Friends of the Spanish Moss Rail Trial is a newly formed group to promote the Linear Park between Port Royal and ultimately Yemassee. The rail lines were abandoned when the Port in Port Royal was closed. Beaufort Jasper Water Sewer Authority (BJWSA) acquired the railroad right-of-way from Port Royal, SC to Yemassee, SC in November 2009 for a cost of $3 million to use as a utility corridor. In January 2011, BJWSA granted a surface easement to Beaufort County to develop 13.6 miles of the corridor as a recreational trail.It has a 100 to 200 feet of available right-of-way. The rails and ballasts will be removed by BJWSA to accommodate the construction of the asphalt trail.
BJWSA granted Beaufort County an easement to develop 13.6 miles of the trail from Ribaut Road in Port Royal to the Whale Branch River. The County will focus first on the development of this section. BJWSA granted an 11.8 mile easement to the Trust for Natural Wildlife Habitats to preserve as a natural wildlife corridor between the Whale Branch River and the Town of Yemassee. Extension of the trail north of the Whale Branch River will require coordination with the Trust. The rail corridor south of Ribaut Road in the Town of Port Royal is owned by the South Carolina Ports Authority and is for sale along with the other parcels that make up the 51 acre Port property. The Development Agreement between the Town and the Ports Authority stipulates the development of a new street and trail along the trail corridor that would extend the trail to the site of the former port.
The trail is currently closed to the public. BJWSA is in the process of removing the rails, ties, and ballast and has heavy equipment along the corridor. In addition, the bridges along the trail are hazardous because they lack decking and railings.