Access to and Use of Public Land

 

Palmetto Trail Extension at Stumphouse Mountain – South Carolina

Palmetto Conservation Project Manager, Jim Majors, walks by a very old tree that he made sure the trail route passed by when he was mapping out the trail.

Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park includes 1.5 miles of the mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail, Stumphouse Passage, and 2.5 more miles of state-of-the-aft mountain biking trail, for a total of 4 miles. The park is adjacent to the Stumphouse Tunnel and picturesque Issaqueena Falls, two well-known Oconee County tourist attractions.

The trail system was designed and constructed using a cutting edge approach that minimizes erosion and maximizes long-term sustainability. Benchmark Trails, a professional trail-building company in Greenville, was awarded to build the mountain bike trails to U.S. Forest Service and the International Mountain Bicycling Association standards. Deno Cantos operates Benchmark Trails and he went above and beyond to create big berms, rock gardens, rollers and tables, while also taking advantage of the various Crane Creek water features along the trail. Benchmark Trails did an unbelievable job constructing the trail system, especially when you factor in terrain and location of the project site.

Jim Majors shows off one of the many berms Benchmark Trails constructed on the Stumphouse
Passage.

Jim Majors shows off one of the many berms Benchmark Trails constructed on the Stumphouse Passage.

The Passage/Mountain Bike Park was a synergetic project comprised of many collaborators, including the City of Walhalla; Oconee County; Upstate Forever; Oconee Forever; Palmetto Conservation Foundation; Walhalla Partners for Progress; Oconee County Chamber of Commerce; Visit Oconee SC; The South Carolina Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and Dept. of Natural Resources; the U.S. Forest Service; REI; Upstate SORBA; Benchmark Trails; and the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor. The city owns the 440-acre property, which is a designated heritage preserve in Oconee County, and Upstate Forever holds a permanent conservation easement on the property, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the trails for generations to come.

The next phase, Ross Mountain Passage (another recently awarded RTP project), will provide hikers and mountain bikers a continuous connection from downtown Walhalla to the Stumphouse Passage, Oconee State Park and beyond. Trail lovers will have the ability to enjoy the Mountain Bike Park and then ride along the Palmetto Trail to their campsite at Oconee State Park, or ride into the charming downtown area for lunch and shopping on Main Street. The mountain biking and hiking trails serve as a catalyst for genuine economic growth and cultural enrichment for the Walhalla community.

The Stumphouse Passage and Mountain Bike Park is a shared-use path that is welcoming to hikers and mountain bikers. In one section of trail there are signs for hikers to go in one direction and mountain bikers to go in the other, depending on what day it is. This allows both mountain bikers and hikers to enjoy both directions, if they wanted to and it keeps the trail fresh for trail users. This, of course, also was planned in advance for safety reasons — hikers and bikers are cautioned to follow trail directional signs and posted protocol for right-of-way.

One of the switchbacks on the Stumphouse Passage of the Palmetto Trail.

One of the switchbacks on the Stumphouse Passage of the Palmetto Trail.

Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) offers South Carolina’s only trail-based AmeriCorps Program for young adults, and the Corps completes service work on the Palmetto Trail. In 2016, the Corps began as PCF’s primary trail maintenance tool, but there are other important benefits including conservation of natural resources and wildlife habitats across South Carolina. The Corps prepares young adults with training in disaster preparedness, natural resource management and disaster mitigation. The Palmetto Trail remains one of the Corps’ premiere projects, so they were involved in the development of the Stumphouse Passage and will remain as PCF’s key tool when it comes to trail maintenance, construction and reconstruction.

The new addition to the Palmetto Trail’s already impressive list of passages is sure to be enjoyed by mountain bikers and trail runners for many years to come. With such an expansive list of partners, and because of the superb design and remarkable job done by Benchmark Trails, the trail will likely be in excellent shape whenever hikers and mountain bikers visit. The Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park is a much-needed destination for mountain biking in the upstate and there is no doubt that this park will grow and remain a tourism destination for the City of Walhalla/Oconee County.