Saluda River Access at Riverbanks Zoo
Last week Congaree Riverkeeper met with Riverbanks Zoo administration to discuss the issue of river access and the zoo parking lot. The zoo laid out their plan, the basic components of which are already in place. The zoo will place a movable barricade somewhere in the upper end of the parking lot allowing parking for that day’s projected visitors. As long as we park within the approved area and not beyond the barricade river users will be allowed to park in the zoo parking lot and can access the river from there. Keep in mind these parking spaces will be first come first serve and there is no guarantee that spaces will be available. The zoo officials said they believe concentrating parking in the center part of the parking lot where there are more cameras and zoo personnel present should reduce the illegal and undesired activities that occur there. Zoo officials also said that if conditions improve certain restrictions currently in place, such as towing cars after 7:00 p.m. could be relaxed to better accommodate responsible river users.
It is still unclear at this time how the success of this plan will be measured. Congaree Riverkeeper will continue to try and work with the zoo as they evaluate this strategy and as they develop a lasting parking plan.
The long-term solution for improving river access and public safety on this portion of the Lower Saluda River is to build the zoo section of the Three Rivers Greenway with a parking area for greenway and river users and ensure that it is adequately patrolled by law enforcement. This should be a priority for the City of Columbia, the Riverbanks Zoo and the River Alliance.