Cayce, SC (Paul Kirby) The City of Cayce couldn’t have picked a better day to do something that’s been a long time coming. Thursday, a crowd gathered on a wooden bridge crossing a gently flowing stream as they reopened the final phase of their storm-damaged Riverwalk. The skies were clear, the temperature moderate, just a slight breeze blew, and the Congaree swept by as fishermen in boats cast their baits in hopes of reeling in a big one as everyone gathered for the ceremony.
Mayor Elise Partin, Council members Skip Jenkins and Phil Carter, and many of other elected and appointed officials were on hand, but the real stars of the show were the city’s employees who worked so hard to repair the areas ravaged by flood waters and the nature that surrounds the trail and wraps it in beauty in so many ways. Mayor Partin made sure to give recognition to the city’s parks employees during her short speech, and nature did its own thing drawing recognition to itself by being just what it was, wonderful.
In June of 2015 and then again in October of that year, the Riverland Park area was damaged by flooding of the rising Congaree River during historic heavy rains. Not over yet, Mother Nature hit it again with high waters in November of 2015 effectively knocking portions of it completely out of service.
The Riverwalk, built in phases, is basically 12.5 miles long. Phase II of the Riverwalk begins at the entrance of the Cayce Cove Apartment complex and runs downriver to H. Kelley Jones Park in the Riverland Park neighborhood. The repairs on the devastated portion took 11 months to complete and the total cost of repairs to all phases cost $1.4 million. These repairs were funded through the City of Cayce General Fund and partially through FEMA reimbursement.
When the repairs began, the park's staff said they felt a bit overwhelmed. They had to use hand tools, chainsaws, and wheelbarrows to cut a trail just for the engineers to access and survey the damages. Eventually, they switched to heavy equipment and removed over 500 tons of sediment, silt, and other organics from the pathway. Some of it was limbs and trees, while other items included the paving material, parts of the boardwalk, and other infrastructure that had once made the Riverwalk accessible and enjoyable. James Denny, the city’s manager of parks, said that it was heartbreaking to see a part of the Riverwalk’s boardwalk floating quickly by in the swollen river after the floods as he surveyed the damages. To him, that was a sign that the carnage was as bad as they had feared.
Now, after many months, the entire length of the trail is reopened. Immediately, as if orchestrated, families began to appear for quiet walks. Some were pushing babies in strollers, an older couple jogged, and several bikers peddled along at a leisurely pace. Cayce’s Mayor Elise Partin said, “The Cayce Riverwalk is such an essential part of our resident’s recreational life, and we are so thrilled to reopen Phase II of the Cayce Riverwalk for the public to enjoy. The Riverwalk is open daily until dusk, has emergency call boxes along the lighted walkway, is ADA compliant, and has approximately 600,000 visitors per years according to the city. For more information, visit www.caycesc.gov or follow the city of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.