Norfolk Southern agrees to sell 31-mile rail line for Saluda Grade Trail
Published 9:36 am Thursday, March 16, 2023
FOOTHILLS–A coalition of nonprofits with plans to develop a 31-mile rail line into the Saluda Grade Trail has reached an agreement with Norfolk Southern to sell the portion of the railroad.
The coalition has a signed agreement with the Norfolk Southern establishing the price and other terms of the future purchase.
This coalition, consisting of Conserving Carolina, PAL (Play, Advocate, Live Well) and Upstate Forever, plans to repurpose the inactive rail line as a trail that will run through Tryon, Saluda and Landrum. The Saluda Grade Trail will begin at Inman and end in Zirconia, N.C.
In South Carolina, the coalition is advocating for an $11 million investment by the state this year.
The Saluda Grade Trail is expected to be a multi-use trail. Along its route, the trail will feature rural scenery and historic landmarks.
“We’re pleased to announce this exciting progress toward the goal of a rail trail that will serve as an economic engine for our communities, provide an abundance of recreational opportunities, and improve people’s health by encouraging exercise and time in nature,” says Kieran Roe, Executive Director of Conserving Carolina.
The coalition also has begun the process of an economic impact and feasibility study that will shed light on how the trail will shape local economies and how to move forward with the project. This summer, the coalition will be reaching out to landowners and stakeholders along the trail to seek their input on the opportunities and challenges presented by the trail and approaches that will best meet the needs of the community.
In addition, the coalition is preparing a website for the Saluda Grade Trail where the public will be able to find information and ways to get involved. The website is expected to launch this spring.
“In addition to being beloved community assets, trails energize economies,” said Andrea Cooper, Executive Director of Upstate Forever. “The Saluda Grade Trail will bring new jobs and money to the area, encourage safe outdoor recreation, and improve quality of life for residents.”
Laura Ringo, Executive Director of PAL, touted the economic boost and health benefits of the Saluda Grade Trail.
“The Saluda Grade Rail Trail will be a transformative project for the region,” said Ringo. “This rail-to-trail will be a destination and provide a boost to the Spartanburg County tourism economy, especially for the cities along the route like Landrum, Campobello and Inman. During the first year that the trail is open to the community, 125,000 visitors are expected.”
Conserving Carolina is leading efforts on the North Carolina side of the trail, while PAL and Upstate Forever are leading efforts in South Carolina. To learn more, visit conservingcarolina.org/saluda-grade, palspartanburg.org/saludagradetrail, or upstateforever.org/saluda-grade.