An effort is underway to secure the Scenic
River designation for parts of the Pacolet River
and Lawson’s Fork Creek. The effort includes the work of many individuals
including Wofford English professor John Lane, director of the upcoming Glendale
Shoals Environmental Studies program; Terry Ferguson, a Wofford geology and
anthropology professor; Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt; Dr. B.G.
Stephens, a Glendale native and a board member of the Spartanburg Area Conservancy,
or SPACE; Pacolet Mayor Elaine Harris and
SPACE Executive Director Mary Walter.
A designation as a state scenic river, they hope, will breathe new life
into the waters that meander along the county's eastern edge and could provide
recreational opportunities such as kayaking, canoeing and cultural heritage
tours. The residents say the designation, a program of the S.C. Department
of Natural Resources, will not only breed new interest in the waterway but
also lead to a long-term river management plan to preserve the river and
bordering land for future generations.
The goal of the state's Scenic Rivers Program is to conserve heritage through
proper management of the natural and cultural character of river corridors
through voluntary cooperation with the community and landowners. The Middle
Saluda River in Jones Gap State Park became the state's first scenic river
in 1978, followed by eight other river segments: the Ashley, Black, Broad,
Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee of Dillon County, Saluda and
Areas Being Considered
The river segments under consideration for the scenic river designation
are the Pacolet River from Clifton to Pacolet and Lawson's Fork Creek, which
runs through Glendale before emptying
into the river.
Spartanburg County Council has already given the project its blessing.
Britt, whose trip down the river was his first paddling venture, called
the day "an adventure he cherished." Now, he's already looking to buy two
kayaks for himself and his wife.
"It was like finding gold in Spartanburg County," he said. "The Pacolet
River, the Tyger River - the rivers we have are untapped treasure that's just
waiting for us to utilize."
Kayaking and canoeing opportunities are limited along the river because
of the lack of public access points, said Jeff Caton, executive director of
the Spartanburg County Parks and Recreation Commission. One project the county
envisions for the future is a regional park somewhere along the Pacolet River
corridor, but first the commission wants input from potential users on what
type park they would prefer. At Glendale Shoals, families bring children
to Lawson's Fork Creek to wade in the water and hop across rocks. Wildflowers
line the banks, and the remains of the old Glendale Mill tower nearby.
Pacolet Mayor Elaine Harris, who has helped spearhead the effort, said
the idea of the scenic river designation came from an Urban Land Institute
study that suggested promoting the blueway as part of a revitalization plan.
"Assets that we have are the natural resources and our cultural heritage,
cultural heritage being the textile industry, Native
Americans - there are 13 sites along the Pacolet River between here
(Pacolet) and Glendale that are on the National Register of Historic Places
- and life has been recorded at 10,000 years ago," she said.
A written request to DNR is the first step in initiating the process of
designating a waterway a scenic river in South Carolina. Next comes an eligibility
study by DNR's Scenic Rivers Program staff, landowner notification, a public
meeting, a scenic river designation by the General Assembly, the appointment
of an advisory council and the creation of a management plan.
The designation comes hand-in-hand with the Scenic Rivers Stewardship Program,
which focuses on education and landowner contact. DNR employees attempt
to build a relationship with the landowners to further the river's management
goals. The landowner may choose, if he or she wishes to participate, among
four land management options: a voluntary land registration in which the
landowner agrees to manage land in concert with the scenic river goals, a
memorandum of agreement in which the landowner agrees to manage the property
in accordance with best management practices and a conservation easement
or a donation of land.
Mary Crockett, DNR's Scenic Rivers Program coordinator, said the eligibility
study won't begin until at least next year due to staff and budget constraints.
One central benefit of the program is that DNR assists in writing a management
plan for the river, with community and landowner input, and provides technical
assistance to the advisory council.
"The main thrust of the program is community management of the river,"
Crockett said. "It's a voluntary thing. A designation has no regulations
with it. It's a community way of conserving the river. It's like a grassroots
kind of conservation. It's strictly voluntary. What a scenic river designation
does do is bring attention to the area."
SPACE Executive Director Mary Walter, who is leading the local task force,
said the study will consider wildlife, botany, geology, recreational opportunities,
pure beauty, water quality and buffer zones from development. If the Pacolet
reaches scenic river status, she said, landowners will be encouraged to
help preserve the area.
"We hope that they will change any bad habits, for instance, like fertilizing
right next to the river," she said. "That's just going to wash right into
the river and taint the water quality. They really need to leave a good,
safe buffer. We like to promote 200 feet, 100 feet would be great. But the
bigger buffer you have, it's a natural filter for what happens and goes down
into the water. Obviously what we're trying to get here is safer, cleaner
water but also to provide the scenic benefits."
Landowner participation is voluntary, but proponents of the designation
hope to get as many on board as possible. The designation can actually bring
less burden and more benefit to the landowner, Walter said. "I think that
the benefit is really just knowing they're doing the right thing, doing a
good thing by protecting the view-shed and the natural characteristics of
their land," she said. "... There are a lot of people and property owners
that are worried about what's going to happen to their family land long after
they're gone, so if they can take the necessary steps to know that it's
going to be protected after they're long gone, it gives them peace of mind."
In the end, the Pacolet River hasn't told its last story, Harris said.
"We feel like cultural heritage tours, ecotourism with kayaking and canoeing,
those things that are centered around the river, this wonderful natural
resource, can help to create a new industry here in Pacolet, connecting
with our neighbors, like Glendale and Clifton, to help re-tell their stories
for revitalization," she said. "I think I get my most enjoyment in sharing
the stories that we have here. And just the ruins - a lot of time people
think ruins are just not useful, but they are. They have a story to tell.
"And if we preserve those stories, they can be passed on from generation
to generation. That's a way to preserve a wonderful way of life that was
here, whether you want to look back 100 years or 10,000 years."
(This information is based on a story
in the Spartanburg Herald newspaper on Sunday, August 31, 2008.)