LITTLE MOUNTAIN — After more than five years of work on about 44 acres of land, the Rocky Branch National Area is almost finished in Little Mountain.
On Sunday, there was a dedication of the trail head as well as a shelter to the trail area.
Mayor Buddy Johnson said that the trail is cleared for about half a mile and when finished it will be about a mile and half long of a trail.
Johnson said, “people should wait until the first of the year (2013) when people can explore it.”
The center of the trail is cleared and they still have to finish constructing it and Johnson said that certain handicapped people can use it.
The surface is unknown right now but Johnson said there will be some sort of small pebbles or rocky or granite fine stone to keep it as natural as possible.
He explains that because of the typography there are some challenges to overcome as they want to protect the resources but still make it very accessible.
The trail was hopefully supposed to be five by six wide; however, Johnson says they may have to narrow it some.
However, the restrooms, patio and picnic shelter are all American of Disabilities Act compliant.
Newberry College’s professor Charles Horn assessed the plants, trees and flowers and worked over two years assessing it all, said Johnson.
“He found over 360 species of plants. He found a species of federal concern which is similar to being endangered,” said Johnson who explained that the plant is a Piedmont Astor which is only in North and South Carolina and there are only a couple of dozen discovered in the entire world.
Johnson said that “all the species are to be protected and are working with DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and Horn to place trail in ecological sensitive areas.”
At the dedication ceremony, Senator Ronnie Cromer and District 40 Representative Walt McLeod presented a couple of resolutions from the senate and house respectively.
Naturalist and former S.C. ETV host Rude Mancke also spoke about the trail. According to Johnson this was his eighth visit or so to the town as he has been involved in helping to make a history DVD which will be featured on ETV and can also be purchased through the town.
Mancke said, “Most Piedmont sites like this have been changed drastically. Thank goodness you folks have taken care of it and are willing to leave that as a legacy for people who come after us. To see that diversity, yes, it’s special.”
Also, resident and former council member Roxie Derrick was recognized since she is the one who gave the land to the town.
Johnson said, “It all started in 2005 when Roxie was owner and wanted to open it for public access but wanted to limit the development. We worked on a conservation easement in 2006 with the Palmetto Conservation Foundation in Columbia. Then it was deeded to the town in 2007. In the last five years, we have worked to get a grant.”
Johnson said that the capital sales project has helped with the trail head and they were able to get a grant from the state’s parks and recreation department.
The grant was for $26,800 and the town had to match 20 percent of it.
The S.C. DOT will put up signs along U.S. 176 to direct people to the trail within 90 days. The trail is near Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.