Spartanburg trails recover from tornado, flood damage

March 4th 2020

Published by the Spartanburg Herald Journal; to view the full article, click here

While many areas of the city affected by the tornado and massive rainfall that accompanied it are quite noticeable as one drives through town, others are a bit more hidden. One of these hidden areas is Spartanburg Area Conservancy’s Cottonwood Trail.

As Clay McDonough, the organization’s director of special projects, led the way from the main entrance to the boardwalk, he remarked on how much work has already been done to repair the now nearly unrecognizable trail.

“Lynn Rhodes, he is the caretaker of this property, and he has been working every day since the storm to try to make it safer. That’s why we didn’t have to crawl across a dozen or so down limbs and two or three trees, and why this culvert is actually back where it belongs, instead of over there in the trees,” McDonough said.

Damage was severe on SPACE’s Cottonwood Trail, which is now covered in sand as far as the eye can see, left behind as the river receded. What was once a green forest now looks a lot more like a beach. However, while the amount of sand may be shocking at first, McDonough said it’s actually to be expected.

“The Cottonwood Trail property did its job in this storm,” McDonough said. “It’s in a floodplain and provides a buffer for the neighborhoods, this huge natural buffer. If the Cottonwood Trail System, the preserve, weren’t here, if we didn’t conserve this land, many more houses would have flooded. So it stinks because we have trail damage, right? We’ve got to come out here and repair things and it gets a little dangerous and it’s ugly, but the truth is this kind of natural space is amazing at absorbing the brunt of the hit.”

Due to the river, which has doubled in width since the storm due to extreme bank erosion, coursing down the trails two weeks ago, the trails are currently uneven, with small sinkholes and washout where the trail’s culverts were washed out. There are also a number of trees down throughout the preserve and loose branches that pose a hazard to those using the trail.

“In the 30 acres that is considered the Highlands Trail, we lost 50 percent of the trees on that trail, which probably equates to 10 percent or less of the total trees on the whole trail system,” McDonough said.

SPACE board member Kathryn Harvey said that the trail sustained an estimated $30,000 of damage.

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