Senate OKs funds for Congaree park

The U.S. Senate has approved $1.3 million to expand Congaree National Park, a 26,000-acre nature preserve in lower Richland County.

The decision, announced Thursday night, is intended to help link the park's main section with a newer section along U.S. 601. In addition to the $1.3 million the Senate approved, the park will need another $1.3 million to complete the link, according to a news release issued by a representative of the park.

"It's a huge deal for the park," Congaree National superintendent Tracy Swartout said. "Once we get the rest of the funding, we will have a fairly uninterrupted stretch of the Congaree River" for use by the public.

Congaree is South Carolina's only national park. It lies between Columbia and the Calhoun County line along the Congaree River.

It had been a federally protected national monument since the 1970s, but was elevated to national park status in 2003.

The park features some of the tallest trees on the East Coast and extensive, undisturbed flood plain.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., helped push for the money, according to Thursday's news release.

- Sammy Fretwell