City officials excited about future of new joint venture

By Nicole Daughhetee, Courier Staff

COUNTY — Monday night’s Pickens and Easley City Council meetings signified a huge step forward, as both councils unanimously voted to purchase the Doodle Line (the former Pickens Railway line) to create and develop a trail project that will link the two cities.

06-12 Page 1A.indd“People think that Pickens and Easley don’t have a good working relationship, but we do,” Easley mayor Larry Bagwell said. “We hoped that the county would take the lead on this project, but they didn’t, so Pickens and Easley took steps to purchase the land and move forward on this project that will be beneficial to so many people.”

Similar to Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail, the 8.5-mile stretch of railroad trail will be developed into a pedestrian-friendly walking and cycling trail for individuals and families to enjoy recreation and a bridge between the two municipalities.

Pickens mayor David Owens said he is excited about all the possibilities ahead because of this property acquisition.

“Several years ago Easley, Liberty and Pickens created PELCOR, which would join the local cities,” he said. “This will be the main leg between Easley and Pickens, and eventually we’d like to have them all connected,” he said. “We’d like this thing to go all the way to the Swamp Rabbit Trail at some point.”

Pickens and Easley purchased the stretch of trail between them for $500,000 — with each city paying half the price or $250,000.

“We’ve been talking about this a good while,” Owens said. “We’ll be equal partners. I’m really excited about it and I think most everybody in Pickens is excited about it. Pickens and Easley are not rivals like people may think. We have worked really well together.”

Pickens is funding its half of the purchase through hospitality funds. The city issued a $2 million hospitality bond that is also funding the city’s new amphitheater, as well as work on Town Creek Park and the city’s recreation center. The cities are responsible for taking up the cross ties, but Pickens Railroad Company will remove and sell the rails themselves.

Easley is also funding the purchase through hospitality tax money.

“It’s a significant project,” Easley administrator Fox Simons said. “You don’t get an opportunity to buy this type of asset every day. It’s a big deal.”

Bagwell said that moving on the purchase was a complete no-brainer.

“This trail will provide benefits for people to walk and ride their bikes. The economic growth potential for Easley is tremendous,” he said. “We want Easley to be a family-friendly area where people want to relocate, live and enjoy.”

Included in the sale is a locomotive engine, two boxcars and a World War II-era kitchen car. Pickens will keep the locomotive and one of the boxcars. Easley will keep a boxcar and the kitchen car. The former CLCX office on Hampton Avenue in Pickens is also included in the sale. Owens said the office, part of a 1.9 acre-tract, could be used as a trailhead for the path.

Both Owens and Bagwell said that their cities have taken the first major step in the trail project becoming a reality. There is a 30-day window during which the cities will consult attorneys and sign the final contract on the purchase of the property.

Bagwell and Owens said that after the contract is signed, the cities will meet to dicuss plans to move forward on the project.

“Once we get together to sign the contract,” said Bagwell. “We’ll have to decide if we are going to institute a board to collect ideas and govern the project.”

“We have to figure out if we’ll create a non-profit organization as we work on and build funding for the project,” added Mayor Owens. “I wish we had the money to start working on this immediately, but a project like this is going to take some time and money.”

Easley and Pickens do not have a timeline with which they are working, and ideas about the trail project are still in the infancy stages. However, the most significant step in the trail project was taken when the two cities unanimously agreed to the purchase.

“The trail is going to bring people in from out of the county, out of the state,” said Owens. “Local hospitals, festivals, the YMCA — they will all be able to use this for health and recreation.”

Bagwell said Easley is equally excited.

“This project is going to have a positive, long reaching impact for Easley and Pickens,” said Mayor Bagwell. “It is going to benefit so many people – more people than we even realize at this point.”