Breaking news: Agreement reached with Norfolk Southern to purchase the Saluda Grade rail line

March 16th, 2023

Conserving CarolinaPAL: Play, Advocate, Live Well; and Upstate Forever are pleased to announce that an agreement with Norfolk Southern has been reached to sell the 31-mile rail line for use as a recreational rail trail.

Together our nonprofits are leading efforts to repurpose the inactive rail line as a trail that will run from Upstate South Carolina into the mountains of Western North Carolina. The Saluda Grade Trail will run through Inman, Campobello, Landrum, Tryon, Saluda, and Zirconia. Along its route, the trail will feature rural scenery, vibrant small towns, historic landmarks, and gorgeous nature preserves, lakes, and waterfalls. It is expected to be a multi-use trail that will be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.

Next steps

Our coalition has a signed agreement with Norfolk Southern establishing the price and other terms of a future purchase. At the request of the railroad, the terms of the agreement are subject to a confidentiality agreement. The coalition expects to close on the rail corridor within two years and is pursuing state and federal funding opportunities. In South Carolina, the coalition is advocating for an $11 million investment by the state this year.

The coalition is also taking further steps to advance the Saluda Grade Trail. It has begun the process of an economic impact and feasibility study that will shed light on how the trail will shape local economies and how to move forward with the project. This summer, the coalition will be reaching out to landowners and stakeholders along the trail to seek their input on the opportunities and challenges presented by the trail and approaches that will best meet the needs of the community.

Hear from Saluda Grade Trail coalition partners

“We’re pleased to announce this exciting progress toward the goal of a rail trail that will serve as an economic engine for our communities, provide an abundance of recreational opportunities, and improve people’s health by encouraging exercise and time in nature.” – Kieran Roe, Executive Director of Conserving Carolina

"In addition to being beloved community assets, trails energize economies. We've seen this play out with the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is a resounding success. The Saluda Grade Trail will bring new jobs and money to the area, encourage safe outdoor recreation, and improve quality of life for residents. It's a visionary project with a return that will far exceed any initial investment." – Andrea Cooper, Executive Director of Upstate Forever

“The Saluda Grade Rail Trail will be a transformative project for the region. This rail-to-trail will be a destination and provide a boost to the Spartanburg County tourism economy, especially for the cities along the route like Landrum, Campobello and Inman. During the first year that the trail is open to the community, 125,000 visitors are expected. The majority of those visitors will buy lunch or a beverage, shop along main streets, and hopefully spend the night.

In addition, trails provide significant health benefits, and the Saluda Grade will do just that. Physical inactivity is a major cause of most chronic diseases and access to recreation areas and trails increases physical activity for people of all ages, abilities and income levels. The creation of trails is an investment in preventative health and studies show that every $1 investment leads to almost $3 in direct medical benefit.” – Laura Ringo, Executive Director of PAL

How to get involved

We are preparing a website — expected to launch this spring — for the Saluda Grade Trail where the public will be able to find information and ways to get involved.

In the meantime, you can sign up to receive email updates here. Learn more or make a donation to the trail at the website of any of the partners in the Saluda Grade Trail coalition:

Conserving Carolina is leading efforts on the North Carolina side of the trail, while PAL and Upstate Forever are leading efforts in South Carolina.

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