Re March 25 letter by Vern Hartzell, “Defunct railroad could be bike trail”
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is dedicated to a mission “to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.” RTC supports local groups to reclaim abandoned, idle, unused railroad pathways and repurpose those for recreation pathways used by walkers, bikers and runners. It supports projects of this nature throughout the nation.
Hartzell describes pathways along the East Coast but initiatives of this nature populate the entire nation. The Midwest sports 91 miles of trail along the Illinois Prairie Path. The trails take one through not only downtown areas and park systems that have developed around the trails but also through the unique natural habitats that are typical of the region in which these trails are host. A 30-mile trip to Loris and the beach would be a nice ride on any given day!
Myrtle Beach and Horry County leadership have positioned the area for sports tourism with dollars, facilities and commitment of promotional efforts that have included the construction of ball fields throughout the city. The annual Myrtle Beach Marathon has established itself as a premier road race event. Triathlon events have taken hold and half-marathon events have sprung up everywhere around the county and in every season.
But bicyclists have not been left out of biker recreation opportunities as mountain biking has made headway. Signs along formal, constructed recreation pathways pledge their allegiance and support to the East Coast Greenway and include sections such as Perrins Path in Myrtle Beach and the trails at Huntington Beach State Park (Waccamaw Neck Bikeway). As the area grows, its connections to the 291-mile East Coast Greenway will mature and further support the region’s position as an all encompassing sports recreation destination. A South Carolina Committee for the Greenway is charged with pathway development along the coast.
An option for railway stakeholders (Horry County, CSR and economic development associations) is that a concept known as rail-banking permits the right-of-way preserved for future rail-lines, but in the interim permits groups to develop it for recreations purposes. Established in 1983 as an amendment to Section 8(d) of the National Trails System Act, the rail-banking statute allows a railroad to remove all of its equipment, with the exception of bridges, tunnels and culverts, from a corridor, and to turn the corridor over to any qualified private organization or public agency that has agreed to maintain it for future rail use.
So why not a Loris to beach trail that scoots through historic Conway, dodges U.S. 501 traffic as it tucks in and out of commercial development areas and passes under moss-draped oak trees that shade the pathway? It could intersect with the currently designated portion of the East Coast Greenway in Myrtle Beach, the Grissom Parkway Trail, run to the Harrelson Boulevard Trail and eventually to The Market Common. Trail segments are aligned to make this connection a popular addition to the sports recreation mix. What else is needed? A vision that aligns with a new direction for the railway that compliments the recreational pursuits of the region.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.