Frequently Asked Questions about Trails Work in Spartanburg

1. What is PAL's role in trail development?

2. How much does a trail cost?

3. Where does the funding come from?

4.  What is ROW?

5. Who will own the land under the trail plan?

6. Who will maintain the trails?

7. How much does trail maintenance cost?

8. Who will be held legally liable for accidents and injuries?

9. What about trail safety?


1.  What is PAL’s role in trail development? 

Partners for Active Living has signed memoranda of understanding with the City of Spartanburg and Spartanburg County to implement the trails plans. Both the City and the County have invested in a Trails Coordinator position, housed at Partners for Active Living.

PAL currently convenes a Trails Collaborative made up of several organizations that are involved in trail building and maintenance. Collaborative members include the Tyger River Foundation, Spartanburg County Parks, City of Spartanburg Parks and Recreation, the Spartanburg Area Conservancy, the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, the Trees Coalition, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, the Clifton Trail Alliance, the Town of Pacolet, the Mary Black Foundation, and Upstate Forever. 

PAL also convenes a Trail Leadership Committee consisting of private and public leaders who support and advise the trail planning process. Members of the Committee include representatives of the City of Spartanburg, Spartanburg County, Spartanburg Community College, the Mary Black Foundation, USC-Upstate, Wofford College, Converse College, as well as realtors, developers and other business leaders.

With input from these two bodies, PAL developed a project work plan and funding plan to focus the design and construction of a widely supported trail system.

2. How much does a trail cost?

This is a highly variable target, depending on the type of trail, the existing conditions, the terrain, and the soil conditions encountered during construction. Local examples show that variety: the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail cost about $600,000 per mile to build in 2006; the recently opened Woodruff Greenway Trail cost about $400,000 per mile.

3. Where does the funding for trails come from?

Both the City of Spartanburg and Spartanburg County have included trail development funds in their budgets for the next five years. These funds (about $150,000 per year over five years for the City, about $100,000 dollars per year over five years for the County) must be requested of and approved by City or County Council on a per project basis. Usually, these funds will be matched with funding sought from grants and private donations.

For example, the City recently received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for $500,000; it requires a 50% match and the project itself will be over $1.2 million. PAL has committed to raising about $475,000 for that effort from private donors and other grants. 

4. What is ROW?

This refers to rights of way, which is the land beneath roads and utility facilities.  On roads, the right of way typically includes the road and sidewalks, if any, plus several feet on either side of the road or sidewalk.  This is typically where roadside utility lines are placed.  Utility rights of way, owned outright or acquired through easements through the land owned by others, are for utility use only. Any other use (recreational, for example) must be negotiated with the property owner.

PAL will work directly with property owners to assure full transparency. Trail development requires the cooperation and consent of a number of stakeholders.

5. Who will own the land under this plan?

Some trails will be built in the existing public right of way, so whoever owns or controls the rights of way will own or control land beneath the trail (City, County or State).  The Trails and Greenways Master Plan assumes that the property for trails will not be purchased.  Instead, easements—permission for public recreation—will be sought from land owners. An easement does not change the ownership of property.

6. Who will maintain the trails?

Each section of a trail may be different.  Trails in the City limits will typically be maintained by the City, those in the County by the County. Where possible, we will seek the assistance of private companies, such as was done with the Pacolet Milliken project at the old Drayton Mill.  Where necessary, to make a project happen and with County Council approval, the Spartanburg County Parks Department will provide trail maintenance. In some cases, neighborhood associations have supported trail maintenance with funding and sweat equity. Trail heads will have kiosks that delineate who owns and maintains the particular section of trail, and how to contact that entity.

7. How much does trail maintenance cost?

There are many variables, such as the location of the trail, the material with which it is paved, the rainfall and topography and the use of the trail, among other things. A survey of some 100 rail trail conversions conducted by the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy concluded that a paved, ten-foot wide trail will typically cost around $1500 per year to maintain.

Read the survey report here

Other communities have successfully used volunteers for light trail maintenance, including litter and brush removal and weed eating.  These volunteers are typically organized in work days.  High school and college kids are great for this type of thing. However, there are some things that are beyond the capability of volunteers.  If a tree falls across a trail, well-equipped and –trained public employees deal with such an issue.

Trail maintenance is not a large expense, especially in comparison to the labor-intensive maintenance of baseball and soccer fields, which requires fertilizer, weed-killer, pesticide, mowing, grooming and lining. 

8. Who will be held legally liable for accidents and injuries?

Liability for trails on private property will be held by the City of Spartanburg or Spartanburg County, depending on location. In the case of trails passing through property by right of easement, the City or County will be responsible for any liability claims within the easement area, typically 20 feet—ten feet on either side of the center line of the trail. Any person who leaves that easement area will be considered a trespasser, and will not have liability claims on the private property owner.

This will function similarly to the street in front of your house. If a neighbor child runs into your yard from the street (publicly owned) and gets injured, the home owner is not held liable. If there is any claim at all, a property owner’s existing insurance carries sufficient liability coverage.

In South Carolina, state law limits the liability claims against government bodies to $600,000 per incident.  Every government body carries insurance to cover such claims already. Good maintenance practices will generally reduce the likelihood of any claims.

9. What about trail safety? 

Trails have never been shown to increase crime. In fact, building a trail often reduces the opportunity for crime. When you legitimize the use of an area, illegitimate use goes away. “When you turn on the lights, the cockroaches flee.”

Read a summary of four studies of crime and trails

Here in Spartanburg, we have had very few incidents of violence against persons on our trails. Public safety typically patrols trail heads, but has no cause to patrol trails. The City of Spartanburg Police Department has bicycle officers who patrol the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail.