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Let’s Hike: Cancer Survivor’s Park and Swamp Rabbit Trail Downtown

This time of year, it’s hard for me to get motivated to walk because I hate the cold! With a vitamin D deficiency, though, it’s important for me to get some sun with my exercise. At least the new Cancer Survivor’s Park in downtown Greenville provides a new setting to explore. Here are a few adjacent areas for a brisk wintry walk.

Every now and then, we’re lucky enough to have a warm day in winter. That’s a good time to head to the Swamp Rabbit Trail behind the Caine Halter YMCA. In that wooded area, it’s hard to imagine that you’re so close to downtown. The trees mean less sun, though, which can make a big difference on a chilly day. Watch for speedy cyclists, too. If you have a little one in tow, the stroller is the way to go. That little stretch will take you to the Julie Valentine monument playground at Cleveland Park – a place for your kiddo to stretch legs and run around before heading back to the car. Or if you’re ambitious, you can keep heading in the same direction all the way to Falls Park on the Reedy and beyond to Linky Stone Park.

Knowing I wanted all the sun I could get, I skipped the area behind the Y and parked at Shelter No. 5 at Cleveland Park, a good bet for a parking space on the edge of the park. I immediately noticed that the city has installed lots of new work-out equipment on astro-turf, replacing the tired, old balance beams. An instructional sign was posted next to each item.

Walking past Greenville Zoo to the small train, it’s not long until you approach the Cancer Survivor’s Park. This area has really changed since my friends and I last had some stroller walks through here a year ago!

Years ago, it was overgrown with tall grassy weeds. Then, during the park’s creation, it was a mess of construction. Now this area is shaping up to be truly beautiful. Although the park wasn’t fully completed at press time, and some areas weren’t open, construction appears likely to meet the projected completion in early 2018.

The new steel cable bridge echoes the design of the Falls Park bridge, and the cohesive look continues in the stone structures and overlooks. Even after looking at the park map, I was surprised at how much had been invested in the stone structures adding interest to the landscape.

The imposing bronze statue of a lion embracing a child is in place with new sod. Last time I passed through, all I heard was construction noise. This time the sound of the rushing waters muffled traffic nearby. Looking at the park map, I noticed the river widens here, which may explain the waterfall-like sounds.

Despite the cold, there were many birds still in the area, like plump, red-breasted robins and cardinals. The bluebirds seemed electric-bright in the gray trees.

There is a direct route to the rest of Falls Park, leading to the old mill ruins. Or there’s a meandering boardwalk to get some more exercise. The boardwalk winds through the woods up the sidewalk at Church Street. (Note: I don’t recommend trying to start at Church Street; it’d be awkward because the only parking area is for an office.)

If you’re not up for a big walk, and you just want to peek at the new Cancer Survivor’s Park, there is alternate access near the intersection of Cleveland Street and University Ridge.

Continuing up the trail will take you to Falls Park, and this is usually where my stroller-driving friends and I will stop for a coffee at one of the shops on Main Street before we turn around to head back to the cars. (We used to go beyond to the Chihuly statue, but the coffee shop below Mellow Mushroom sadly closed.) If we started around 9:30 a.m. that would give us enough time to unbundle our preschoolers’ blankets in the strollers and let them play at Cleveland Park for a while before lunch.

I wondered how many more calories I might’ve burned by walking in the cold, and I couldn’t find a definite answer online, but let’s hope it’s enough to justify a steaming latte.