tracks ’n’ ties
The Vista Greenway is their first rail-
trail, and the citizens of Columbia, S.C.,
are giving it a big welcome. “Everyone
is very excited about the trail,” says city
engineer Dana Higgins. “Everybody
loves it. It’s well used already.”
We are so glad to have it,” says
Sarah Luadzers, executive director for
the Congaree Vista Guild, an organiza-
tion dedicated to the economic devel-
opment of the Vista, the shopping and
entertainment district now connected
to the greenway. “The trail covers all the
demographics. If you live here, it’s a part
of daily life already.”
Slated eventually to cover nine miles,
the trail occupies the route of the former
Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Although
only a half-mile long, the first section,
opened on July 7, 2012, has helped
transform what was once an unpleasant
corridor into a vibrant and critical link
between downtown residential neighbor-
hoods and Finlay Park, one of the city’s
most popular parks. The rail-trail seg-
ment features a century-old railroad tun-
nel that stretches 400 feet under Lincoln
Street. Carolina creeper hangs from its
walls, and the tunnel offers a cool respite
in the summer.
It could be in any magazine, it’s that
beautiful,” says Natalie Britt, executive
director of the Palmetto Conservation
Foundation, a nonprofit organization
promoting trails and greenways through-
out the state. “When you walk through
it, you get a sense of the past. You get a
sense of the Old South.”
The trail has received enthusiastic
support from local businesses and Mayor
Steve Benjamin as well as the towns-
people. Britt says the mayor “pushed for
the greenway, which had been talked
about for 20 years. He just really gets
it and has been very progressive.” Since
taking office in 2010, Benjamin has
established a bicycle and pedestrian advi-
sory committee (which Britt heads) and
has supported efforts to make the city
more friendly to walkers and cyclists.
Another Columbia initiative will
make the city the first in the state to
have dedicated parking spaces for
bicycles. Dubbed “bike corrals,” the
spaces will be built near the greenway in
the Vista and in two major downtown
hubs. The city also plans to install a new
type of flashing traffic signal, called a
HAWK beacon, that allows pedestrians
to safely cross a busy street. The signal
will help trail-goers reach Finlay Park on
the other side of Taylor Street.
The next trail section to be construct-
ed will add another half mile, extending
from the park through historical neigh-
borhoods north of Elmwood Avenue
and on to Charles R. Drew Wellness
Center, a recreational facility on Harden
Street. The trail may eventually be
connected to the Three Rivers Greenway,
a picturesque and growing pathway
along the waterfront.
For more information about the Vista
Greenway, visit
Trail Under Construction:
Vista Greenway
Columbia, S.C.
Used Railroad Corridor:
Seaboard Air Line Railroad
Proposed Surface: