Last Friday, over 30 students, faculty, and staff gathered at the Upper Chinquapin Greenway in Spartanburg, only a mile from campus, to kick off Upstate’s first ever ENGAGING GREEN Greenway Cleanup day in partnership with Spartanburg Area Conservancy (SPACE). The foundational effort of a multi-year revitalization project, this year 11 general education teachers will lead 14 different clean-up events at the greenway and will also guide their students to work on related service endeavors for a total of over 1,200 serve hours, with an estimated value of nearly $40,000 contributed to our community.

Pictured above are some students from two classes of Introduction to Criminal Justice with Drs. MacDonald and Woodard. Students spent 2 hours clearing the Greenway of invasive species that have overtaken its understory, which have caused the health of the Greenway’s urban forest to decline and has made it less welcoming for both visitors and native wildlife.  Through the course of the fall, over 300 students from 6 unique General Education courses and 16 separate sections will participate in this conservation effort, then reflectively connect their experience with course content. For more details, check out the student-centered Engage Green Webpage.

Please join us to learn even more as we welcome SPACE’s Executive Director Sam Parrot to campus this Tuesday, October 3rd, from 1:30-2:30 in Admin 327. Sam will be speaking about our partnership, about SPACE’s mission and our shared dreams for continued collaboration as well as about the importance of invasive species removal. Dave Marlow will tie this to Service Learning and Community Engagement and suggest ways we could consider partnering with key players in education, health, and other domains.

SPACE manages several publicly accessible green spaces in Spartanburg, including the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve, home to Spartanburg’s much-loved Cottonwood Trail, which receives over 100,000 visitors each year. In the video linked below, you can learn more about the current revitalization project and the vision for Upper Chinquapin.

Upper Chinquapin Greenway Revitalization Project

Located just north of Spartanburg, the Upper Chinquapin Greenway is one of several areas that is conserved and managed by SPACE. 

As SPACE’s Outreach Coordinator Deb Stevens wrote in an article about the project for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal (found here), the Upper Chinquapin Greenway is a “hidden gem” in Spartanburg County.   It has over 100 acres of protected urban forest with nearly 2 miles of nature trails.  Because of SPACE’s efforts in acquiring and collaborating with different community partners to add land to the Upper Chinquapin Greenway, it is now permanently protected from high-density development and will remain a natural space to enjoy in Spartanburg County.  

Additionally, as the only publicly accessible and protected green space in the 29303 area code, investing into the cleanup and infrastructure of the Upper Chinquapin Greenway is essential to ensure(insure?) that the green space is accessible to residents in the area and that it will be enjoyed for generations to come. 

As Deb wrote for the Journal, “With a little time and the continued enthusiastic support from our community partners and volunteers, the Upper Chinquapin Greenway is well on its way to transforming from a diamond in the rough to the gem it deserves to be.”

Our ENGAGING GREEN project is an example of what service learning is all about:  students, community, and partner organizations all benefit from a collaborative effort to learn, grow, and serve!

In this case, students get learn about conservancy through serving their community, hone career-readiness skills through their participation in the project, and improve their health and wellness; SPACE is provided the volunteer hands needed for this ambitious and necessary project; and, once the revitalization of the Greenway is complete,  the Spartanburg community will be able to maximize its enjoyment of the outdoors in a newly refreshed natural area.

Speaking on USC Upstate students’ and faculties’ genuine interest in helping to revitalize the Greenway, Sam Parrott said: “We are so thankful for the service-learning team at USC Upstate who have so enthusiastically supported this project, and for the faculty and students that will spend their time working hard to help elevate this special natural area.  It’s their commitment and enthusiasm that have launched this project forward.  We absolutely couldn’t do it without them, and I’m excited to see how this work transforms the space.”

SPACE dreams that, as a result of the revitalization project, the Upper Chinquapin Greenway will one day flourish with native species and offer a welcoming nature experience for its visitors, mirroring the success of their efforts at Edwin M. Griffin Preserve and Glendale Shoals.  The invasive cleanup effort is just the first stage of the undertaking to revitalize the Greenway.  Both SPACE and USC Upstate are looking forward to a continued partnership, full of service-learning opportunities for students, throughout the multi-year plan.  

USC Upstate’s Service Learning and Community Engagement Team is deeply grateful for SPACE’s continued enthusiasm about this collaboration, and for the faculty who have been integral to the conception and realization of the project. We truly cannot wait to see the development of this project as it unfolds!

Keep up with updates on ENGAGING GREEN throughout the fall semester right here on our Service Stories blog.  For more information about what the students are doing this semester, check out the webpage here.  

On the page,  you can also find pictures from the faculty bootcamp that took place over the summer, where the instructors participating in this project went hands-on to learn about the importance of invasive species removal!

SPACE’s website can be found here: www.spartanburgconservation.org.

Also check out the student-centered Engage Green Webpage.

For any questions about Sam Parrott’s scheduled workshop on campus, about ENGAGING GREEN, or about anything related to SL/CE, please reach out to Dave Marlow, Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement.

Edit 11/14/23: We are happy to share that SPACE had their videographer create an awesome promotional video featuring our students from the October 6th cleanup! Watch the 2-minute video below:

Edit 11/28/23: Our very own USC Upstate photographer Terry Manning has created the following informational and celebration video featuring our Fall 2023 cohort of volunteers as well as words from SPACE’s executive director, Sam Parrott. Thank you, Terry!

Story by Sam Reinhardt, AmeriCorps VISTA Member with SL/CE 2023-2024.

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