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Trail blazers...

New master plan in the works for Kershaw County

Posted: September 18, 2012 5:49 p.m.
Updated: September 19, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Preliminary plans for a county-wide trail system are currently being developed as part of a collaborative effort set to be finished by May.

While no timetable has been established for construction, leaders of the local “Eat Smart, Move More” coalition are working with Alta Planning, a firm specializing in trail design, as well as other partners, to devise a formal plan for Kershaw County.

Alta Planning’s Jean Crowther said the company intends to thoroughly research the “ins and outs” of the community before establishing a comprehensive network of trails.

“Right now, we’re really learning about Kershaw County and seeing what the citizens want to see and what interest and preferences there are for biking and walking. We’ll then take all of that and put together our recommendations,” Crowther said.

She explained that such projects are truly the “bread and butter” of the company.

“This is our niche. We work on these types of projects all over the country,” Crowther said. “We have three offices in the Southeast, so we’ve worked a lot here as well.”

She noted the development of trails can strongly impact a community.

“The benefits can include economic development in the form of property values increasing when you live near a trail. There’s also a potential to have increases in tourism from having an inviting and safe network of trails. People see that as a real draw for visiting an area,” Crowther said.

Alta Planning will also confer with Alliance Consulting Engineers, a Columbia-based firm which devised this year’s update of the county’s recreation master plan.

Stephen Staley, a Camden native and Alliance project manager, said the firm will be bringing local knowledge to the table.

“We know where all the parks and trails are and we know the intent of what the county wants to do,” Staley said. “When we did the recreational master plan, we compared Kershaw County to lots of other counties and the set standards for trails. The master plan stated that the county needed about 15 miles of trails just to be average, but there’s currently only about 4 miles of walking tracks in total.”

Pam Spivey, United Way of Kershaw County’s director of campaign and communications and an “Eat Smart, Move More” representative, said developing trails could have a wide ranging appeal.

“It should include the equestrian community, cyclists, runners, walkers, children, and families being able to go out there and enjoy it together. We want a safe place for everybody,” Spivey said.

She said one of the goals of the project will be growing local connectivity.

“We want connectivity to schools, after school programs, so that way, transportation issues are met. You’re connecting to your community, your neighbors. We also want to connect people to healthy foods, which would include our Farmer’s Market and local grocery stores,” Spivey said.

Kershaw County Planning and Zoning Director John Newman will also be working as liaison with the consulting groups. Newman said one of the unique aspects of the plan will be the inclusion of QR barcodes on trail signs, which will allow trail users to access specific information via a smart phone.

“The local bike clubs identified their routes and we got the SCDOT (Department of Transportation) to put ‘Share the Road’ signs and now we’ve got permission from the DOT to put our signs which have the QR codes,” Newman said. “You can scan it with your cell phone and it will tell you where you are and will pull up your bike route information.”

Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise said he’s been “kept in the loop” about the project from Newman and believes it would be a great way to market the county.

“I’m very supportive of it. It is one of the initiatives that I’ve talked about and supported in our recreation program,” Wise said. “I’m very thrilled and I can’t wait to get moving on it.”

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