GREENVILLE – Atop a ridgeline alongside the winding Altamont Highway on Paris Mountain, conservationists plan so as to add miles of mountain climbing trails with views stretching north of Greenville County, on the west facet of the monadnock that rises above Greenville in Paris Mountain State Park.
The proposal so as to add almost 300 acres throughout a number of properties to the state park was seen by county and conservation leaders as a singular alternative that comes at a time of intense progress stress within the county as officers have researched methods to increase public entry to the parks.
A key a part of the undertaking is Shiloh Ridge, 146 acres on the western fringe of the mountain which is at the moment owned by developer Robert Hughes and already protected against growth by a conservation easement.
This week, Shiloh Ridge grew to become the most important financial undertaking but funded by the brand new Greenville County Historic and Pure Sources Belief (GCHNRT) when Greenville County Council voted Nov. 1 9-3 to award $400,000 to buying the acreage with a plan to switch it to the State of South Carolina for an addition to Paris Mountain State Park.
“The Shiloh Ridge property is the most important undeveloped parcel bordering the park,” mentioned Carlton Owen, chairman of GCHNRT, which chosen the undertaking and sought grant approval from the county council. “Using this park has quadrupled within the final 4 years alone. I am positive the Belief may have alternatives to do nice issues sooner or later, however this addition is an iconic addition that may serve present and future generations of Greenville residents properly.
The grant approval got here regardless of considerations from residents and a few county council members about entry to the park and the protection of pedestrians and drivers alongside Altamont Highway, a slender, two-lane mountain highway lined with timber, ravines and homes in some locations constructed close to the highway.
Early concepts offered throughout stakeholder conversations included making a small parking space off Altamont Highway to offer secondary entry to future trails, though the location is owned by SC State Parks and no formal plans has been created or mentioned with the group.
Regardless of the county council’s approval, an effort nonetheless exists amongst some residents to scuttle the undertaking.
After the county council created the belief in late 2020, it set parameters for a way the belief’s appointed 12-member board may use county taxpayer funds for preservation initiatives. and conservation within the county.
All initiatives requiring greater than $200,000 can be voted on by the council in a lot the identical method companies search tax incentives from the county.
The belief obtained its first funding in July 2021 and has since accredited 5 initiatives of various sizes which have resulted within the safety of 420 acres and a historic constructing in Piedmont, Owen mentioned.
“The 4 ‘pure useful resource’ initiatives had been all in northern Greenville County, the place the majority of land conservation work in Greenville County has traditionally been executed,” Owen mentioned.
Shiloh Ridge is the most important to this point and the primary to be submitted to County Council for approval.
Following a public listening to in October the place nobody spoke in opposition to the proposal, the council voted unanimously to approve it at second studying.
However by the point a ultimate vote was set for Oct. 18, Councilor Steve Shaw, who represents the district that features the park, requested council to droop a vote as a result of he had begun listening to from residents upset concerning the visitors on Altamont Highway and future entry to the park are possible deliberate for the brand new part of the park.
Shaw and GCHNRT directors spoke with residents to attempt to resolve the problems earlier than the ultimate vote, however had been unable to fulfill a lot of Paris Mountain residents, who wished assurances that no entry to the park can be permitted on Altamont Highway.
Council members mentioned the county couldn’t present this assurance as a result of it might not personal the land and was performing because the funder however didn’t management the undertaking.
State officers haven’t publicly commented on the plans as a result of they don’t but personal the property and would undergo a proper planning course of earlier than something is designed or constructed.
The council finally unanimously handed a decision on November 1st stating that the council helps the enlargement of the park in a method that doesn’t create entry or a brand new entrance on Altamont Highway.
However when Shaw tried so as to add an modification to the $400,000 grant to compel the state to honor the council’s needs, some council members mentioned he went too far.
Vice President Dan Tripp requested the council to vote in opposition to Shaw as a result of he didn’t imagine it was as much as the county to put limits on what the state may do with its park. He urged Shaw and affected residents to speak to their state lawmakers as an alternative.
“We will not inform them what to do and what to not do,” Tripp mentioned.
Councilor Liz Seman mentioned she did not need to do something to jeopardize the undertaking whereas Councilor Butch Kirven mentioned the decision was about something council may do inside its authority.
Chairman Willis Meadows and councilors Mike Barnes, Joe Dill and Stan Tzouvelekas joined Shaw in voting to droop council guidelines to permit Shaw so as to add the limitation to the undertaking, however the different seven council members voted in opposition to them.
Shaw, Barnes and Tzouvelekas then additionally voted in opposition to the grant, which was accredited 9-3.
“We should always take heed to the individuals who reside on Altamont (Highway),” Tzouvelekas mentioned. “We do not take heed to the residents who reside on this mountain.”
Councilman Chris Harrison, who voted for the grant, mentioned it is a countywide challenge as a result of most council members do not have a state park of their district. He mentioned the board mustn’t vote in opposition to the grant based mostly on future “assumptions”.
“It is one thing that is excellent for the group as a complete,” Harrison mentioned.
The long run
The contract for the location is because of shut in mid-November. The property will probably be bought by the Naturaland Belief, which plans to switch it to the state, the belief’s government director, Mac Stone, mentioned.
Shaw mentioned he favored the concept of including mountain climbing trails to the park to benefit from mountain views that can’t be seen from different elements of the park.
“You are going to get some nice mountain views up there,” Shaw mentioned. “It’ll be a little bit completely different from the remainder of the park.”
Shaw mentioned state park officers instructed him they’d possible add a small 10- to 12-vehicle parking space alongside Altamont Highway so as to add one other entry level to the park.
That is when the residents – and Shaw – grew to become involved. He mentioned that past the extra visitors, one other entrance to the park would require extra monitoring by park officers to forestall unauthorized entry or after-hours points with the park.
He mentioned residents had requested an lawyer to evaluate the funding approval course of to see if the belief and the county adopted the proper process.
Alex Kirakides, a resident who lives alongside Altamont Highway, mentioned residents had been reviewing the council’s determination and declined to remark additional.
Shaw mentioned he nonetheless does not imagine the choice is a “executed reality” and wonders if it was handed too shortly.
Owen, chairman of the belief, mentioned they’d been very clear all through the method and had solely come to the complete board with a bigger grant request as a result of they wished to focus on the undertaking extra consideration.
Belief members had first met residents, together with Shaw, in August on the undertaking website, Owen mentioned.
Owen mentioned he and Doug Harper, the belief’s former chairman, met with residents earlier than the ultimate vote and agreed they’d not help parking or bike entry as a part of the undertaking.
Owen mentioned the one distinction of opinion was on entry to the hike, because the path enlargement would finally add an Altamont Highway crossing.
“I respect the individuals there and perceive their views, however I feel their calls for will not be in one of the best pursuits of all residents and I do not perceive how we are able to take all choices off the desk without end. “, mentioned Owen.
Tripp and Owen every mentioned residents may look to make use of the state’s funds planning course of so as to add wording to restrict entry to the park, however Owen mentioned he does not assume that will be in one of the best pursuits of all county residents.
Whereas that is the belief’s most high-profile work to this point, a lot of different initiatives are nearing completion and extra are being evaluated.
The county council allotted $2 million within the first two years of the belief and the belief has allotted over $1.1 million to this point.
The belief simply completed accepting a spherical of purposes on November 1.
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