By Stan Welch
The focus group concerned with the preservation of the footbridge across the Saluda River in Piedmont met last Wednesday (Sept. 26). The key development discussed is the concession by Enel, the energy company that operates the Piedmont generator, that they are indeed the legal owners of the bridge.
“We don’t want to be the owners,” said Beth Harris, spokesperson for Enel, “but our attorneys inform us that we are.” She made it clear that for the grand price of one dollar, Enel would part company with the bridge, which is in disrepair and in danger of eventual collapse. She stressed that any sale would also involve the establishment of safety and maintenance requirements.
Matt Schell, of the Anderson County Recreation Department, stated that Anderson and Greenville Counties would entertain that purchase, once they have reviewed those requirements and their potential costs.
Harris estimated that the repairs and reinforcement needed to make the bridge safe might reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. She made it clear that Enel has no intention of sinking any money into the project. The company is helping to fund a fishing trail and a fish stocking effort. They also have plans to sponsor a river cleanup day.
All parties agreed that pedestrian access to the bridge was not a goal, or even a consideration. “Preservation and some restoration would be the purpose, but there is no point in allowing people access to the bridge and therefore the dam,” said Schell. Unspoken was the obvious lack of interest in spending the amounts of money needed to achieve that level of safety and stability.
Dr. Jane Peden, who spearheads the preservation effort, raised the issue of expanding the pool of stakeholders involved with the burgeoning plans for development of the downtown area. She suggested contacting any property owners whose property touches the river. Developer Larry Webb suggested getting input from downtown business owners, and producing a plan before expanding the circle of stakeholders. “The plan might define some stakeholders by its nature, but there is no point bringing in more people before we have something to talk about.”
The group eventually decided to maintain the status quo as far as the involvement of others for the time being.
The impact of plans by Richard Greer and State Investors was also discussed.
Greer’s group, which is also involved in plans to develop the old mill sites in Pelzer, is seeking to purchase and develop a tract of land owned by Lib Pack Thompson. That tract includes a parcel that would serve well as a site for a kayak dock. Greer has expressed reluctance about such a use for such valuable residential property. Greer has asked to meet with the group and have his planner explain the plans for the property to them.
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 23 at one p.m. That meeting will be followed by the meeting with Greer.
By Stan Welch