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In reversal, Greenville County budgets $2M for conservation and preservation trust

Paris Mountain sunrise

Paris Mountain in Greenville County, top, as seen from the west. Ryan Gilchrest/staff

Greenville County Council reversed course and overwhelmingly voted to allocate $2 million over the next two years toward land conservation and preservation of historic properties, a move advocates said is increasingly important as growth envelops the county.

The council voted to create the Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust last year and earlier this year named its first 12-member board. The trust initially asked for $10 million over two years as seed money to help residents conserve land and to pay for preservation projects. But when it came time to fund the trust in the 2021-2022 budget passed in late June, the council chose not to allocate any money to the trust in a 7-5 vote.

Over the last month, residents and a newly-formed coalition of businesses, organizations and community leaders called Greenville for Greenspace urged the council to reconsider.

Councilwoman Xanthene Norris, who initially voted against allocating money to the trust, asked to reconsider the vote July 20. The council voted by voice vote with no objections to give the trust $1 million in the current budget. Earlier the council voted 10-2 to allocate an additional $1 million in its 2022-2023 budget to the trust.

“It is especially critical during this time of rapid growth that we conserve the special places that give us such a wonderful quality of life and prepare our county to the future,” said Doug Harper, the trust’s chairman and a former board chair of the South Carolina Conservation Bank. “Greenville County Council made a wise decision when they showed their support for more parks, trails, greenspace, historical sites and more by approving $1 million in the budget for the newly created Historic and Natural Resources Trust. This is a big step in helping the county meet its goals and objectives as outlined in the most recent county comprehensive plan.”

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The council will retain control over any of the trust’s expenditures that exceed $200,000, with three readings and a public hearing required. The trust will also provide a year-end report of its performance, according to an amendment by Councilman Dan Tripp.

The trust will accept applications for conservation projects, evaluate the value of the projects and vote to provide money. In many cases, the trust will likely be one of a number of funding sources. Often, state and federal programs require or recommend a local match for grants. The trust will be another way the county can provide those matching dollars, Harper said.

Greenville County joins Oconee, Beaufort and Charleston counties as state locales with county trusts.

“I am pleased that Greenville County Council changed course tonight and made the wise decision to protect our community's future by funding the Historic and Natural Resources Trust,” says Minor Shaw, honorary co-chair of the Greenville for Greenspace coalition. “We look forward to working together to build on this initial investment in Greenville's natural areas, farms, forests, and historic sites so that everyone can benefit.”

Follow Nathaniel Cary on Twitter at @nathanielcary

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