Welcome to Hiking the Carolinas

Return to the Home Page

The Big Protest

Peak, South Carolina and the Palmetto Trail

As a child growing up in the '60's, I was a witness to many protest movements. Dr. Martin Luther King's Gandhi like civil disobedience still moves many today. The student protests of the Vietnam war are looked upon kindly by historians. The "Ecology" (environment) movement  is stronger today than ever. 

 Currently there is a protest movement in South Carolina  that may not stand the test of time. The "NO Rails to Trails Committee" has gathered a full head of steam in Peak, South Carolina.

Rails to Trails

The Palmetto Trail is South Carolina's newest long distance trail system and is being built with donations from private sources. When complete it will travel from the mountains to the sea. Much of the trail mileage is on abandoned railroad grades making it one of the longer "Rails to Trails" projects in the Southeast. The Palmetto Conservation Foundation , which coordinates the trail, recently bought 11 miles of rail corridor from Norfolk Southern. According to Ken Driggers, executive director of the foundation, it is one of  the more picturesque sections of the trail. 

Legal Action

Peak, South Carolina is a bucolic town perched on the banks of Broad River. Many of the residents here are upset that the trail is passing through their town. This major uproar has caused the formation of the "No Rails to Trails Committee". Recently this "committee" sent a threatening letter to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation. In it they threaten legal action to stop the trail citing laws that are over 150 years old. Lewis Shealy, the mayor of Peak, has made the statement "If they (hikers) want to walk why don't they get behind a lawn mower". Other residents have been heard to say that they don't want that "type" of people passing through their unspoiled community. 

Lack of Services

A 1996 resolution passed by the Town Council of Peak states that the majority of the residents are elderly and are concerned about the influx of strangers that the trail may bring to their community. Peak is so small that it does not have Police or Sanitation department. The fear is that the increased litter and "strange" faces may change the way of life in the postcard perfect town. Increased litter and the inevitable crime that may follow has caused this issue to become a newsworthy item here.

Scare the "Old Folks"

Most reasonable hikers would consider these issues to be legitimate. In this town of Grandmothers and Grandfathers one does not have to look far to find one that resembles their own. The question is, what can be done to allay these fears. An unscientific survey, done recently by us, on a weekend hike in South Carolina, revealed that 100 percent of hikers polled did not want to scare people that reminded them of their Grandparents. 

The Hunters

Another surprising twist to this to this tale is that area hunters oppose this trail. Their fear is that there may be some restriction on their activities because of the presence of hikers. This is highly unusual because hunting groups are normally allied with hikers in the grab for  land. In other areas, in nearby parts of the state, both groups peacefully co-exist. Conservation is both parties common goal. This leads to some interesting questions. Why is it OK to fire weapons near the 48 houses that will border the trail? Are hikers more dangerous?

Supreme Court Challenge

The federal Rails to Trails program has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme court on three occasions. It appears that the residents of Peak may have an uphill battle. There isn't any doubt that litigation can become expensive. The Palmetto Conservation Foundation operates primarily with donations. Will taxpayers have to foot the legal bills for Peak in an un-winnable case?

  to the page that you came from