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Effort to save Greenville’s World War I history seeks 9-month development halt

Aerial view of Camp Sevier. Photo courtesy of South Carolina Room, Greenville County Library System.
Greenville County Library System
Greenville Journal
Aerial view of Camp Sevier. Photo courtesy of South Carolina Room, Greenville County Library System.

There are few places in Greenville County that have played a more significant role in world history than the Mountain Creek area at the foot of Paris Mountain.

Camp Sevier played a crucial role in training soldiers who went on to help win World War I. But time and rapid development in the area are threatening that legacy. A group of local residents are advocating for a development moratorium likely to be considered by Greenville County Council in the coming months.

Read more about Camp Sevier

The former U.S. Army training camp, covering about 1,900 acres, was built in 1917. Young men from the Carolinas and Tennessee formed the 30th “Old Hickory” Division, which subsequently gained widespread recognition for its success in combat in Europe.

The camp’s historical significance and the need to preserve its legacy were the subject of a presentation at Greenville County Council’s monthly public comment forum June 13.

“Camp Sevier is so incredibly important to the Greenville story,” said Don Koonce, a local historian and author. “The memories are all still there. … We need to all be proud of that.”

Koonce told those gathered at the forum that many who served at the camp returned to the area after the war and went on to play important roles in the Greenville community. He said only a handful of the camp’s original structures remain and much of the land has been developed over the years, including the property that became the Pebble Creek community.

Ongoing development pressures threaten efforts to preserve the camp’s story, said Brenda Buchik, a local resident and member of the Camp Sevier Legacy Park Committee.

“A lot of the property in Taylors is also prime development property … and it falls on Camp Sevier property,” she said. “(Identifying a park site) is going to take a while, and hopefully there will be some land left when we’re done.”

Time needed

Securing the time needed to identify a park site is why the Camp Sevier Legacy Park Committee is backing a proposal for a development moratorium in the Mountain Creek area.

In a briefing document submitted to council members as part of the group’s presentation during the public comment forum, the committee argued a moratorium will provide the necessary time to develop an overlay district for the Mountain Creek area.

Such an overlay district could provide safeguards for the types of development in the area. In recent years, residents in the area have expressed mounting concerns about rapid development leading to heavier traffic, diminishing green space and school overcrowding.

A nine-month moratorium measure was introduced to County Council last November by Steve Shaw, whose District 20 includes the Mountain Creek area. The plan was referred to the council’s planning and development committee, where it is being refined and adjusted to make the size of a proposed Mountain Creek Area Plan more manageable.

The matter is expected to be taken up by the full council in the coming months.

This story was filed as part of an editorial partnership between South Carolina Public Radio and the Greenville Journal, which is responsible for its content. You can learn more about the Greenville Journal here.

Jay King is a senior staff writer at Community Journals.