Rails to trails resolution approved by Town of Tryon

Published 9:37 pm Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Town of Tryon has approved its support of turning the railroad into a trail system for hikers, bikers and equestrian activity.

Tryon Town Council met last week and held a lengthy discussion about the project. The resolution was approved by a 3-1 vote, with councilman Wim Woody voting against.

Discussions included Woody saying that if the tracks are removed, it takes out any chance of rail travel on the scenic route between Charleston, SC, and Asheville. Woody says he doubts Northfolk Southern, the owner of the railroad, would agree to give up the line and added that the area couldnt afford restoring and maintaining the rail bed.

Councilman Doug Arbogast discussed a recent trip to Damascus, VA, taken by area officials and what its rails to trails project has done for the economy. He said the town, which is a little smaller than Tryon, has six bed and breakfasts and six bicycle shops. Having a destination here in Tryon for weekend or day trips would be great for the local economy, Arbogast said. He said most trail destinations that are successful include a large hill, and with the Saluda Grade being the largest grade in the U.S., weve definitely got a big hill.

The Virginia Creeper Trail stretches 35 miles from Abingdon, VA, through Damascus, VA, to the North Carolina State line. The Virginia Creeper Trail is open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding and was created along a former rail bed.

Arbogast also said the trail system could be tied into Tryons Vaughns Creek Greenway project, which will connect three town parks with property acquisition just underway.

Councilman Roy Miller asked if the town hadn’t, in recent years, passed a similar effort. John Vining responded that the carriage club had planned to have scenic tours along the railway. Vining said that effort didnt go anywhere in part due to the liability of having an engine carrying passengers.

Andy Millard, who is currently restoring the Tryon Depot, introduced the resolution and said likely, in the future, Norfolk Southern will abandon the rail bed and the property will probably defer to various property owners along the line.

Crys Armbrust said that the plan is to fill the rail bed with crush and run and roll over it to pack it down. He said the Tryon Downtown Development Association (TDDA) supports the effort, along with the Foothills Chamber of Commerce. The town intends to also get approval from the cities of Saluda and Landrum and Polk County.