FORT MILL — The Fort Mill Rotary Club is contributing $100,000 to the Anne Springs Close Greenway’s $15 million capital campaign.
The campaign, launched in early spring, will help pay for improvements and an endowment at the 2,100-acre nature preserve. The contribution will be paid over several years, officials said. It is the largest gift and first multi-year commitment awarded by the Fort Mill Rotary Club.
“Fort Mill Rotary Club wanted to make a statement with this gift and at the same time continue our support of 13 other worthy charities in our community, so we spread our greenway contribution over several years,” said President Jeff Harr, an executive recruiter in Fort Mill.
The donation was appreciated by said Anne Springs Close, chairman emeritus of the greenway.
“We are delighted by the generosity of the Fort Mill Rotary Club, and it’s particularly gratifying to receive such strong support locally, from our own neighbors,” said Close, whose family donated the land and has pledged $5 million toward the capital campaign.
Partner in education
Residents are encouraged to contribute to the Greenway’s Nature Needs You campaign. For parents, its an opportunity to sustain the partnership between the Fort Mill School District and the greenway, which offers after school programs for students.
Prior to the Rotary club’s gift, the Nature Needs You campaign raised $11.4 million toward its goal, said Denise Cubbedge, director of development for the Greenway.
“We feel confident we will reach our goal,” she said.
The partnership with schools has grown during the years. The Anne Springs Close Greenway sits in the backyard of many Fort Mill schools, creating a unique opportunity to combine nature with learning, Cubbedge said. The greenway’s programs serve more than 10,000 studentsand the cross country teams run meets on the greenway’s trails.
“We value our partnership with the Fort Mill School District,” she said. “We look forward to seeing that continue to flourish.”
The greenway also hopes teachers feel confident using the space as a classroom and integrating nature into their curriculum, Cubbedge said. Students who see and experience what they are learning better retain the material, she said.
“Different types of learning can happen out here regardless of subject matter,” Cubbedge said.
Marty McGinn, assistant superintendent for curriculum and human resources, agrees.
“There is not one content area that isn’t touched by nature,” she said. “The opportunities to me are endless.”
Many Fort Mill residents move to the town from areas with lots of amenities, something the greenway hopes the campaign will help them provide locally, said Tim Patterson, president and CEO of Leroy Springs & Co.
“It’s a chance for us to step up our game as well,” he said.
Two companies that recently announced plans to move thousands of employees from Charlotte to Fort Mill cited the greenway as a major lure. One of the announcements came at a ceremony held at the Anne Springs Close Greenway Dairy Barn.
Some of the money raised with the campaign will expand an adventure center and create an off-leash dog park, zip-line canopy tour and a community garden. A woodland amphitheater ($2 million) is also in the works. It will provide a venue for school programs and community activities, Cubbedge said.
“There is untapped potential for what it is going to bring,” she said. “We work hard to integrate environmental education into the programming we have in the after school programs,” she said.
The campaign will also improve the walking trails, a welcome and education center ($5.2 million) and the 3-mile Discovery Trail, an all-weather, hard surface trail that will provide more accessibility for residents to enjoy bird watching and scenic views ($1.6 million).
“Daily fees and memberships don’t pay for the costs of running the greenway,” Patterson said.
Cubbedge said Nature Needs You is a community-wide effort.
“The greenway has a significant role in this community and region,” she said. “Every gift makes a difference.”
For more information, go to ascgreenway.org.