New Palmetto Trail Passage Opens in Jocassee Gorges Wilderness

Palmetto Trail partners cut the ribbon to open Eastatoe Passage in Pickens County. (l to r) Grady Johnson, Palmetto Conservation Foundation; Mark Hall, SC Department of Natural Resources; Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy; and Adin Fell, SC State Park Service.

DUKE ENERGY SUPPORTS EASTATOE PASSAGE, AND ANNOUNCES $20,000 GRANT TO PALMETTO CONSERVATION CORPS

PICKENS COUNTY, S.C. — Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) is pleased to announce the opening of Eastatoe Passage, a new five-mile section of South Carolina’s mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail.

Eastatoe Passage provides public access for hiking, fishing, and birdwatching in the picturesque natural wonderland of the Eastatoe Creek watershed upstream from Duke Energy’s Lake Keowee. The area is part of the Jocassee Gorges Wilderness Area, which National Geographic described as a “destination of a lifetime.”

“Eastatoe Passage gives people access to a gorgeous protected wilderness,” Executive Director Natalie Britt said.

The new trail connects Keowee-Toxaway State Park with the Dug Mountain Angler Access on Roy F. Jones Highway. The angler access trailhead is 1.3 miles north of Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (SC Hwy 11). The state park on SC 11 anchors the west end of the passage.

“Corporate philanthropy makes our work as a nonprofit possible, and private–public partnerships make projects like the Palmetto Trail possible,” Britt said.

Eastatoe Passage is the result of philanthropy and partnerships with Duke Energy, SC Department of Natural Resources, Naturaland Trust, and SC State Park Service. Passage construction was completed with major grants from Duke Energy’s Water Resources Fund and the federal Recreational Trails Program administered by SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Thanks to Duke Energy, Eastatoe Passage features the longest fiberglass pedestrian bridge on the 500-mile Palmetto Trail. A grant from the company’s Water Resources Fund supported a 70-foot bridge across Eastatoe Creek and a 40-foot bridge across Little Eastatoe Creek. The fiberglass bridges will have longer lifespans than wooden bridges because of the area’s abundant rainfall, summer heat, humidity and insects, and winter freeze-thaw cycles.

Benchmark Trails of Greenville handled trail construction, with assistance from Palmetto Conservation Trail Coordinators, the Palmetto Conservation Corps, and volunteers.

At the Eastatoe opening, Duke Energy’s South Carolina State President Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe announced a new $20,000 grant of support for the Palmetto Conservation Corps. The grant will fund required training and certifications for Corps crews to work in public parks and forests in Oconee, Pickens, Greenville and Spartanburg counties. Trail work will focus on controlling water erosion, restoring wildlife habitats, and removing non-native invasive species that are devastating native ecosystems.

“Duke Energy has an abiding interest in inspiring young people to expand public land access through national service,” Ghartey-Tagoe said, noting that the Duke Energy Foundation has “invested in the environment since the Foundation’s inception.”

The Corps is South Carolina’s only trail-based AmeriCorps service and job-training program for young adults interested in careers in public land management, recreational trails, and environmental stewardship. PCF operates the Palmetto Conservation Corps program, which is in its third year.

About the Palmetto Trail

The Palmetto Trail inspires active, healthy living as it showcases the state’s diverse natural beauty, fascinating history, and rich cultural heritage. When finished, the Trail will stretch 500-miles across 14 counties from Walhalla in Oconee County to Awendaw in Charleston County. With the addition of Eastatoe Passage, PCF has completed 28 passages for a total of 380 miles. The Palmetto Trail is South Carolina’s premier hiking and biking trail, and is built to protect wildlife habitats while providing public access for active, nonmotorized outdoor recreation. For more information, visit www.palmettoconservation.org.

About Palmetto Conservation Foundation

The mission of Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) is to conserve South Carolina's natural and cultural resources, preserve historic landmarks, and promote active outdoor recreation on trails and greenways. Founded in 1989, PCF is a statewide nonprofit organization with headquarters in Columbia. PCF’s largest and best-known project is building and maintaining the mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail. In 2016, PCF inaugurated the Palmetto Conservation Corps to help interested young adults in South Carolina learn skills in trail maintenance and construction, assist FEMA and state agencies with disaster recovery, and develop as the next generation of conservation stewards and leaders. The Palmetto Conservation Corps is South Carolina’s only trail-based AmeriCorps service program for young adults. To learn more about Palmetto Conservation, the Palmetto Trail and the Palmetto Conservation Corps, visit www.palmettoconservation.org and Facebook/palmettoconservation, or call 803-771-0870.