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The Edgefield County Alliance heard Tobe Holmes of Charlotte speak on the feasibility of a rail trail for non motorized vehicles to add to the attraction of the area. This was a presentation of February 6, 2012 at the PTC auditorium. Tobe was speaking in home territory since he grew up in Edgefield County (son of the late Tommy Holmes) and described his own home territory of Highway 191 as a great place for a trail for walking or a bike since it would trail along the area of beautiful peach tree orchards.
Holmes kept mentioning the North Augusta trail as an example; it is nearby and they worked for some time to make it happen.
The mention of “rail trails” reminds people of the need for acquiring land or easements on which the users may ride; the land is usually 30 feet to 300 feet wide and requires maintenance to a degree. These trails take time in developing as the acquiring of the land is piece by piece – “a long process” says Holmes.
Holmes suggested that first there has to be a vision – such as trailing through the peach orchards, and from there one can grow. There are often people who oppose such a venture: they worry that their taxes may go up; what if someone falls and hurts himself on “my” property. The pluses are: the people such a trail will pull in (tourism): the economical benefit from those people spending money; the land is then beautified and under “conservation.”
From his research, Holmes says that the economic benefits of the rail trail is better than the building of a highway. Certainly real estate values go up, among other things. He says that companies moving into an area often look for just such a place for their workers to enjoy.
Holmes’ enthusiasm for such projects comes, more than likely, out of his passion for bicycling. He was in that business for a while before returning to school for an M.A in city and regional planning. He was in Charleston first where he saw folks renting bicycles, all they had available, from Easter to Memorial Day. Charleston has the beach which makes for perfect bike trails.
Some of his work has been on multiple county trails, all connecting to benefit a larger area. He noted that possibly Aiken and Edgefield County could connect some of the trails for equine and bikes which would then extend into each county, benefiting both.
As for cost, he noted an expense of “1.7 million to build a couple of more miles” on a trail. Also, along the way, there will be a parking lot, which requires more paving, an added expense
Another big value – maybe the most appealing — for having such trails, according to Mr. Holmes who seemed quite fit physically, is the healthy aspects of biking and walking on trails.