Lane Brown is one of the leading voices behind a vision. A vision that has become reality for many abandoned railways across the nation. Brown, along with other visionaries in town such as Ron Bartley, of Northeastern Technical College, and Phil Powell, executive director of the Greater Cheraw Chamber of Commerce, want to see a walking trail and bicycle course replace the abandoned railroad tracks that lead from ACL Avenue to the Cheraw State Park.
Local residents have already formed a non-profit 501-C3 group known as The Friends of the Cheraw to Society Hill Rails to Trails. Members hope to become part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a national non-profit organization. According to its website, the mission of the organization, which is based in Washington, D.C., is to “create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines to build healthier places for healthier people.”
All across the nation communities have been taking advantage of these abandoned railway passages, said Brown. And he’s hoping this community will get on board with the idea and turn this vision into reality.
The entire stretch of abandoned railway from Cheraw to Society Hill is currently owned by South Carolina Central Railroad. They purchased it some years ago from CSX, said Brown. Since Gayley and Lord of Society Hill stopped buying coal three years ago, that portion of the track has been abandoned.
The first giant hurdle for taking this project forward, said Brown, is the actual purchase of the land. Negotiations on the price of the land are in the works and plans are under way for fund-raising projects.
According to Bartley, there are several ways in which the community could benefit from the installation and use of this trail. It will promote tourism, give our youth a safe trail to ride or walk, and possibly serve as a utility corridor in the future for water or electrical services.
The trail would also have historical significance. To preserve this corridor, said Brown, would bring new light to one of the oldest trails in Chesterfield County. According to Brown, the trail dates back to the American Civil War. “It marked the end of the line for Hardee’s troops,” said Brown. In fact, he said, Union troops actually “destroyed the line by pulling up the track and burning the railroad ties.”
Brown spoke with members of the Greater Cheraw Chamber of Commerce last month about the possibilities of this venture during the chamber’s Lunch and Learn program, offering a slide presentation of various sites around the country that are already enjoying this visionary return to very old passageways.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, ext. 224, or by email at email@example.com.