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FORT MILL – As the weekends slowly begin to warm into spring, families find themselves searching for close-to-home recreational activities they can enjoy outside together.
If you are looking for a place where you can relax and enjoy the serene beauty of nature and leave the hustle and bustle of the real world behind you, you don’t have to go far.
Just a short distance away, the Anne Springs Close Greenway is waiting.
Opened in 1995, the eight children of Anne Springs Close dedicated the 2,100 acres of the greenway as a tribute to their mother and her lifelong commitment to recreation and the environment.
The greenway includes 37 miles of trails to explore by foot, horseback or bicycle, lakes for canoeing and kayaking, archery tournaments and summer events such as Adventure Seekers day camps for children.
Filled with history from the old Nation Ford Road that once was a major route for both the patriots and British soldiers during the American Revolution to on-site cabins dating from the late 19th century, the greenway has become a regional destination, drawing about 12,000 visitors per month from near and far.
Buddy Faile, managing director of greenway operations, has played an integral role in development of activities there, as well as events to attract visitors.
“Last year, we began focusing more on the activities we provide at the greenway,” Faile said. “To assist in further expanding our array of options, we added four new director positions to the staff. These new employees are now responsible for education, camps, special events and development. Adding employees with these specialized skills and remodeling some of the structures on the greenway has enhanced our activities tremendously.”
A 12,000-square-foot building was remodeled into an adventure center to accommodate day campers.
Last year, about 3,000 campers took advantage of it for the first time to take part in archery lessons, hiking, kayaking, team-building exercises and a low-ropes course.
Many businesses have held retreats there to promote employee team building.
Gaining popularity for 5K runs, the scenic trails are ideal for joggers and walkers. Hikers such as Jack Lane also enjoy the rustic setting.
“I’m preparing for a five-day hike in the North Carolina mountains, so I come here with all my gear to get in shape,” Lane said. “The trails are great and the wildlife keeps me entertained during my hikes.”
Right now, the greenway stable boards about 120 horses, half of which are owned by the greenway and are available for horseback riding lessons and trail riding on Saturdays and Sundays.
The other half belongs to individual owners, such as Conor Gallagher, who boards two horses there.
Gallagher said he enjoys the opportunity to take one of his eight children trail riding at least once a week.
“We’re so happy to be able to enjoy all the greenway has to offer. We love riding all the trails and with 37 miles of them, we could ride for years and not ever get bored,” Gallagher said.
Education has become a priority at the greenway as well.
Students from York, southern Mecklenburg and Lancaster counties are welcome to participate in structured programs, such as ecology, history and backpacking, as well as others.
Earth Day is by far the biggest event at the greenway. In 2012, more than 4,000 people attended its Earth Day festivities.
It’s a day of family fun with activities such as wildlife exhibits, wagon rides, cane pole fishing, alternative energy vehicle exhibits, milking cows, a juried student art competition and much more.
This year, an evening twilight trail run leading back to the Dairy Barn will be added.
The former Leroy Springs Recreation Complex at the greenway includes workout facilities, basketball and racket courts and a swimming pool.
Recreation complex members are also entitled to use the greenway. See www.leroysprings.com for complex membership rates.