PICKENS COUNTY - An eight and a half mile stretch of railway between Pickens and Easley could soon be converted into a multi-use recreational trail system.
In separate Monday evening sessions, the Pickens City Council and Easley City Council approved joint purchase of the railroad property known commonly as the Doodle Line, and city officials are excited about the possibilities.
“We are excited about it,” said Pickens Mayor David Owens. “I think about the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville and what kind of people it brings in and what this will bring to the City of Pickens. This will be great for health for anyone that wants to use it, bicyclists, joggers, or mothers that want to push the kids in the stroller.”
The purchase of the railway is a 50/50 split between the cities of Easley and Pickens.
“We, as the City of Pickens, the council and administrator, are in agreement to purchase half of the railroad along with Easley with funds provided by a hospitality tax,” Owens said. “We will be equal partners in the Rails to Trails project.”
The Pickens Railway submitted a purchase price of $500,000 to both Easley and Pickens for the portion of track and both cities will collaborate on the purchase after consulting with the same group of attorneys that counseled Greenville County on their acquisition of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Each city will pay $250,000.
According to surveys conducted by the Pickens County YMCA and the Easley Chamber of Commerce, the “Rails to Trails” project is highly supported by the community and has yielded an 80-90 percent range of support.
“I wasn’t surprised by the results of the survey by the way the people in the community have talked about the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville,” Ambassador of the Easley Chamber of Commerce Ryan Kouvolo said a year ago at the time of the survey. “We know the success and economic impact that towns like Travelers Rest have experienced, and when the same type of thing was brought up in our community, the people already had a positive feel, if it worked in Greenville, why not here? The survey was simply a formality.”
Cities like Pickens and Easley are anxious to include their names in the discussion of Greenville and Traveler’s Rest.
“Our track record will show that we are targeting our efforts to bring in new businesses, and the trail, when you look at cities like Traveler’s rest and Greenville, is another tool in making Pickens a destination,” said Pickens City Administrator Katherine Brackett during early days of planning for the project. “Our focus is to support existing businesses, recruit new businesses, and promote tourism, and it is also a valuable partnership with the city of Easley.”
The Swamp Rabbit Trail has been a source of economic success for the areas in which it covers, and cities like Pickens are following that pattern.
“We are not reinventing the wheel, we are using proven methods that hundreds of others cities have successfully implemented,” Brackett said.