Goals of the South Carolina State Trails Plan

1.) An Interconnected Trail System

As we try to enhance the trail experience over the life of South Carolina’s Trails Plan, the concept of connectivity will be vital. South Carolina should go forward to build a network of trails that work together to connect different aspects of our splendid state.

This interconnectivity gets its foundation by concentrating on a framework for tying South Carolina together. A framework is beginning to emerge from progress on many long distance trails that serve as a backbone of a statewide network of trails. These long distance trails can be considered the interstate system, the major trunks from which other connectivity and mobility will flow.

In applying the Interconnectivity Goal, we encourage further progress on the long distance trails and encourage others interested in trails to promote methods to further this interconnectivity element.

Trails in South Carolina are built one at a time. Each regional network of trails is made up of several different trails that interconnect and enable users to navigate the area. Even the Palmetto Trail, to stretch almost 500 miles across the State, is made of many passages, which in turn are made up of smaller trails. This is only the main stem, the Palmetto Trail network has other trails connecting with it from the mountains to the sea.

2.) Sustainability Guides the Process

The resources of the State Trails Program will be focused on promoting trails that are sustainable over the long term. Sustainability means that the trails are designed, constructed and maintained in such a manner that the environment is respected, long term maintenance is kept to a minimum and that associated costs are within the reach of the land manager. The South Carolina Trails Plan advocates trail development to a standard that assures Palmetto State trails will incorporate the latest and best concepts, materials and techniques.

3.) Trails as Access to South Carolina’s Treasures

The reasons to build trails are numerous. They promote exercise, they connect people with nature, and they are good for economic development. Trails also provide access to things we want to see.

A goal of the State Trails Plan is that whenever possible trails should provide access to tourism destinations or other points of interest. Trails should allow people to see the beauty and culture of South Carolina.

Constructing trails to destinations brings opportunities to feature interpretive points along the route. The trail becomes an educational tool, teaching the culture and ecology of South Carolina. The impact and benefits are spread out to broader segments of the population – this brings deeper appreciation and wider acceptance of the trail’s mission.

4.) Multi-Use is Preferred

There is a limit to the land available for trails in South Carolina. Suitable public land is a finite resource and the number of private landowners willing to provide public access is still small. In some instances, sharing trails will be a necessity. Multi-use is therefore a goal of the State Trails Plan.

With proper planning and design, most trail systems can accommodate multiple uses. Bikers, equestrians and hikers can jointly use facilities by following proper trail etiquette combined with a sound system of trail management. Other opportunities may be found by sharing trail corridors.

If circumstances arise where multiple use accommodations cannot be accomplished on a single trail, trail planners should support opportunities to be developed regionally for all uses. Diversity is central to any trail plan and the trail community must work together to accommodate the needs of all users.

5.) Trails Are Built for Public Use

Trails are a great use of public resources. However, even this cost effective tool requires allocation of scarce resources that could be used for education, human services or other conservation projects. So trails must serve a viable public purpose.

The motivating factor behind trail construction is that they must promote public use. Trails for closed memberships or in locations that are not accessible to the public are not acceptable uses of public resources. We want as many people as possible to enjoy the beauty of South Carolina through trails.

“Trail user” also suggests all kinds of people. Needless to say, trails in South Carolina should absolutely respect anti-discrimination laws and all reasonable efforts should be made to make trails accessible to persons with disabilities and others with special needs.

6.) Trails Should Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

The tremendous health care needs in South Carolina mandate that some resources be focused on promoting healthy lifestyles. Trails can be significant tools in this struggle.

Numerous studies have confirmed that walking or jogging – even for a short times on a daily basis – can be as effective as a traditional exercise routine. The Surgeon General of the United States encourages individuals to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day. The State Trails Plan promotes trails for fun and trails for economic development. Trails as a health resource should receive equal attention. The fun and profit from trails add to benefits of a first class trail system.

When making trail decisions, questions about facilities useful in promoting healthy communities will be important. Opportunities for exercise through trail experiences can help make more South Carolinians fit, happy and healthy.

For more information on the South Carolina State Trails Plan, please see Expanding the Experience: Trails for South Carolina (2002).