt.
The trail already has extensive passages through the Upstate mountains and Piedmont, and the group asked for state funding, in part, to help build the Ridge Mountain Trail passage through Pickens County, Britt said.
“It’s going to be about a $250,000-$300,000 project,” Britt said. “It will connect parks like Keowee-Toxaway and Devil’s Fork along The Palmetto Trail. That is going to be such a beautiful piece for us.”
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Haley vetoed the $150,000 funding for the project as part of $18.5 million in cuts she is seeking to make to the state budget.
“The Palmetto Trail already has access to a variety of federal, state and philanthropic funding sources,” Haley wrote in her veto message.
“I welcome the Palmetto Conservation Foundation’s efforts to complete the remaining segments of the trail but believe we should address the needs of the state park system before we provide funding for other park or recreational organizations.”
Britt said The Palmetto Trail was started in the mid-1990s with state budget support from governors Carroll Campbell, David Beasley and Jim Hodges. It lost funding during the financial downtown and hadn’t been added back into the budget until this year, she said.
Britt called it an important piece of the state’s tourism offerings because it runs through state parks and state and national forests.
The Palmetto Conservation Foundation has re-established momentum for The Palmetto Trail with an updated master plan to guide the trail’s development and a new motto to “finish the trail.”
The group also would use partial state funding to replace a bridge over the Enoree River and to re-route the trail at Eutaw Springs Passage that connects the counties of Orangeburg and Berkeley, Britt said.
Palmetto Conservation Foundation pledged to match any state funds dollar for dollar, Britt said.
“This is a project that the state’s already invested in,” Britt said. “This isn’t a new project. We don’t need to be in the state budget for the rest of our lives; we just want to finish this.”
The House takes up the budget vetoes today. Tuesday. The House would have to override any vetoes in order for the Senate to take up the vetoes beginning Wednesday.
Britt said the group would lobby House members for support before the veto vote.
“We believe that we have broad-ranging support just because the trail goes through so many counties,” she said.