Citizens of the Upstate work hard and play hard, often in the great outdoors. In order to retain the vital folks who fuel our growing knowledge economy, the region must continue to offer access to its most striking natural attractions. One of those is Jones Gap State Park in northern Greenville County. The good news is that The Nature Conservancy of South Carolina is working to expand the scenic park for generations to come.
By virtue of multiple trails that stretch over 3,346 acres of diverse forest land that hosts more than 40 percent of the state’s rare plant species, Jones Gap is one of the most popular state parks in South Carolina. Rare animal species abound there as well, including wood frogs, native brook trout, migratory birds, and numerous reptiles. And the Middle Saluda River, the state’s first designated scenic river, is a virtual outdoor laboratory for diverse ecosystems.
In 2008, The Nature Conservancy began leading an effort with its partner, the S.C. State Parks System, to expand the acreage of Jones Gap to accommodate the increasing public interest in visiting a gorgeous mountain habitat in Greenville’s back yard. A 301-acre property in northern Greenville County became available, but the economic recession made fund-raising difficult. So The Conservancy worked to restructure the sale and extend the purchase into three phases to allow more time for fund-raising. The Conservancy privately raised enough to successfully close on the first 100 acres in fall 2009.
To acquire the remainder of the property, The Conservancy and State Parks are seeking additional private and public support this year to assist in the purchase of the second phase, enabling the Conservancy another year to complete the purchase in 2011.
Once The Conservancy has acquired the entire property, it will transfer the land to the S.C. State Park System. The property then will become part of Jones Gap State Park, which is part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area of more than 10,000 acres, including Caesars Head State Park and Wildcat Wayside State Park.
The park enjoys the designation of Wilderness Area for a S.C. State Park, a special classification given to areas of ecological significance. This land will forever be part of this statewide designation and will be given a higher standard of attention than a regular state park. The property will serve not only the people of South Carolina but also tourists from outside the state who want to learn more about South Carolina’s natural heritage and enjoy our natural resources.
The Nature Conservancy and S.C. State Parks have been working together for more than 30 years in partnership to conserve mountain habitat for the public. In 1976, The Nature Conservancy assisted with the purchase of the first 2,000 acres to establish Jones Gap State Park, The Conservancy’s first land deal in the Upstate.
On a final note, this project is part of a 30-year conservation effort in the Upstate of South Carolina to connect the Table Rock Watershed to the North Saluda Watershed. The vision is nearing completion, and this pending purchase will bring South Carolina one step closer to providing an unbroken mountain landscape for future generations to enjoy beyond our lifetime.
|Phil Gaines, Director |
S.C. State Parks
|Tim Lee, Naturalist |
Jones Gap State Park
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.