The Conestee Foundation has been intimately involved in community planning, natural resource and recreational planning processes at the state, regional and local level with regards to environmental restoration, recreation, education and health at Lake Conestee. Click here to view list of Conestee Foundation partner organizations.
As part of these numerous meetings, the establishment of a trails network to serve both the local and regional community has been discussed and has received resounding approval and support. The Foundation directly participated in the Reedy River Task Force watershed planning process administered by SCDNR, and was also integrally involved in the Reedy River Corridor Study conducted by the Landscape Architecture and Planning Department at Clemson University. We have participated in greenway planning meetings with the Greenville County Council, the Greenville County Recreation District’s planning staff and its consultants. The Foundation has also given tours of the Lake Conestee property to members of Greenville County Council and Recreation District Staff to discuss the future of Lake Conestee and its development into a recreational resource. The Foundation participated in Vision 2025 meetings to determine the future of parks and greenways in Greenville County.
Through these activities we have advocated the development of the Greenville County Greenways system, a countywide system of hiking and biking trails. Our advocacy has not been singularly focused on recreation, but also on education, protection of water quality, and restoration of riparian buffers. Area high school science teachers were consulted during a 2002 EPA Education Grant, and again this past summer, to determine how to best utilize the educational resources at the park for local students.
The Greenville County Recreation District (GCRD) held a series of 11 public meetings and three focus group meetings with selected recreation user and administration groups that focused on developing a Community Wide Recreation Needs Assessment for Greenville County. The results from focus group meetings and public meetings showed strong support for increased walking, biking, and nature trails along with a desire to see larger facilities. Results also showed a need for more linear parks and greenways throughout Greenville County. A survey was completed during this time to gain input on the public’s perspective on needs for parks and recreation facilities. The results from this survey showed a desire for all the recreational opportunities that can be provided at Lake Conestee, such as walking/jogging, hiking, visiting nature preserves/natural areas, and biking. A large demand was also shown for large parks with passive recreation facilities and natural resource parks. A direct recommendation from this planning process was the development of a linear park/greenway at Lake Conestee to serve Greenville County’s recreation needs.
The Conestee Foundation has coordinated its efforts to plan and design recreational and educational trails at Lake Conestee with numerous agencies. The Foundation has made formal presentations to City Council and the Greenville County Council Finance Committee, both of which addressed the Foundation’s plans for park expansion. A public meeting was also held in October 2006 to update citizens on environmental testing at Lake Conestee related to the Foundation’s Voluntary Cleanup Contract with SCDHEC.
Also critical, we have interfaced with the members of the affected community through church groups, community meetings, and scout organizations to identify their needs and preferences. Representatives from the Conestee Foundation attended Conestee Village Community Festivals in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and the Augusta Acres neighborhood festival in 2005. The Foundation presented plans for park development at these community events, and responded to any questions raised by the local residents. These festivals provided an ideal opportunity for the Foundation to interface with affected community members and receive public input for the LCNP planning process.
In an effort to maintain interagency cooperation, the Conestee Foundation established a Master Plan Committee that has been meeting regularly since December 2005. The committee is made up of major stakeholders, including the City of Greenville, Greenville County, the City of Mauldin, Renewable Water Resources (formerly Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority), Donaldson Center, Greenville County School District, Greenville County Planning Commission, Greenville County Recreation District, Clemson University, Furman University, and the University of South Carolina, and several conservation organizations (i.e. SC Native Plant Society, Upstate Forever, Naturaland Trust). The Committee expects to prepare a draft Master Plan document outlining the long-term plan for Lake Conestee Nature Park by mid-summer to present to the public for approval.
In addition, the Conestee Foundation has coordinated with several local organizations, such as the SC Native Plant Society and Wildlife Rehab. The Native Plant Society is interested in developing native grass research plots at LCNP, which could be integrated into the park’s educational facilities. Wildlife Rehab also utilizes the site to release rehabilitated wild animals, such as birds, skunk, weasels, squirrels and raccoons. In the future, Wildlife Rehab may consider building a wildlife shelter at LCNP, allowing them to treat many more animals and increase public awareness of local wildlife.
Finally, the Foundation has welcomed the support of the local community through various volunteer projects. Boy Scout troops, Science Clubs, Community Service groups, and local community members have all shown interest in working on projects at the park.
Our first large-scale volunteer event, Lake Conestee Operation Clean Sweep, was held on February 24, 2007. The Foundation recruited more than 150 volunteers from local businesses, universities, conservation and service groups, and the Conestee community. The Saluda Reedy Watershed Consortium funded the event, and the City of Greenville and PalmettoPride donated additional supplies. Volunteers collected over 8.5 tons of trash and 152 tires. The event was so successful that the Foundation plans to organize an annual cleanup to help maintain the trail network and increase public awareness of watershed stewardship.