COLUMBIA, SC Boosters of South Carolina’s mountains-to-the-sea hiking path are leading efforts to clean up garbage that they say is being dumped on key sections of the Palmetto Trail.
Some landowners who live near the trail are hauling household trash down country roads that come close to the hiking path, according to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation. They then walk on the trail and throw garbage in the woods, thinking no one is watching, conservation officials say.
“The Palmetto Trail faces significant environmental danger today from litter and illegal dumpsites,’’ a foundation news release said, noting that “deliberate destruction of the Palmetto Trail is both harmful to the environment and a negative impact on tourism and economic development.’’
Anyone caught dumping garbage in the woods is subject to prosecution for littering, but finding suspects in rural areas is difficult, according to the conservation foundation and Palmetto Pride, an anti-litter group.
In the meantime, the conservation foundation and Palmetto Pride say they are working to clean up the mess. The two groups will oversee a trail trash pickup next month. Volunteers are being sought to clean specific sections of the trail. Future cleanups of the trail also are expected.
South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail cuts across 14 counties from Walhalla, in the southern Appalachian Mountains, to Awendaw on the coast north of Charleston. People can use the trail for free.
About 350 miles of trail have been established since efforts to develop the pathway started about 20 years ago, but all sections have not been linked together yet. When completed, the unbroken trail will stretch about 500 miles. A major unbroken chunk now stretches from the coast to near Columbia. The Palmetto Conservation Foundation promotes the trail.
Mary Roe, programs director at the Conservation Foundation, said key areas of concern for trail dumping are outside Eutawville in Orangeburg County and in the Francis Marion National Forest near Charleston. Roe said those suspected of dumping garbage are more likely area residents than hikers.
“Sometimes, it’s misunderstood that the trail users are doing the garbage, and that’s not the case,’’ Roe said. “It’s the people in the communities that the trail goes through. There is a mentality still that people think they can throw their litter out.’’
Conservation Foundation director Natalie Britt said disposal of household hazardous waste along the trail is a particular concern. That includes paint cans and other hazardous materials people accmulate in their homes, Roe said.
In addition to deliberate dumping, sections of the trail near Fort Jackson also are receiving litter from passing cars and nearby land in urban Columbia, officials said. Those areas also will be targeted in the cleanup next month.
“The Palmetto Trail is one of those special projects that provides our citizens with access to breathtaking natural beauty and also lures in travelers seeking outdoor adventures,” said Sarah Lyles, Executive Director of PalmettoPride. “Everyone needs to understand that litter is not just an eyesore, but it can be detrimental to our quality of life on many levels.”