Gills Creek Greenway A

Please note that the Middle Watershed project plan has been superseded by the Richland County Transportation Penny Gills Creek Greenway Section A project.

Perhaps as the benefits of the Greenway A are realized, the expanded plan presented here can be implemented.


A working group in the Gills Creek Watershed Association developed an aspirational plan to preserve the relatively undeveloped stretch of Gills Creek from the Lake Katharine dam to Shop Road as a greenway and a blueway. The plan identified a number of specific areas and suggests ways to utilize these areas.

Gills Creek and the lakes, ponds and tributaries have been historically important resources for the Columbia area. The area was settled in the 1700s and plantations were established by Wade Hampton and Thomas Taylor. In the following years, mills were built utilizing the power of the creek. In the early 1900s, dams began to be built and the resulting lakes used for public recreation. In 1917 land for Camp Jackson was purchased, the so-called Gills Creek Swamp was drained and the creek channelized. Forest Lake was created in 1940. Since that time, many areas along Gills Creek have been heavily developed increasing threats from pollution and storm water runoff.

Unfortunately, until the Gills Creek Watershed Association lobbied to have signs placed identifying Gills Creek on major road bridges, most residents and visitors had no idea that they were passing over Gills Creek. Luckily, Columbia still has an opportunity to preserve this area.


  • Cleaner water in the Gills Creek Watershed
  • Better habitat in and along the creek for wildlife and aquatic life
  • Create a great place for people to connect with nature
  • Provide new educational opportunities for schools and the community
  • Create a greenway and blueway trail along the lower range of Gills Creek
  • A place for people to gather and enjoy
  • A signature place in Columbia; a center of community pride
On the north end, trails will intersect the Capital City Passage of the Palmetto Trail on Kilbourne Road just below the Lake Katharine dam.

At the south end, the Gills Creek Blue Trail will connect to the Congaree River Blue Trail.

In between there are numerous opportunities for walking, jogging, cycling and paddling trails, nature observation, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

And there is the opportunity to restore, retrofit, and the institute best management practices (BMPs) to reduce pollution, the impact of stormwater runoff, and flooding in developed and undeveloped areas.

Columbia has wisely embraced its river resources to the west with the Three Rivers Greenway. Gills Creek offers the possibility of an eastern complement to that resource.

Richland County Conservation Grant

Based on the ideas developed in the initial plan, Gills Creek Watershed Association received a grant from the Richland County Conservation Commission to complete a Master Plan for the Middle Gills Creek Watershed which extends from Kilbourne Road to Shop Road. Additional funding was provided by Edens. The final results of this project will be a community endorsed Middle Watershed Plan with greenways, best management practices for handling stormwater, and identified stream restoration projects.

The master plan contract was awarded to Wood+Partners Landscape Architects in partnership with McCormick Taylor Engineers & Planners. Representatives from those firms visited the site on April 30 and May 1, and held a public input meeting. The final plan was presented in November 2013.

Middle Watershed Master Plan

View or download the Gills Creek Middle Watershed Master Plan as a pdf file.

Since the initial brainstorming sessions, several things have happened which can help in the actual implementation of the plan.

Richland County Penny Sales Tax

The citizens of Richland County approved a penny increase in the sales tax to fund transportation improvements. A portion of those monies will be available for the development of greenways. Three locations along Gills Creek were identified as sites for greenway development including the area encompassed by the Middle Watershed plan. Having a master plan in place for this area will be an advantage when funds begin to be allocated.

Pennies For People...

City of Columbia Commercial Devine St/Fort Jackson Commercial Node Plan

The City contracted with LandDesign to evaluate the area of Devine St, Crosshill Rd and Fort Jackson Blvd for land use and urban design, market conditions, transportation, utilities and green infrastructure, and to propose a conceptual plan including recommendations and implementation strategies for future development. Gills Creek Watershed Association was identified as a stakeholder and providedinput regarding our greenway and blueway plan.

More information about the study is available at the city's Planning and Development web site.

The City also has a Walk-Bike Columbia web page which allows the user to identify places on a map where they want improvements for biking, walking, access to transit, or a bike share station in Columbia!

Palmetto Conservation Foundation's Complete the Palmetto Trail

The Palmetto Conservation Foundation's Complete the Palmetto Trail is conducting a statewide master planning project. Although the main purpose of this study is a master plan for connecting the trail across the state, they are also looking possible spur trails which could provide additional mileage and connectivity. The current route of the Palmetto Trail runs along Kilbourne Rd across Gills Creek. Our trail would connect to Kilbourne just east of the creek. GCWA has been identified as a stakeholder and is actively participating.

More info is available at the Finish the Palmetto Trail web site. There is also a survey at the site so you can give your input.


We have met with City of Columbia Parks & Recreation staff to present the plan. The City’s Master Plan for Parks calls for more passive, linear open space in the park system.

We have had opportunities to provide input regarding the redevelopment of the old Kmart site on Crowson Road by working with the City and Bright Meyers representative Matt Sasser including on site meetings. We are working to obtain recreational easements in that area.

We have participated in a paddle cleanup and trail blazing with Palmetto Paddlers from Rosewood to California Dr. The Paddlers have since continued to work in the stretch from Rosewood to Shop Road.

We have presented the plan at numerous public events.

We presented our Middle Watershed Master Plan to Columbia City Council. We are asking them to officially adopt it as a city plan to help guide future city efforts.

Examples Of Successful Similar Projects

Swamp Rabbit Trail, North Greenville

The trail is a multi-use greenway system that runs along the Reedy River connecting Greenville County with schools, parks, and local businesses. A large portion of it runs along old rail bed between Greenville and Travelers Rest.
Swamp Rabbit Trail web site...

Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville SC

Building on the master plan designed in 1999 by landscape architect Andrea Mains, Falls Park was developed to include 20 acres of gardens showcasing Reedy River Falls. In 2002 the city committed funds to transform the park into a public garden and oasis. With the addition of the Liberty Bridge, the park has become a focal point for Greenville.
Falls Park on the Reedy web site...

Little Sugar Creek, Charlotte NC

For a case study in how a plan such as this has come together and made a major positive impact on a community, see the story of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte.
Little Sugar Creek Media Info (pdf)
Little Sugar Creek Costs and Funding Sources
Little Sugar Creek Resource Links

San Antonio Riverwalk, San Antonio TX

A number of folks have mentioned the San Antonio Riverwalk in Texas as an example of what might be done with the Crowson Road area of Gills Creek. The development of the Riverwalk started in the 1960's and is now the number one tourist attraction in Texas.
San Antonio Riverwalk web site...

These projects have improved water quality, provided access to a previously overlooked recreational resource, and have overwhelmingly had a positive economic impact on the community.

Greenway Facts...

Read more about documented general benefits, small business & economic benefits, health benefits, safety improvements, and positive environment impacts of greenways from our area.

This is not a new idea!

The Improvement of Columbia South Carolina Report

In fact, The Improvement of Columbia South Carolina Report to The Civic League by Kelsey & Guild, Landscape Architects, which was published in 1905, suggested among other greenways and parks, the establishment of an outer system of parks encircling Columbia beginning at the Broad River where Crane Creek flows into it in North Columbia, following Crane Creek over to Gills Creek, down through the lakes, and then all the way to where Gills Creek enters the Congaree River.
A pdf of this report is available at

Gill's Creek Greenbelt

The City of Columbia Planning Department issued a report Gill's Creek Greenbelt in 1992 as a result of Mr Wayne Smith, local developer and City Planning Commissioner, suggesting a preliminary study of the Gills Creek floodplain for its use as public open space and a municipal park. The study was precipitated by an offer from Liberty Life Insurance Company to donate 48.5 acres of land. The report includes many of benefits we are talking about today, and includes a nature center, a boardwalk system and recreational trails.
A pdf of this report is available at

An Urban Nonpoint Source Project

DHEC conducted An Urban Nonpoint Source Project from February 1994-September 1996. The Gills Creek Watershed Project Final Report outlines many of the things we are trying to get done today. Besides the technical data, it also includes historical information and photos, and information about the 1905 special planning study commissioned by the Civic League of Columbia which proposed the establishment of an outer system of parks encircling Columbia with greenways and waterways!
A pdf of this report is available at

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BMP stands for Best Management Practices which is a catch-all designation for utilizing strategies that control storm water run-off, non-source pollution sources, and sedimentation that improves water quality in the watershed.
Revised Apr 29, 2018.
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