Friday, January 15, 2016

The Swamp Rabbit - from Falls Park to the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery

The Swamp Rabbit Trail cuts through Falls Park in the very heart of downtown. If you head south from the waterfall you’ll pass through what soon will be Cancer Survivor’s Park and hit Cleveland Park, the 1.5 mile section I covered in my post The Swamp Rabbit: from the Falls to Cleveland Park. On the other hand if you follow the Reedy River upstream from the falls, you have a 2 mile ride/hike ahead of you to get to a favorite local hangout, the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery.

The rubber running lane stretches from Reedy View Dr, to Willard

From the waterfall the trail runs north past O-CHA tea bar and Papi’s Tacos, along the RiverPlace Phase 3/Embassy Suites development, to River Street. Currently cars must yield to pedestrians and cyclists on the trail, but it’s a dangerous intersection as despite multiple posted signs, drivers are not always aware they do not have the right-of-way. The City of Greenville has given the green light to the River Street Underpass Project, which will allow for safe passage under River Street for Swamp Rabbit traffic. From there the trail currently runs on Reedy View Drive to the S. Academy St. underpass.

View from Linky Stone Park northwest

At Reedy View Drive and River Street are a couple of two hour parking lots (no limit on nights and weekends) that offer convenient parking for those looking to hop on the trail or visit the small park located under Academy St. The Children’s Garden at Linky Stone Park has deteriorated some in recent years; you might remember the articles in the news last March about the theft of one of the three little bear bronze statues. Other features in the park have seen similar defacement and destruction, with portions of musical instruments removed, flower and herb gardens trampled, and an alarming number of transients present in the area. Despite these glaring differences between Falls and Linky Stone Park, the small park is still an amazing space to explore with children, and with all the development in the neighborhood it is possible that Linky Stone will be restored to its original glory.

Here the Swamp Rabbit Trail makes a sharp turn, heading in a southwest direction under S. Academy before swinging back to the north, still following the Reedy River.  There is some serious development going up on the north side of the river, apartment buildings heralding the growth of downtown to the west. The Swamp Rabbit Trail has helped fuel this advance, as well as the announcements for a new park between A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School and Mayberry Park. But to get to the site of the new park first you must pass through the rather derelict section between Reedy View Drive and Westfield. The foundations of old structures are lost in a tangle of briars and honeysuckle, but although the traffic from Church St. is audible, this is a relatively peaceful stretch of trail.

Once you’ve crossed Westfield you have The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Center and soccer fields to the left, with a section of land across the river on Martin Street also being part of the Kroc compound – the Kroc Tennis Complex. There are designated flood-plain areas along this section of trail, designed to help manage the large amounts of runoff that enter the Reedy during large rain events. The flooding is a large part of the reason why the Public Works Campus that currently occupies the area of what will be the new City Park has to be moved; hopefully the design of the new park will offer similar flood areas that will absorb some of the storm water, easing the burden of areas downstream. Adjacent to the Kroc Center is A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School.

If you look closely through the tangled underbrush next to the river (or if you’re on the trail in the winter when the foliage isn’t as obstructive) you might notice old rail bridges on the river – a testament to the trail's history as a rail line. These side spurs were historically present up and down the former rail line, connecting the various industrial parks to the main line.

Mayberry Park

Having crossed S. Hudson St. we are now in what will be City Park territory. The public works facility is in various stages of being relocated, some buildings already demolished while others are still in use. This article from gives a good overview of the park plan along with the hurdles and obstacles still to be overcome. Also included within the proposed City Park boundaries is Mayberry Park with a neighborhood baseball field and picnic shelter. These will be on your left just before you get to one of the business that has popped up in recent years, Swamp Rabbit CrossFit - supported partially by proximity to the traffic the trail.

There are grand plans for the property on the opposite side of the Reedy as well. The Swamp Rabbit Marketplace currently in the works will provide new locations for The Community Tap and Due South Coffee, while also featuring a Carolina Triathlon bike store and a Feed & Seed market that will specialize in regional farm products. “The Commons” are being developed from abandoned warehouses at Welbourn Street, and initial plans include green space to extend to the edge of the Reedy River in addition to the marketplace.

After Swamp Rabbit Crossfit there is an easy-to-miss monument to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Today the rail bridge overhead includes the Amtrak lines that service the Greenville station, but on April 13, 1945 the FDR funeral procession traveling via rail stopped just a short distance from the trail. 15,000 mourners gathered to show their respect to President Roosevelt, and soldiers lined the tracks for a mile north and south of the station. President Roosevelt was in office when he died in Warm Springs, GA, and was buried in Hyde Park, NY.

Looking south with the rail bridge visible in the back

Just beyond the memorial is the Willard St. intersection where the trail makes a sharp jog to cross the river. The next couple of sections have fewer points of interest; to the South is the Reedy while to the north are train tracks. There is almost always a locomotive warming up or cooling down just before the E. Bramlett Rd. crossing, a good point to stop with the boys but also a signal that we’ll soon reach the Republic Locomotive Headquarters. There are more reminders of the rail legacy of the area as well, including an old bridge that used to provide access to the industry across the river; careful, there are no guardrails and a good twenty foot drop to the river and banks below.

A bridge to nowhere

The Bramlett intersection is a bit tricky. With fencing and warning signs for cyclists and motorists alike it has been rendered as safe as possible, but as the trail intersects with train tracks and a road it serves well to be extra aware, especially when crossing with children. East on Bramlett is Legacy Charter Elementary School, the campus not quite visible even in the winter, but traffic increases during school pick-up and drop-off.

The Bramlett intersection

Having crossed W. Washington Street we hit the final stretch. The Parker Sewer & Fire Subdistrict – Administration Fire Station is to the west, and often we’ll pause to watch the firefighters testing equipment; today there wasn’t a fire engine in sight and so we cruised on by, crossing Hampton Avenue and arriving at the Gardening for Good Community Garden. The Swamp Rabbit Teaching Garden is a great opportunity to learn about gardening and meet community gardeners, and the tool lending library is also located on site. During the spring and summer months they usually have weekly volunteer days on which you can join in the fun – check their website for more information.

With the complex near mile 31.5 are several businesses including the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery (SRC&G). Having been awarded a USDA Local Food Production grant, the grocery is set to expand from the current 2,600 square feet to 6,100 square feet in the near future, adding new local suppliers and creating additional kitchen facilities. While the grant is reflective on the Swamp Rabbit Grocery’s positive influence on the local economy as well as the healthy food on its shelves, the need for expansion in the five years that is has been open on Cedar Lane serves as evidence that the business has coevolved along with the trail and the clientele. I’m excited to see SRC&G grow as they have a community-centered business model; from the ‘Swamp Garden’ playground to the local produce box to the house stecca - we have a dozen reasons to continue to shop at SRC&G and will continue to support them with our business.

Once we had enjoyed a coffee/hot chocolate/pain au chocolate/loaf of stecca and a romp in the Swamp Garden, it was time to don the bike helmets and start our return trip. From Linky Stone Park to SRC&G it is two miles, making the round trip a healthy four-mile ride for the boys on their bikes – a fun winter morning excursion. We topped off the morning with time in the Childen’s Garden at Linky Stone Park, exploring the winter environs until the lure of lunch and football pulled us to the car. Two more miles on the Swamp Rabbit Trail down – 16 more to go!

source: google maps

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