Opinion

New river trail opens

The Catawba River is one of the region's great natural assets. Now, with the debut of a new 1.2-mile trail along the river, more residents likely are to discover its beauty.

Waterford Trail, which opened earlier this month, provides easy public access to the river. The trail is linked to nearby River Park and business campuses, including Rock Hill's 3D Systems. The trail, in fact, runs virtually from the company's parking lot to the river.

The Waterford 18-hole golf course opened about a decade ago. 3D Systems, a high-tech digital imaging company formerly located in California, moved to a site near Waterford in 2006.

The trail likely is to draw day hikers who want to enjoy some time outdoors and take in the view of the river. Over time, the goal is to expand the trail network so that it links with other key points around the city.

"It's another way of connecting the river eventually to downtown," said John Taylor of the city's Parks, Recreation and Tourism department. "This is another piece in that puzzle of getting from destination to destination."

Local officials are not the only ones to recognize the natural beauty and attraction of the Catawba River. On June 11, Gov. Mark Sanford signed into legislation a bill that designates a 30-mile section of the river from Lake Wylie Dam to the S.C. 9 bridge as a part of the South Carolina Scenic River system.

The purpose of this program, as stated by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, is to protect "unique or outstanding scenic, recreational, geologic, botanical, fish, wildlife, historic or cultural values" of selected rivers or segments of rivers in the state. The Catawba, which is scenic, full of fish and home to unique water plants, a wonderful recreational site and a river laden with history, qualifies in a variety of those categories.

The area designated is the only free-flowing section of the Catawba in South Carolina. Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman hopes that the designation will encourage responsible use of the land along the river to ensure that development does not encroach on this valuable natural gem. The city and all who recognize the Catawba as a tremendous resource for the region surely share Merryman's concerns.

The new Waterford Trail is one way to increase not only public access to the river but also wider appreciation of its scenic splendor. That's a good way to help ensure that it is not threatened by overdevelopment and pollution and that it remains a priceless natural resource for the region.

IN SUMMARY

Waterford Trail will offer easy public access to a 1.2 mile stretch of the Catawba River.

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