When bragging about Greenville I always mention the Swamp Rabbit Trail. It’s not the historic migration route for small mammals, nor is it a hiking path leading through marshy lowlands; the Swamp Rabbit Trail is a multi-use greenway system connecting Greenville County with schools, parks, and local businesses. Running along Reedy River for a large portion of its 17.5 miles, the trail utilizes an old rail bed between Greenville and Travelers Rest. The old railway line was nicknamed for the large cottontail rabbit found here in the South, and when trail replaced rail the name stuck. We often utilize two sections of the trail, one down by Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery and the section downtown, connecting Falls Park with Greenville Zoo. With visitors in town this week (one in particular who was asking to visit a playground) we headed east from Falls Park on a sunny afternoon.
The current trail begins at Greenville Technical College, crosses through Falls Park and downtown Greenville, and winds its way all the way to Travelers Rest, although there are plans for several spur trails and possible extensions. The wheels were set in motion in 1999 when the City of Greenville bought the abandoned railroad with plans for a commuter rail and greenway. Although rail intentions were never realized, planning for the trail commenced in 2005 and the Swamp Rabbit Trail officially opened on May 7, 2010. There are constantly improvements being made on the trail, the most current being the proposed Cancer Survivors Park just past Falls Park. An overgrown section of the trail between Church Street and Cleveland Park will become a three-acre park, complete with improved access to the trail, a more bicycle friendly crossing to the Reedy River as well as gathering spaces for “education and celebration.” I will be happy to see the kudzu, poison ivy and unsightly pipes replaced by sculpture and landscaping, and am surprised it hasn’t happened sooner, considering its proximity to downtown and Falls Park.
|Looking back across the Reedy over what will be the new park|
Crossing under McDaniel Avenue we entered Cleveland Park and soon spotted the F-86 Sabre Jet which serves as the memorial to Air Force Maj. Rudolf Anderson, Jr. An Upstate native, he served in Korea, receiving two Distinguished Flying Cross Citations. On October 27, 1962 while on a reconnaissance mission over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Maj. Rudolph Anderson, Jr. was shot down and killed. The Anderson Memorial Airplane was dedicated on May 19, 1963. After a pause to read the plaques we continued on.
A study in 2012 estimated that more than 350,000 people annually used the trail and that area businesses increased their sales from 30 to 85% (source here). Businesses have cropped up around the trail, not only outfitting the bicyclists and runners that utilize the trail, but catering to the diverse public that the Swamp Rabbit brings to Greenville and surrounding area. I wrote about the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery here, but other examples include Trailside Creamery, The Forest Coffeehouse and Swamp Rabbit Brewery which just opened this month. To me this provides ample evidence that the trail is used by more than just cyclists, and as the trail enters Cleveland Park we see even more signs of people - school groups, health enthusiasts and especially families - enjoying the greenway on a sunny day. Passing picnic shelters and fitness stations along the way we soon came to the train park, which is just next to the Veterans Memorial. From this point the Swamp Rabbit Trail turns to follow Reedy River east, but we crossed the street and followed Richland Creek.
Within line of sight and a few hundred feet is the Cleveland Park playground, with two large areas for kids of all ages. Adjacent to the Greenville Zoo, we often hear the gibbons howling away while on the swings, and the canopies provide shade on those scorching summer days. With public restrooms, covered picnic areas and a large grassy area for play, this is a perfect turning-around point to pause before eventually returning to Falls Park. The round-trip hike from the falls is under 3 miles and took us three hours with the four kids and frequent stops.
From Greenville Tech the trail is slated to extend down to Lake Conestee Nature Park. I think it isn’t a stretch to say someday the Trail will go all the way to Cedar Falls Park, following the Reedy to Fountain Inn. However our time on the Swamp Rabbit had ended for the day as we reached Falls Park, and soon it was time to say au revoir to our friends. I sincerely hope their memories from the Upstate are as enjoyable as ours from the time we spent with them.
* For an interactive map of the trail in its entirety, please click here.