2018 SCAPA Planning Award – Carolina Thread Trail

The Carolina Thread Trail cross state suspension bridge project was a multi-jurisdictional project completed in April of 2016.  The cross state bridge was created through a partnership with the Carolina Thread Trail, the Town of Waxhaw in North Carolina, Lancaster County in South Carolina, the Homeowner’s Associations and the developers of the subdivisions of Walnut Creek in Lancaster County and Millbridge in Waxhaw.  The bridge project spans across Twelve Mile Creek connecting a network of public trails including Twelve Mile Creek Trail in Walnut Creek to the Twelve Mile Creek Greenway in Millbridge.  The bridge connecting the two trails provides access to parks in both states and a school in Waxhaw, and serves as a recreation opportunity for the greater region.  The 170 foot long cross-state Suspension Bridge and trail section is located along the scenic Twelve Mile Creek which connects trails in North and South Carolina.  The suspension bridge connects to an approximately 3.48 mile natural surface trail in South Carolina which winds through the Walnut Creek subdivision, as well as Walnut Creek Park, a 61 acre public park that contains baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, concession, restroom and storage building, and picnic shelter.  The bridge crosses over to North Carolina in Millbridge to an approximately .88 mile natural surface trail leading to the Millbridge Amenity Center and H.C. Nesbit Park, a public park which offers recreational opportunities including softball, baseball and soccer fields.  The natural surface trails are part of the Carolina Thread Trail system in these developments.  The Carolina Thread Trail is a developing regional network of greenways, trails, and blueways that reaches 15 Counties, 2 States and 2.3 million people.

The achievement of the project is the fact that two local government agencies with their respective Planning and Parks and Recreation Departments worked together with the non-profit agency Carolina Thread Trail and with the private developers (homebuiders from two subdivisions) and the Homeowner’s Associations to create a wonderful suspension bridge to encourage healthy living for all to use.  The suspension bridge enables two communities to be weaved together with the establishment of the 170 foot suspension bridge.

The Twelve Mile Creek trail and suspension bridge allows citizens to enjoy nature by being active in their community.  By working together as a collaborative group we were able to complete a suspension bridge to connect two neighborhoods and two states that were disconnected because of Twelve Mile Creek.  The suspension bridge was a catalyst to link these two states together and to achieve the Carolina Thread Trail’s vision of weaving communities together.

By using the funding from the Carolina Thread Trail construction grant, we were able to provide the first cross-state connection between North and South Carolina of the Carolina Thread Trail.  Since the completion of the bridge, the Carolina Thread Trail put up a counter on the South Carolina side of the trail beside the cross-state bridge and discovered that that this was one of the most used trails in the area.  This regional, multi-jurisdictional planning project serves as a benefit to the larger community by providing recreational opportunities and an alternative means of travel.  It is important to note that the suspension bridge project was completed within two years of the awarded construction grant.  Our cooperative efforts with the Town of Waxhaw and Lancaster County departments, Carolina Thread Trail staff, and from the developers of the two subdivisions, we were able to work as a team to bring recreational opportunities to this area.   The cross-state suspension bridge project is a classic example of what “regional planning” should be.

Lancaster County, South Carolina and the Town of Waxhaw were awarded a $150,000 construction grant from the Carolina Thread Trail.  We were able to utilize our jurisdictions staff members and Carolina Thread trail volunteers to save costs.  The Waxhaw Public Services and Lancaster County Public Works Departments assisted by clearing trees required for the bridge placement and safety, as well as helping with the landscaping work.  The Park and Recreation Facilities Director from the Town of Waxhaw served as the project manager on site, overseeing the bridge construction.  We were able to use the Carolina Thread Trail volunteer Trail Masters to construct the stone steps on the North Carolina side of the trail needed to access the bridge, saving contractor fees.

In 2011 both Lancaster County, South Carolina and Waxhaw, North Carolina adopted their respective Carolina Thread Trail Master Plans. During the planning process, the two communities worked together to create connections that would benefit the users of the trail and the regional trail system as a whole. The only connection between Lancaster County and Waxhaw in the Carolina Thread Trail Master Plan is the trail section along Twelve Mile Creek.  The Twelve Mile Creek connection is located in a densely populated and continuously growing area on both sides of the state line. In Lancaster County, there is a completed 3.48 mile segment of the Carolina Thread Trail in the Walnut Creek subdivision. Crossing the state line to the Millbridge subdivision in Waxhaw is the designated location for the extension of the Carolina Thread Trail shown in the Carolina Thread Trail Master Plan.

The Millbridge subdivision in Waxhaw, was approved prior to the adoption of the Carolina Thread Trail Master Plans, and Landevor, LLC, the developer, was required through rezoning conditions to construct most of the trails in the subdivision; however it was not responsible for providing the vital connection between the two states.  In 2015, the Town of Waxhaw in partnership with Lancaster County applied for a grant through the Carolina Thread Trail to construct this missing link between the two states Carolina Thread Trail systems that provides approximately 5 miles of trail and directly serves 13,387 residents as well as local and regional visitors.  The grant was awarded which allowed the suspension bridge project to begin.  Working closely with the Carolina Thread Trail, and Lancaster County, South Carolina, the Town of Waxhaw took the lead on the project and sent out an RFP for bids.  A contract was awarded to Alpine Towers, based out of Asheville, NC, because of their experience with safe and low cost suspension bridges.  Due to the location of the floodplain areas and pole location requirements, at 170 feet, the cross state bridge became the longest bridge the company has constructed.  The bridge began construction in August of 2015.  There were more permits and approvals needed working in two states, and the weather was particularly rainy throughout the fall.  On two separate occasions, the main construction staging site was flooded by Twelve Mile Creek due to heavy rain. After the waters receded, the construction team had to wait until the site adequately dried before proceeding. In addition to weather, the construction team hit considerable rock on the North Carolina side. Due to the rock, cement was utilized to set poles and, as a result, added to the overall project timeline and bottom line. Fortunately, contingencies were adequately planned for ahead of time. Lastly, due to weather delays and the time needed to cure cement, construction team members departed Waxhaw to work on other projects around the country. Once the site was ready for work, they returned as soon as they were able.  Agreements had to be made about insurance, maintenance, and signage to ensure that there was no parking along the neighborhood streets, and also what language all parties were legally comfortable with the agreements.  This was truly a regional collaboration between the two local governments.

The innovation in practice was the unique teaming required since there were two jurisdictions in two different states involved, as well as a non-profit organization.  The construction and completion of the suspension bridge brought awareness for the adopted Carolina Thread Trail Master Plan and Planners are referencing the Carolina Thread Trail Master Plan for future projects.  The amount of support we received between County Council, neighborhood associations, and other residents impacted the importance of more trails to be established in Lancaster County.  There has also been discussions to collaborate again with the Town of Waxhaw on a possible blueway plan for the Twelve Mile Creek which is below the cross-state suspension bridge.  The possibilities are endless since we have formed a solid connection between the two local governments and the Carolina Thread Trail.

The regional partnership has provided a foundation for these two local governments to be able to work together by providing sustainable planning tools for the area.  We were able to keep costs low since we had a team effort in overseeing the project by using our government sources like the Parks and Recreation Departments to learn how the suspension bridge was built and to help us clean the site in removing trees.  It is evident through the completion of the suspension bridge that local officials are understanding the importance for recreational opportunities through nature such as the trails and an alternative means of transportation for people to be able to use to connect through two communities and two states.  The cross-state suspension bridge allowed the Planners to witness from the beginning to the end of the project on what we learned in school about Regional Planning.  As a Planner, it is an extreme honor to be able to identify a recreational/planning vision through an adopted Master Plan in 2011, build the trails in 2015, and then expand the trail by partnering with another local government to complete the cross-state suspension bridge in 2016. This is truly an outstanding planning multi-jurisdictional project that Lancaster County, the Town of Waxhaw and the Carolina Thread Trail worked diligently to bring into fruition.

Click here to view the power point presentation of this project.