$10m Fort Mill greenway plan includes dog park, amphitheater

From staff reportsApril 20, 2014 

Anne Springs Close leads a hike to kick off the 2012 Earth day celebration at the Anne Springs Close Greenway

JEFF SOCHKO

— The Anne Springs Close Greenway today announced the launch of a $15 million capital campaign to build a welcome center and amphitheater and create an endowment that will help sustain the 2,100-acre nature-and-recreation preserve.

The campaign has received more than $10.5 million in contributions – $5 million from Anne Springs Close and her family and donations from Founders Federal Credit Union, Charlotte’s Dickson Foundation, Rock Hill businessman Gary Williams and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. Other top donors include BB&T, Domtar Corporation, Hendrick Motorsports, and Jane and former Bank of America chairman Hugh McColl.

"We only set out to save a few trees but we are delighted the Greenway has become so popular that we’re adding programs and making improvements that will move us to a new level," said Close, whose family set aside the land for public use in 1995. "More and more it seems people understand and appreciate the healing powers of being outside and active."

The Greenway, more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park, is a nonprofit preserve that offers hiking, biking, kayaking and horseback riding, as well as summer camps, education programs and community events. The Greenway and the recreation complex that backs up to one of its trails, has long been considered the town’s main amenity. The recreation complex, which used to be named after the late Leroy Springs, was opened by the family in 1976. It’s currently leased to the town, which runs most of the youth sports programs.

Main attractions at the Greenway include 40 miles of trails, native plants and animals, waterways and swinging bridges, historic buildings and facilities such as its 1940s Dairy Barn for special events. Markers point out points of historic significance, such as the original Nation Ford trail.

The capital campaign marks a new chapter for the Greenway, which has primarily been supported by user fees, donors and sponsorships. A long-term strategic plan, by national preservation experts and adopted in 2010, calls for shifting the Greenway toward broader programming and community participation in planning and financial support.

Plans also call for construction of a welcome center to orient visitors toward the variety of activities available on the property, as well as an amphitheater with natural seating for 750 people. A dog park is also in the works, as well as a three-mile, multi-purpose trail to improve access for strollers and people seeking easy walking options.

"The demand for activities is growing right along with our numbers," Greenway President Tim Patterson said. "We want to accommodate as many people as we can while always maintaining the natural feel and habitat that draw people here in the first place."

The land has been in the Springs-Close family for more than 200 years. Anne Springs Close grew up and raised her family there, and it was her eight children who inherited and preserved the land to honor their mother’s devotion to the outdoors. A conservation easement held by the Nation Ford Land Trust protects the Greenway as a natural area for recreation, conservation and education.

Last year, as part of increasing public participation, a 19-member Board of Managers began oversight of the Greenway, with Close continuing to serve as chairman emeritus.

"People across the Piedmont are recognizing what a gem the Greenway is," said Board Chair Bruce Brumfield, president and CEO of Founders Federal Credit Union.

"They want to get involved and help be good stewards, so the region can continue to enjoy and appreciate this gift 100 years from now."

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