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Loop trail second CPST completion, aims to join Swamp Rabbit

Don Wilson, left, past president of the Laurens County Trails Association, walks hand in hand with wife Linda Thursday minutes after the ribbon-cutting that officially opened the 1.7-mile loop trail that will one day connect to the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

Two young girls on bicycles were struggling Thursday to peddle their way uphill on the officially open loop trail that will one day become part of Greenville County’s popular Swamp Rabbit Trail.

The youngest cyclist got a friendly push from mom, proof that teamwork can pay off, something Laurens County Trails Association President T. Eston “Bud” Marchant said helped get the trail built in the first place.

“This celebration today really focuses on what Laurens County is all about,” Marchant said. “That’s the people here coming together on a very important project that will aid not only the potential business development along the trail, but also the health and wellness this county focuses on.”

Following remarks from local leaders and the ceremonial cutting of a blue ribbon, a couple dozen walkers joined the young cyclists on the new trail that travels through a wooded area off of Professional Park Road between Laurens and Clinton and across from the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce.

The $300,000 project was funded by Laurens County’s Capital Project Sales Tax, which county voters passed by referendum during the 2020 General Election. The approximately 1.7-mile paved loop trail is the second construction project to be completed and officially opened as part of the CPST following the recent grand opening of a new evidence storage facility for the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office.

Local leaders who spoke prior to the ribbon-cutting said the loop trail is about more than the dollars and cents from the CPST it took to create it.

“This has allowed us to provide a safe and equitable access to the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Laurens County,” said Justin Benfield, Prisma Health CEO for Laurens County and Hillcrest hospitals, noting the public and private partnerships that worked together to construct the trail. “This is a prime example of how we are making a difference and creating a better state of health.”

The Laurens County Trails Association and Laurens County Parks and Recreation Commission partnered along with Prisma Health on the project.

Prisma Laurens County Hospital CEO Justin Benfield speaks at the loop trail opening Thursday.

Benfield also quoted statistics that say South Carolina ranks 41st in U.S. health rankings and heart disease, mental health and obesity are of major concern to medical professionals across the state.

“Physical activity is one of the best things we can do to improve health in each of those areas,” he said.

Eight of the CPST’s 16 projects could be considered primarily related to quality of life with the development of trails, parks, a new $4.3 million Clinton library and a $7.93 million agricultural center.

Other projects and purchases went toward public safety and infrastructure improvements, including $3.55 million for renovations for the historic Laurens County Courthouse, nearly $2 million for a new water tower for the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission and $2.48 million for E-911 radio upgrades.

The total cost of the projects included in the CPST came in at around $34 million. The 1-cent sales tax is scheduled to sunset in 2028 or when it raises the funding for all the projects, but it can also be renewed by voters to fund more capital projects.

With the completion of the loop trail and the $1.9 million LCSO evidence facility, county residents are beginning to see the fruits of the CPST, and

Laurens County Council Chairman Brown Patterson said council members support the expansion of trails in the county, including trails that can connect Clinton and Laurens and then proceed toward the Greenville County line to the north and Newberry County line to the south, imagining the annual football run for the Laurens-Clinton high school football game taking place on the completed trail as opposed to busy Highway 76.

“That will be a huge deal for this county,” Patterson said. “This project does as much as anything for economic development. Years ago, the first thing industries asked that were coming to town was what’s the quality of workers you have? Now, the first question is, ‘What is your quality of life?’ And this is a huge quality of life addition for Laurens County.”

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