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The months-long renovations to the Cottonwood Trail boardwalk are finally complete. Nature lovers of all ages will officially be welcomed to visit the new and improved centerpiece of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve starting the week of Sept. 21.
"This is a vision from years ago that kind of came to the forefront of the board a year ago, and with the 30th (anniversary) being here, what a great way to kick off the next 30 years, with this gorgeous boardwalk that you can escape to," Spartanburg Area Conservancy's (SPACE) new executive director Amanda Mathis said.
The 550-foot boardwalk is constructed with thick wooden planks and fenced in on both sides with a wooden frame and hog wire. SPACE maintenance manager Lynn Rhodes and his team were putting the final touches on the railing Tuesday.
Rhodes said the new boardwalk was different from the original.
"We actually kind of constructed it piecemeal with old pallets to begin with," Rhodes said.
The new boardwalk also includes a covered observation deck with built-in benches that the organization hopes will serve as an outdoor classroom for the community, particularly once its safe for groups to gather again.
"I think this boardwalk will create a community space for people to enjoy. I've already seen it this morning, just sitting out here enjoying the peace and quiet myself. From birdwatching to just simply walking their dogs or taking a run, everybody has a different use for it and that's the beauty of it," Mathis said.
In the meantime, Mathis hopes the trail and boardwalk will continue to be an safe escape for Spartanburg's residents during pandemic. The trails are open to the public and users are asked to keep six feet between other users and themselves.
"I feel this is a destination space. Now, you can meet friends simply by saying, 'Go to the boardwalk,' and you'll know where it is," Mathis said. "Visitors who come to Spartanburg, when they're looking for something to do, especially in this time where you can't go into many places, can come here and feel safe and have a family activity."
After several years of planning, nearly nine months of construction, the Feb. 6 tornado - which caused flooding and downed trees in the preserve but no damage to the boardwalk - and a pandemic, the organization's leaders are glad the boardwalk is finally complete with only some short setbacks.
They were also grateful for the support shown by the Spartanburg residents who use and love the trail.
150 individual community members raised more than $23,000 for the boardwalk's restoration. Additionally, SPACE received $10,000 from Spartanburg County Foundation for the boardwalk project, and also received contributions from Vic Bailey Subaru, Milliken & Company, Contec, Kohler, Neely's Windows and Doors and the Spartanburg High School Cross Country Team.
The fundraiser for the 30th anniversary continues, with about $2,000 of their $25K goal remaining to be raised. Donations can be made through their GoFundMe, "SPACE's Cottonwood Trail Restoration."
While the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult to plan ahead, Mathis said the pandemic won't stop SPACE from celebrating their accomplishments or looking forward to their planned trail improvements, like new trail signage.
"Right now, we're enjoying and celebrating all the hard work as the second oldest land conservation nonprofit in the state," Mathis said. "As one of the unique places that has not only protection of land, but recreational use, that's something Spartanburg can be proud of, so we plan to promote that the rest of this year and going into next year."