Nature Conservancy Sets Stage to Add 955 Acres of Public Access to Jones Gap State Park

In warmer months, it’s common to see a line of cars waiting outside Jones Gap State Park as early as 9 a.m. on the weekend. Jones Gap has only 36 parking spaces; when those are full, the park is considered “at capacity” and the gates close until more visitors can be accepted. With 415,852 visitors welcomed to the Mountain Bridge Wilderness area last year – a figure that has nearly doubled since 2014 – getting outdoors is getting harder to do. Now, the park’s capacity likely will get a sorely needed boost.

The Nature Conservancy has purchased 955 acres in northern Greenville County known as the Gap Creek property. The Conservancy plans to transfer the property to South Carolina State Parks in 2018 to be added to Jones Gap State Park. The Gap Creek addition will increase the size of the park by nearly 25 percent.

“Gap Creek is a dual gift for Upstate residents and visitors,” says Phil Gaines, South Carolina state park director. “Its 955 acres include flat land that is ideal for more parking, facilities, trail heads and other visitor amenities. This property can help the Park Service meet its vision for expanding visitor service and making this wilderness area accessible to more South Carolinians.”

Gap Creek has been a high conservation priority for decades because of its size, connection to other conserved lands and unique natural features. The property is home to healthy, contiguous hardwood forests that provide habitat for animals such as black bear, migratory songbirds and even bats. Headwater streams and a series of cascades on the property support cold-water fish, salamanders and frogs before eventually making their way to Saluda Lake.

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