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Construction of Saluda River portion of Columbia greenway to begin next year

White water rafting on the Saluda and Congaree

Kevin Geddings of Adventure Carolina talks about Columbia's best kept secret: the tree rivers that converge in the Famously hot city. He also talks about white water rafting on the Saluda River.
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Kevin Geddings of Adventure Carolina talks about Columbia's best kept secret: the tree rivers that converge in the Famously hot city. He also talks about white water rafting on the Saluda River.

People who like to walk along Columbia’s riverbanks got some good news Tuesday.

City Council endorsed new standards for wider recreational walkways and heard an update that construction is likely to begin next year for the long-sought, scenic, 3-mile stretch along the Saluda River.

The new greenway standard would widen new portions of the Granby walkway from its current 8 feet to 10 feet as it is built to reach the Gervais Street bridge, city engineer Dana Higgins said.

Urban greenways such as those along Gills Creek, Smith Branch and in the Vista would be 14 feet wide to accommodate more pedestrians and bicyclists.

Council did not authorize any new money for those walkways.

Mike Dawson, director of the advocacy group River Alliance, told council at an afternoon work session that all but one 150-foot parcel has been acquired for the Saluda Riverwalk portion of the Three Rivers Greenway. That portion of the greenway reaches from the I-26 river overpass near Lexington Medical Center to just shy of the Columbia Canal.

Greenway advocates have been working on property acquisition for about 15 years, and the last parcel is facing condemnation, Dawson said.

Federal and state permits have been granted, he said.

The 3-mile stretch will cost about $4 million, and construction is likely to take about 220 days, he said.

The walkway will have three bathrooms and a 40-car parking lot near Riverbanks Zoo, which Dawson acknowledged is inadequate and only a start to meeting parking needs.

Richland County is to put the project out for bids in January or February, Dawson said. He hopes the new part of the walkway will be open late in 2016.

Dawson said the greenway is a high-priority project of Richland County and it is using income from the penny sales tax that included provisions for spending to improve recreation.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

In other council action

Other matters of public interest from Columbia City Council’s Tuesday meetings.

▪  The city General Fund has $18.2 million not designated to be spent as of Dec. 15, City Hall’s chief financial officer said. The water and sewer fund is projected to have $22.4 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. But much of those funds could be consumed by expenses from October’s historic flooding.

▪  Penalties for businesses and homeowners who don’t fix security alarms that cause false alarms was approved on the first of two required votes. Fines would range from $25 to $300.

▪  Council approved spending $75,000 to buy playground equipment as part of refurbishing Roy Lynch Park in the Elmwood Park neighborhood.

▪  Council agreed to pay Populous Inc., the design architects for the new professional baseball stadium, an extra $82,000 for a total of $2.1 million for design changes created by city decisions to cut $3.2 million in features at the facility.

▪  Council approved an ordinance allowing some flood-damaged homeowners to rebuild without meeting tougher building codes. City staffers determined no owner would be hurt by the law.

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