Welcoming the Saluda Grade Trail
Published 9:58 am Thursday, September 22, 2022
I recently saw the poll on the Tryon Daily Bulletin’s website. As a long-time cyclist with a house two blocks from the rail line in Saluda, I think everyone should love the idea of the trail. However, having volunteered for 20 years in various bicycle and pedestrian advocacy positions I know that a negative initial reaction is typical. Many people simply have a negative reaction to change. After a trail has been in place most of those people can’t remember why they opposed it.
A few years ago I listened to the mayor of Travelers Rest talk about the Swamp Rabbit Trail. He said, “The trail saved my town.” That is a pretty good endorsement. Property values along the trail will rise, and new businesses will be built if the rails-to-trail project happens.
A trail will not require new land and will keep the rail line from turning into an overgrown mess. It will not lead to crime or vagrancy.
Trails have a very high benefit-to-cost ratio, and they bring in people who spend money without requiring road construction and adding pollution. The Great Allegheny Passage between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Maryland has about a million visitors per year. It is managed by volunteers! Many people do multiday rides staying in lodging and dining along the trail. The Town Hill B&B is tucked away in western Maryland where you would not expect many foreign visitors, but because they are near the C&O Canal trail they have visitors from all over. In a recent year, they had visitors from 37 foreign countries. The state of NC spent seven million dollars on the trail network near Duck a while back; the result was an increase of sixty million dollars per year in tourism income.
When we are in Saluda we typically drive 30 miles to Forest City to ride the Thermal Belt Trail. As a result, we spend money in that area that we would spend in Saluda or Tryon if they had a trail.
We recently stayed in a B&B in Marlinton, WV because they are located along the Greenbrier River Trail. In July we spent 10 days riding the Erie Canal Trail and last year rode the KATY Trail in MO. We and others are spending big bucks to vacation in places that offer trails.
I hope that this trail will be built. Why would you turn down a golden goose?