If Aiken County recreation was a blank slate, one of the best benchmarks for success would be the Greeneway Trail in North Augusta.

The trail is one of the anchors of the city, helping to put it on the map across South Carolina and even the country.

Recent recognition for the 7-plus mile trail reaffirms that idea, and offers Aiken County a vision of how to successfully create recreational opportunities.

The Greeneway was recently named a top five biking destination by Ideal Living Magazine, a publication that highlights destinations across the country. It’s certainly one of the most used assets in North Augusta and appeals to bikers of all ages, as well as walkers, joggers and roller bladers, among others.

Of course, with any major resource, it typically requires a willingness for taxpayers to support it. The City of North Augusta is obviously strongly invested in its recreational priorities. Additionally, the City’s Parks and Rec staff do a tremendous job maintaining the trail, which is used by thousands of people each year.

Recreation certainly isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to how public dollars should be spent. But viable communities need recreation opportunities to sustain a strong quality of life and attract visitors. Recreational resources are enticement not only for individuals, but also business leaders who are looking to locate in a particular area.

In North Augusta, the Greeneway started as a “rails to trails” project after the City purchased an abandoned railway 25 years ago. It’s now blossomed into a community gem. Obviously, not all communities have such a treasure. Aiken County parks, rec and tourism staff should look at the Greeneway as a great model to promote projects in all corners of our area.

A recreational master plan adopted by Aiken County sets the development of greenways, trails and connectivity as a priority. These projects were also consistently mentioned in the community input generated as part of the plan.

Partnering with the cities of North Augusta and Aiken for such projects should continue to be encouraged. A recreational effort to tie-in these communities, as well as smaller towns such as Burnettown, Jackson, New Ellenton and Wagener, will produce across-the-board benefits for our county.