Collaboration leads to new foundation

A chance conversation and the discovery of similar interests led to a new foundation to support a countywide integrated trail system and other recreational endeavors. The Greater Aiken Integrated Trails Foundation (GAIT Foundation), established last year, supports the work of three entities - Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT), the Aiken Land Conservancy (ALC), and the Aiken Chamber's Equine Support Council.

"We all saw an opportunity to introduce an integrated trail system to support the recreational needs of our citizens and visitors while preserving green space and a cultural resource. It's definitely a win-win situation for everyone and will be a unique and wonderful resource for our area.  This is something we can all be proud of," said Aiken County PRT Director Brad Barnes, whose office helped facilitate the development of the foundation 
Local retiree, Ralph Cryder, spearheaded the creation of the foundation, and now serves as its president.  He has an extensive background in parks, recreation, and tourism. He is a former director of Parks and Recreation for Los Angeles County and a former director of Parks, Recreation and Marine for the city of Long Beach, California.  Currently, he serves on the Aiken County PRT Commission.
"Our purpose is to have activities that are focused and committed to the acquisition, development and operation of a countywide integrated recreation trail system to serve the interests of many entities," Cryder said. 
"These include the equine community, biking and jogging enthusiasts, and others.  In addition, we'll be looking at stream restoration for small water craft user.  Our goal is to have all of these activities in a shared greenway where feasible." Cryder said.
The GAIT Foundation is working closely with the Aiken Land Conservancy (ALC) to advise local landowners on the best ways to conserve their lands for future generations, said Aiken Attorney Mary Guynn, ALC board member.

"The Aiken Land Conservancy looks to GAIT to be a leader in establishing a pedestrian and equestrian trail network throughout Aiken County.  We are very supportive of this endeavor as it ties in very closely with the mission of ALC - to preserve our natural and historic resources," she said. 
"Aiken's beautiful terrain and equestrian sporting history will both be enhanced significantly by GAIT's efforts.  I look forward to working with GAIT, as I have with ALC, in legally documenting the trail network to ensure that it remains in perpetuity for the use and enjoyment of future generations," Guynn said.

The historic Horse Creek Water Trail will be the first project of GAIT. The eight-mile trail between Graniteville and Clearwater, which includes Langley Pond, is currently being developed for canoes and kayaks and will be the catalyst for the entire Horse Creek Trail System, said Barnes.
"Future development will include trails for equestrian, pedestrian, and hiking.  The funding for the water trail is coming from the Recreational Trails Project of South Carolina PRT.  We will need to identify other funding sources for the future development," Barnes said.

The GAIT Foundation is currently completing its strategic plan that will include long-term goals.  Future projects will be identified once the plan is completed.
"It is very exciting to be part of GAIT," said Dr. Deidre Martin, USCA, vice chair of Business and Community Development for the Aiken Chamber of Commerce. "We are focused on providing the citizens of our county with a wide range of opportunities through an integrated trails system from hiking paths to equestrian trails. As we plan for the future, we hope to be a collaborator and facilitator to bring together the organizations and resources to get things done," Dr. Martin said.
GAIT Foundation Board of Directors
Brad Barnes, Director
Aiken County PRT
Larry Byers, Co-chair
Open Space and Integrated Trails Committee
Aiken Chamber's Equine Support Council
Holly Carter
Holly Carter Designs
Aiken Chamber's Equine Support Council
Samantha Charles
Sidelines/Barn Book
Hatchaway Bridge Farms
Chamber Board & Chair
Aiken Chamber's Equine Support Council
Bernadette Clayton, Chair
Government Committee
Aiken Chamber's Equine Support Council
Larry Comegys, President
Aiken Land Conservancy
Ralph Cryder, President
GAIT Foundation
Mary Guynn, Attorney
Aiken Land Conservancy
J. David Jameson President and CEO
Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce
Chair, GAIT Foundation
Terry Kane
Aiken Chamber's Equine Support Council
Dr. Deidre Martin, USCA
Vice Chair Business and Community Development
Aiken Chamber of Commerce
Cindy Meares, Cherry, Bekaert & Holland
Aiken Chamber of Commerce
Lydia Rose
Aiken Saddlery and Supply
Aiken Land Conservancy
Ed Scanlon, Manager
Equine Development
Aiken Chamber of Commerce
Tracey Kenworthy Turner, Realtor
Co-chair, Open Space and Integrated Trails Committee
Aiken Chamber's Equine Support Council

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