Public views plans for proposed Piedmont Riverfront Park

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Approximately 22 people attended a meeting Monday in Piedmont to hear information and make comments on a proposed riverfront park on the Saluda River.

Anderson County is planning to construct a nature park and kayak launch facility on 28.02 acres of property located at 550 River Road, Piedmont. The property, which was purchased by the county two years ago, is approximately 4/10th of a mile north of the Piedmont Dam and just north of Hwy. 86.

Anderson County Government Affairs Director Steve Newton presented information and answered questions about the project.
According to Newton, the project will be developed in two phases with an estimated total cost of $1.5 million.
The County is in the process of applying for a $300,000 grant from the National Park Service Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to help pay for Phase One.
Phase 1 includes an ADA-accessible kayak launch facility; 5000 linear feet of ADA accessible sidewalk; improved parking area and access; and initial development of nature paths, shoreline access trails and habitat enhancements. Cost for Phase 1 will be approximately $300,000. County Council was expected to approve a match of $80,000 for the project at their meeting Tuesday night.

When completed, the facility is planned to have an improved landscape plan with canopy trees; improved access to all areas of the shoreline; a 2,800 foot natural surface trail; a paved sidewalk system; a restroom facility; primitive campsites, a pedestrian bridge and boardwalk; and beach improvements.
It will also include a gate house; an amphitheater/outdoor classroom and five picnic shelters.

Newton said, “This project will help us do things we need to do and be a stimulus for Piedmont.” He said if the county had not purchased the property two years ago, it would probably have been developed as a residential subdivision.
He explained that the riverfront park would have less impact, as far as traffic and noise, than a subdivision.

Newton said there is an unimproved road already cut into the property and that the park will stay within the boundaries of the property. “We want to keep it in as clean and natural context as we can.”

Piedmont Riverfront Park will be a part of the Saluda River Blue Trail, which currently extends along a 17.5-mile recreational corridor in Anderson County.
Newton said there are three other river access sites, which were constructed on property the county didn’t have to purchase.

The Saluda River Blue Trail already includes existing locations at Dolly Cooper Park in Powdersville, Dr. James A. Timmerman Access in Pelzer, and the Sen. M.W. Gambrell Access near Belton.
Newton explained that the first Kayak launch site was put at Dolly Cooper Park.

Newton said the environmental studies and certifications would take about 4 months and construction on Phase 1 of the project could be completed by the end of 2023.
He said it will be gated and under the surveillance of the sheriff’s office.

County Council District 6 representative Jimmy Davis said, “The development will be instrumental in creating a boom for Northern Anderson County and revitalization for Piedmont.”

SC House District 10 Representative West Cox said, “It is important to have public access to the river and have as many access sites available on public lands as possible. I am proud of what it will do for Anderson County and believe it will attract people to Piedmont. Over a period of time it will be a huge economic driver for Piedmont.”
Cox said he could see where someone may be on the river and see the area and decide to move here. “It will be great for Piedmont and the overall plan for Anderson County to utilize the Saluda River.”

Greenville County Council District 26 Representative Lynn Ballard also said the river access along with other development planned for Piedmont, will be a boost for the area.

Newton said the project could have a direct economic impact of $300,000 and indirect impact of $1 million annually generated for every 5,700 people visiting the Blue Trail for kayaking, tubing or paddling.
“This number does not include the economic impact of persons visiting the Blue Trail to engage in boating, fishing, wild-life watching or passive outdoor activities,” Newton said.

A draft environmental assessment has been prepared for this project and is available for public inspection at www.andersoncountysc.org . A review and public comment period will run through March 17th.
Comments on the environmental assessment may be submitted to Steve Newton, Anderson County Governmental Affairs Office, at the following address: snewton@andersoncountysc.org

Pictured – Look over master plan
Anderson County Government Affairs Director Steve Newton talks with local residents and looks over the proposed conceptual master plan for the proposed Piedmont Riverfront Park.