Amenity added to the Foothills Trail

South Carolina’s first long-distance hiking trail has a new amenity that’s going to be helpful for many of the hikers who set out for a mountain walk between the Oconee and Table Rock state parks. State leaders, state park officials, and several hiking enthusiasts turned out for a ceremony to cut the ribbon to an asphalt parking lot at what is the western terminus of a trail that, when you count trail spurs, meanders more than 100 miles across some of nature’s gifts of beauty across the upper tip of South Carolina. At one point, the trail cuts across part of North Carolina. But, now at the Oconee State Park terminus of the trail, there are paved parking spots, benches, and information kiosks for the convenience of the hiker. And there are a growing number of those who hike the trail for recreation and exercise. Heyward Douglas, Foothill Trail Conference leader, gave an accounting this morning of some recent hikers—including a New Orleans man and two women from Michigan. The point Douglass stressed is that those who hike the trail from elsewhere wind up spending money locally to cover meals and lodging. And that’s sweet music to Oconee County’s Ken Sloan and Phil Shirley who are in the business of growing and facilitating the county’s tourism business. Both Sloan and Shirley were there this morning, along with Michelle McCollum of the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor. McCollum was thanked for allocating funds for the parking lot project. Joanna White, Oconee State Park director, said the project was a year and a half in the making, frequently delayed by the more than 100 inches of rain the county received in 2013. Ironically, a two-inch rainf soaked the park yesterday. But nature cooperated for today’s ceremony with cool temperatures, sunshine, and a sky of blue.