Balancing growth with character

July 2nd, 2020
By Patrea St. John, Planning Director, Travelers Rest

The City of Travelers Rest has a story similar to many other communities in the Upstate and across the Southeast. In 1988, the nearby textile mill closed, taking economic vitality with it, leaving numerous vacancies on Main Street, and no clear sense of identity.

The City’s leaders made a decision that, in hindsight, appears to be a no-brainer but was a bit controversial at the time: Embrace the first portion of the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, which opened on the old Swamp Rabbit Railroad, better connecting Travelers Rest with Greenville and beyond.

The City of Travelers Rest invested in its downtown to maximize the opportunity of the Trail’s attraction and invest in placemaking. Part of this effort included a branding process that further embraced the unique qualities of “TR.”

In 2018, TR adopted its Comprehensive Plan which outlines the following core values that serve as the guiding philosophy for planning, development, and budget decisions moving forward:

Smart Growth

Plan for growth in the provision of day-to-day services and manage growth and development in both its location and pace to assure it is sustainable.

Arts & Culture

Develop and support high-quality, inclusive, and sustainable cultural programs that enhance the livability of TR.


Acknowledge the need for a transportation network that accommodates all users and modes of transportation and can safely handle projected growth with facilities for safe walking and biking. 

Small-Town Character

In the public outreach phase of the Comprehensive Planning process, this core value was expressed over and over as a critical feature to be preserved. Many feared that growth would threaten the character of the community. 

There are certain qualities of a small town that seem to surface when people are questioned.  Less traffic, fresh air, and easy-to-find parking spots are lauded as small-town features. Other simple, taken for granted amenities such as a sense of community and quiet are also mentioned. Overall it is about building and maintaining both the physical and social infrastructure that helps us love and connect with our neighbors.

These days, TR is enjoying the economic development that these efforts have brought and is looking to continue to be thoughtful in outlining a future vision for our community.


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