Pickens, Easley councils unite

                                 Nicole Guttermuth/Courier
Easley mayor Larry Bagwell and Pickens mayor David Owens, seated from left and surrounded by city council members from both municipalities, joined together in a Monday night meeting to celebrate the cities’ joint purchase of the Pickens Doodle rail line.

By Nicole Guttermuth

Courier Staff

08-14 Page 1A.inddEASLEY — Easley mayor Larry Bagwell and Pickens mayor David Owens, along with council members from their respective cities, conducted a joint meeting Monday night to celebrate the municipalities’ partnership in developing the Doodle Line trail.

Also present were city administrators Katherine Hendricks of Pickens and Fox Simons of Easley, who have been actively involved in the process of acquiring the rail line and working between the cities to begin the development of the project.

On Aug. 2, officials from the two cities officially purchased the old Pickens Doodle rail line from Pickens Railway Company for $500,000, with each city paying half, with the end goal of developing the old railroad corridor into a multi-modal pedestrian greenway similar to Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail.

The purchase included the rail line, a locomotive engine, two boxcars, a World War II-era kitchen car and about 1.9 acres where CLCX had its office in Pickens near Hampton Avenue. Brick buildings on the property are also part of the purchase.

Working in tandem, the two municipalities will create a bicycle and walking trail using the old Pickens Railway rail bed, known locally as the Doodle Line, linking Easley and Pickens.

“We’re looking forward to getting this thing off the ground,” Bagwell said. “We think that it will be something extremely rewarding to our county.”

While there will be obvious health benefits for the community having the opportunity to walk, run or cycle the trail from Easley to Pickens or Pickens to Easley, the corridor also presents a potential explosion of economic development for the county.

Steve Baker, president of a Greenville-based cycling club called the Greenville Spinners, offered both mayors and councils a presentation on the economic impact of cycling in the upstate.

According to Baker, the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville has helped with the creation of more than 30 cycling-specific businesses and an almost equivalent number of non-cycling related businesses — like ice cream and coffee shops — and on the conservative end of the spectrum, cycling has contributed more than $20 million annually to the local economy.

What this means for Pickens County is simple: an attraction like the Doodle Line trail increases tourism. Tourism means an increase in spending at local businesses and the development of new businesses to meet the needs of tourism. This leads to an increase in tax revenue and a growth in the local economy.

“Cycling in the upstate,” said Baker, “is every bit as important to our area as the beaches are to coastal South Carolina.”

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is one of the most visited attractions in the Upstate, with more than 400,000 unique international, national and local visitors.

“We’re ahead of the curve you’re about to experience because we have developed a rail line into a trail and seen what it has done for our area,” said Baker. “We’re very excited for you. This won’t just benefit one area; the benefits go both directions.”

Hendricks said that the next step in the trail development project involves seeking bids for a feasibility study.

That study will help determine costs, along with examining the trail’s structure, including its beginning and ending, opportunities for mid-point entry, possible restroom locations and more.

“As part of the master planning process, we will accept public comment,” said Hendricks. “We will hold public meetings to gather and assess community input.”

While the Doodle Line trail is still in the infancy stages of development, the cities of Easley and Pickens have created a strong foundation for the project by collaborating and working together — finding a common ground for the growth and development of Pickens County as a whole so everyone benefits.