For Fish or Man: Plot to Kayak through Private Property?

A very important battle with far-reaching consequences is taking place in northern Greenville County. The battle involves the most basic constitutional right – the right to own and secure property.

Public-private partnership can be beneficial in cutting through bureaucratic “red tape,” but offers opportunities to subvert the will of the people and benefit some while harming others.

Those attractive multi-color brochures that come in the mail with photographs of tranquil landscapes and promises of tax breaks and perpetual care of your property in its natural state forever and ever are appealing. These proposals are especially appealing to aging landowners on a fixed income who can use a break from ever increasing property taxes and dread the thought of their prize possession, the property they have worked most of a lifetime to improve, one day becoming the site of a trailer park or a roadside beer joint. It must be a good thing, they rationalize, and, after all, it is government approved and subsidized.

Some citizens are advising a closer look at the business-government partnerships before signing up or before you and your property happen to stand in the way of one of their elaborate schemes.

Property owners along the South Saluda River have found themselves at the mercy of their County, State and Federal governments, financing and working in collusion with Non- Government Organizations (NGOs) to fundamentally change the South Saluda River by dumping some 335 truck loads of rock in the river. The large rocks will be piled across the river every 200 feet over a space of 4,800 feet in an area that has already experienced flooding.  The cost is estimated at $1 million.

One NGO involved in the project claims the purpose of the rocks in the river is to make trout happy. It is called “trout stream restoration.” But wait, there are plans for kayaking on the river with proposals that include parking, restrooms and trails that must go through privately owned property not signed over to any environmentalist group to “protect and preserve.”

Portions of the property along the river are purchased with taxpayer “land trust” funds handed over to environmental groups to “manage.”  Other tracts of land along the river have been turned over to Environmentalist groups for protection by well-meaning property owners.

Seventy-two families, many of whom have owned Saluda River front property for generations, have been forced into action to protect their property and have formed a group called “Saluda River Roots” to oppose actions they view as damaging the river and seriously infringing their property rights. They have made little headway with government agencies, including the Greenville County Planning Department, and have resorted to the South Carolina Administrative Court for relief from inadequate impact studies,  coordination with affected property owners and government agencies as a result of piling rock in the river.

If the river is ruled navigable as the result of the project, then it becomes eligible for federal regulation of private property along its banks. That opens the door to another series of problems for property owners like Lib Tickle who expect nothing but to be left alone with her home, small farm and horses, without a stream of tourists trailing through her yard and rocks blocking the flow of the river causing her property to flood during heavy rains.

There are also concerns about erosion of the river banks due to forced change in the flow pattern resulting from the man-made obstructions.

Mary Ann Allen owns scenic Blythe Shoals and surrounding property. She is very disappointed in the lack of consideration given property owners by government officials and the NGOs.

For additional information on this situation, see the article at the bottom of page One by David Knapp titled: Let’s Ruin a River For The Agenda.

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