From today’s Greenville News:
The Swamp Rabbit Trail on March 21, 2013. / MYKAL McELDOWNEY/Greenville News
TRAVELERS REST — There’s no doubt that Greenville County residents and visitors love the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail.
And soon, there will be more to love.
By summer, the current 17-mile trail from Travelers Rest south to Lake Conestee Nature Park will expand at least a mile northward, said Ty Houck, director of Greenways, Natural and Historic Resources at Greenville County Recreation District.
Houck made the announcement Thursday at the grand opening of the mountain bike skills course, a loop around the 15-acre Gateway Park in Travelers Rest. The park will serve as headquarters for the inaugural Swamp Rabbit Cyclebration on April 6.
Houck said right-of-way is already secured for the new section of trail. “Everyone has been really good about easements,” he said.
With future expansions, the Swamp Rabbit Trail could continue north toward Heritage Elementary School and Northwest Middle School, Houck said.
Mountain bike trails at Gateway Park officially opened Thursday morning. Also at the park is a youth skills development course, jumps, boulder sections and various other dirt features.
Jarret Peek, the president of Upstate SORBA, which volunteered labor and money to help build the park trails, said these type of skills parks are becoming increasingly popular.
“These are popping up all over,” Peek said. “Around here, it definitely helps relieve congestion at Paris Mountain State Park.”
The terrain and features make the park suitable for both advanced riders and beginners.
“There were more than 120 people out here riding Sunday,” Peek said. “It’s great for kids. It’s definitely a safer place to ride.”
Travelers Rest Mayor Wayne McCall said trails such as the Swamp Rabbit and those at Gateway Park have been an economic incubator for his city.
“The Swamp Rabbit Trail has been phenomenal for the whole county,” McCall said. “But more so for us in Travelers Rest. I can’t begin to tell you how much of an economic boost it’s been to this town.
“It’s been a perfect partnership for everyone involved.”
Travelers Rest will build a spur trail from the Swamp Rabbit Trail to the site of the old Travelers Rest High School, where constructionon a 700-seat amphitheater is set to begin shortly.
Other amenities at the old high school site, which still includes the school’s gym, are an open-air farmer’s market and a new fire station. That station will replace a smaller, out-of-date facility dating to 1958, said City Administrator Dianna Turner.
This latest expansion of the Swamp Rabbit Trail is only the beginning, said County Councilman Joe Dill, who represents District 17 in the northern part of Greenville County.
“We have plans to take the trail even farther,” Dill said, “all the way to River Falls.”
The inaugural Swamp Rabbit Cyclebration in April will include road rides of 40 and 70 miles, a 10-mile family ride on the Swamp Rabbit, as well as mountain bike and BMX events within the park on the mountain bike trails.
The all-day event is a fund-raiser for the Greater Greenville Parks Foundation, and it also includes a “Pump Track Jam,” dirt demos, a mountain bike skills camp, lunch and a post-even celebration behind Sunrift Adventures.
“That will truly be a community event,” Houck said. “We’re inviting everyone to come out.
“Biking is a lifetime activity. You get out there, and you’re happy.”