Did you know there are more than 650 marked trails and paths in South Carolina? Some of those are in York County where community leaders and volunteers are working tirelessly to keep them safe and maintained while planning for add-ons and new trails for residents and visitors.
In Tega Cay, there’s someone who’s heavily involved in the area’s trails thanks to his former life as a BMX racer and his passion for mountain biking. Ben Ullman moved his family to Tega Cay from Pennsylvania several years ago, and he’s been taking advantage of the trails and outdoor activities ever since. He’s also involved in the leadership and volunteer side of things.
“My personal enjoyment of the trails and being able to share them with everyone in our community is plenty rewarding on its own, but I am happy to have the chance to spread the word even further and perhaps inspire others to promote similar initiatives in their own communities,” says Ben.
Ben doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. He’s helped build and maintain trails in Tega Cay, Baxter Village, and Riverwalk. He consulted the Tega Cay Planning Commission’s trails master plan and worked with York County’s Bike/Pedestrian Task Force. Ben led a Parks & Rec Subcommittee for trails in Tega Cay for several years and now manages a Tega Cay Trails group on Facebook. He even has time to help promote a variety of local cycling activities, like Anne Springs mountain biking, Rock Hill BMX, and Fort Mill Dirty Riders Tuesday and Wednesday night social rides in Fort Mill.
“He shares his passion with the community by setting an example and contributing to important public meetings,” says Liz Duda, Eat Smart Move More York County. “The community finds his actions inspirational, and he encourages the community to become active and involved.”
Ben and other leaders in York County make sure their projects include kids. He’s currently helping to build a Kids’ Trail at Runde Park in Tega Cay. It’s a small trail loop in a wooded area that incorporates small jumps and banked turns.
“It offers kids a chance to try off-road riding in a safer and more convenient spot than most of our other trails, which are somewhat hidden throughout town, and often have very steep sections which are challenging for cyclists,” says Ben. “By using this space near the park, we are making use of otherwise neglected land, and hopefully attracting new users due to the high visibility of the location.”
Like all communities in the state, York County offers a variety of traditional recreational sports, whether city-run or parent-led. Ben says, “I’d like to see more recreational facilities that support unstructured, independent play and exploration of nature, which participants can enjoy on any schedule, with minimal investment in special equipment, and without the need of a team or sanctioning organization. For this, trails really fit the bill.”
Trails can serve multiple types of users and activities: walkers, runners, hikers, bikers, and those who simply want to get outside and enjoy nature. Some trails even support transportation uses, offering residents alternate routes to schools, parks, and shopping, reducing the reliance on automobiles and potentially offering safer routes than the roadways.
“The Charlotte area has many trails and a strong community that uses and maintains them. I want to promote the same level of involvement and activity in York County so that we have plenty of opportunities for enjoying trails even closer to home,” says Ben.
Community leaders like Ben exist in every community and play a vital role in the development of safe places for physical activity. By challenging volunteers to get involved in helping to build and promote these community resources, everyone can reap the health benefits and municipalities can grow economically.