From Vacancy to Vibrancy: Let’s Keep Travelers Rest Beautiful Works to Beautify TR

The aptly named city of Travelers Rest started out as a stopover for travelers who were either preparing for or recovering from the arduous journey over the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. And that’s how most people thought of Travelers Rest for a long time: as nothing more than a way station situated near the nexus of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Piedmont Plateau.

But that all changed in 2010 with the completion of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which winds its way northward from Greenville Tech, passes through downtown Greenville, and then ends in Travelers Rest. No longer was Travelers Rest just a brief stop in the course of a journey. For the first time in its history, it became a place people were traveling to, which was a real game changer for this sleepy little city of 5,000.

Bess McCall, who grew up in Travelers Rest, reflected on how different Travelers Rest is now compared to five years ago.  “The other day I was downtown and there were so many people walking around and it was exciting. For so long we had nothing here. It was just a dead little place,” said McCall.

But just as important to the success story of downtown Travelers Rest’s revitalization is the concerted effort of business leaders, city officials, and private citizens who have worked diligently to beautify Traveler Rest’s central business district.

McCall is one of Travelers Rest’s beautification pioneers. “Making things look better is one of my passions, especially when it comes to gardening,” said McCall.

When Greenville County didn’t have the funds to install a pocket park off of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, McCall stepped in to finish the project herself. “I took the plans that the county had and bought some of the plants. And the owners of Williams Hardware would take up money for the garden. That’s when I started making a difference in how things look in Travelers Rest,” said McCall.

But it was only after serving on the board of Keep Greenville County Beautiful that she began thinking of founding an organization dedicated to the beautification of Travelers Rest. The Let’s Keep Travelers Rest Beautiful committee began in November of 2012.

“One of the first things that we did was to put out cigarette butt containers around town to try to prevent cigarette butt litter,” said McCall. LKTRB also recognizes businesses that have improved their landscaping or façade. Each monthly winner is given a certificate, recognized before city council, and promoted on LKTRB’s Facebook page.

Then, city councilman and fellow committee member Brandy Amidon approached McCall about building a “Before I Die” wall. The first “Before I Die” wall was built in New Orleans in 2011 by Candy Chang, who created an interactive chalkboard wall upon which she stenciled the sentence, “Before I die I want to _______.” Passersby could write out their hopes and dreams directly onto the wall. Since then, hundreds of “Before I Die” walls have been built in 60 countries.

Amidon and McCall talked about building such a wall for two years before City Administrator Dianna Turner suggested that LKTRB apply for an Elevate Upstate grant to fund the project.

Elevate Upstate grants, which are presented by Ten at the Top and sponsored by Hughes Investments, provide initial funding support for vibrancy initiatives throughout the Upstate. Of the 22 applicants, LKTRB was one of only two organizations chosen for the $5,000 grant.

Five walls will be located throughout the Travelers Rest area. Each wall will display a different statement, but they are all meant to bring together the community in some way.

Northwest Middle – “Before I finish High School I will _______.”

Travelers Rest High – “Before I turn 25 I will _______.”

Heritage Elementary – “Before I grow old I will _______.”

City of Travelers Rest  – “Before I die _______.”

Trailblazer Park – “Because I love TR, I hope _______.”

Let’s Keep Travelers Rest Beautiful will post updates on the “Before I Die” wall project, including photos documenting the responses, to their Facebook page.

Article by Josephine McMullen.