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S.C. Opinions: Rock Hill

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Help keep Close Greenway a community treasure

From an editorial in The (Rock Hill) Herald on Tuesday:

Too often, people fail to recognize how much they treasure publicly accessible green space until it’s gone. Thanks to the generosity of the heirs of the Springs Industries fortune and their dedication to maintaining undeveloped land, Fort Mill boasts a protected Greenway that is larger than New York’s Central Park.

Now, however, Anne Springs Close, for whom the Greenway is named, and her family want to enlist the community in helping to preserve the property and expand the programs offered there. A ceremony was held April 20 to launch a $15 million capital campaign to build a welcome center and amphitheater, and establish an endowment to ensure the 2,100-acre Greenway remains a natural oasis in this fast-developing community.

Anne Springs Close and her family already have contributed $5 million to the campaign and will remain involved in the planning process.

But the campaign has received another $5.5 million from area businesses, business owners and individual donors. And a long-term strategic plan developed by national preservation experts and adopted in 2010 calls for greater community participation in programming, planning and financial support.

The capital campaign is the next step for the Greenway, which now is primarily supported by user fees, donors and sponsorships. The planned endowment would provide even more financial security in years ahead.

The tradition of the once-booming Southern textile industry was to provide “cradle to grave” support for employees and the community. Mill owners often helped with housing, schools, medical care, recreational facilities and other benefits.

In a sense, the Greenway is a vestige of that relationship, an effort by the family that benefited so much from the business to give back to the workers and their descendents. And it is no surprise that Close, who reveres nature and untrammeled space, would choose to make the Greenway the gift for which she will be most remembered.

The Greenway comprises 40 miles of trails, swinging bridges, historic buildings and a 1940s Dairy Barn. Its trails are used by hikers, students, bird watchers and exercise walkers.

A new welcome center will help orient visitors as they enter the Greenway, and the amphitheater, with natural seating for 750 people, will provide a site for a variety of programs. A dog park also is in the works, as is a trail for people out for a stroll.

We are grateful to Anne Springs Close and her family for the enormous effort they have put into conserving this land and making it available to the public. We also applaud their foresight in engineering the transition to greater community involvement in managing, supporting and planning the future of this invaluable asset.

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