A river (OK, creek) runs through it!
Talk to folks who either lived or worked on the City of Spartanburg’s Northside decades ago, and it won’t take long until the conversation turns to water. In fact, the stories about the old artesian well there are some of the most entertaining you’ll hear about the Northside of the past. Longtime residents talk about walking to the well for water and all the fun and mischief that routinely accompanied the journey.
Shortly after the Northside Initiative began, the Mary Black Foundation made a grant to the USC Upstate Watershed Ecology to investigate the spring that fed this well and fed a creek that winds through a good chunk of the City, including right through the heart of the Northside. Sometime in the mid 20th century, to support the industrial and development needs of the time, most of the creek was covered and piped. Only a small portion on the backside of the old Spartan Mill parking lot remained “daylighted.”
The USC Upstate study identified the creek area, recommended daylighting it, and worked with students at the Cleveland Academy of Leadership to rename the creek Butterfly Branch.
In January 2014, the plan to daylight the Butterfly Branch and transform it into a defining feature of the area emerged from a two-day community planning charette. The plan includes a linear park along both banks of the creek, while will provide an amazing new opportunity for people to be physically active or just enjoy nature.
Here is where good planning and good fortune intersected. At the same time it is heavily investing in the future of the Northside, the City of Spartanburg has plans to significantly lengthen the runway at the Downtown Memorial Airport, a project that will only elevate what is already a powerful regional economic development facility. Because the runway expansion work will disturb a creek on the site, federal watershed protection regulations require the City to mitigate that disturbance. The current plan, subject to Army Corps of Engineers approval, is to use the Butterfly Branch project to satisfy those mitigation requirements, allowing the City to use part of the federal grant for the airport runway extension project to help pay for the daylighting of the Butterfly Branch. Phase 2 of the Butterfly Branch project will include additional park amenities.