STATE — Efforts are underway to get at least a portion of the Saluda River designated a Scenic River by the Department of Natural Resources.
Save Our Saluda, an advocacy group dedicated to protecting the Saluda River, hosted a forum in Slater Saturday afternoon to give landowners along the Saluda a chance to ask questions about the program, whose purpose is to protect unique and outstanding river resources throughout the state.
Save Our Saluda members hope to achieve a State Scenic River designation for at least 12 miles of the South Saluda, from the Table Rock Reservoir down to Blythe Shoals.
“We hope to do at least 12 miles in this first phase, if not the whole 22 (miles) from South Saluda down to Saluda Lake, the whole South Saluda, all the way down,” said
Dianne Anastos, President of Save Our Saluda and forum moderator.
The forum was made up of Scenic River advisory board members from the Broad River and Lower Saluda River areas.
Panel members agreed that while the Scenic River designation has no positive or negative effect on property values, its greatest value is in giving landowners a voice concerning their local rivers.
“One person speaking alone is a voice in the wilderness, but you get a group to speak and they’ll listen,” said Joan Wheeler, a member of the Broad River Scenic River Advisory Council.
Tom Stonecypher, a Lower Saluda council member, said the council allows its members to “come to the table … and make their opinions known” about river issues.
SOS members hope the council will help water advocates address water quality and minimum flow issues along the South Saluda.
Giving all residents a sense of ownership of the valuable river resource is also important, Anastos said.
“Our river is really unique and different,” she said. “We’re very rural. We’re a very small river, very scenic.
“We see the South Saluda as offering great paddle opportunities for short family outings,” Anastos said.
Panel members outlined the challenges they faced in applying for the Scenic River designation.
Getting landowners to sign on to the project will be a challenge for the Saluda River effort, as there are over 400 landowners in Greenville and Pickens counties who own property along the river.
Anastos said her group has sent out information to the landowners explaining the process.
Landowners expressed concern that the designation would lead to more boaters using their land to gain access to the river.
Liability was another big concern, as landowners worried that more people on the river could lead to lawsuits if injuries occurred on their property.
But under the state Recreational Use Statute, landowners are not liable for injuries that occur to those on their land without permission, Anastos said.
The program could allow for the creation of a put-in somewhere along the river, decreasing the amount of trespassing on private land, she said.
The next step is for those seeking the designation to write letters to DNR asking for a river eligibility study, Anastos said.
The more groups and individuals request the study, the better, she said.
“The first step is eligibility,” she said.
Once the study is undertaken, landowners and the public will invited to public question and answer sessions about the program.
Before going before the General Assembly, the Scenic River proposal must be approved by both Pickens and Greenville County Councils.
After state legislators sign off on the project, the Saluda will be designated a State Scenic River.
Once that is accomplished, the advisory council for the Saluda will be created, with 6 of its 10 members being landowners.
“(Landowners) have control of the advisory council,” said Anna Laurie Hamrick, a Broad River council member.
The council will then create a management plan for the river’s future.