Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina’s state parks have broken records with the numbers of visitors seeking solace on their trails and waterways.
The future of the parks system in Greenville County may hold even more potential with 300 acres in the Blue Ridge escarpment near Jones Gap State Park protected by Upstate Forever under a recent conservation easement.
“We are honored to help protect and steward this scenic land in northern Greenville and are grateful to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism for entrusting the protection of its important natural resources to our land trust,” Scott Park, Glenn Hilliard director of land conservation for Upstate Forever, said in a news release.
Although not currently open to the public for outdoor recreation, future public access to the site, known as the White Tract, is planned to help meet growing demand for natural areas and expanded park access along the Blue Ridge Escarpment.
“The protection of the White Tract property is coming at a time when outdoor space has never been more treasured, and outdoor recreation demand is at an all-time high,” Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said in the release. “We are grateful to Upstate Forever for their partnership on this effort, and we look forward to welcoming visitors when public access is available. Our Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area offers some of South Carolina’s best hiking and most scenic mountain views and protecting the White Tract property ensures the land will be available for generations of South Carolinians to enjoy.”
In addition to serving as future park lands, the protection of the White Tract will contribute to the conservation of water resources and habitat for plants and wildlife.
The property contains the headwaters of the Middle Saluda River with critical waters for trout populations. It is entirely forested with pine and hardwood canopy with an understory of rhododendron, mountain laurel, silverbell and American holly.
Since its inception in 1998, Upstate Forever’s land trust has permanently protected nearly 28,000 acres through voluntary conservation easements in partnership with landowners and other conservation organizations across the Upstate, according to the release.