Outdoor Enthusiast Connects SC Communities Through Palmetto Conservation Foundation

After working in the outdoor retail industry for more than 40 years, Jim Kelly retired and moved to the mountains with his wife. A resident of Upstate South Carolina since the 1960s, he loved the outdoors and all of the natural resources the area offered. When Jim realized the Palmetto Trail ran right past his new home, he began hiking on it regularly and noticed it often needed maintenance. Jim reached out to Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) and volunteered to help maintain the trail, and ended up turning his passion for the outdoors into more than just a hobby.

PCF is a statewide organization dedicated to conserving South Carolina’s natural and cultural resources, preserving historic landmarks, and promoting outdoor recreation through trails and greenways, including the Palmetto Trail. Founded in 1989, the organization helps communities throughout our state grow and prosper while maintaining local character and quality of life. PCF familiarizes visitors and residents with the natural adventures the Palmetto State has to offer by hosting educational programs and activities that encourage people to explore nature and learn new outdoor skills.

Jim initially began working with PCF as a volunteer and now serves as the organization’s Assistant Upstate Trail Coordinator. He is responsible for trail construction and maintenance. Most of his time is spent trimming weeds and picking up fallen brush on open passages, in addition to clearing and flagging new passages. Jim also coordinates Upstate volunteer efforts, leads hiking trips, and promotes the Trail at speaking engagements.

“Having been an active hiker in this region for a long time, I was aware of the Palmetto Trail but hadn’t really spent a lot of time on it,” Jim said. “I’ve always enjoyed hiking, but didn’t realize how much effort goes into keeping the trails open. It’s a lot of work, but at the end of the day I feel really good about what I’ve done.”

After retiring, Jim hoped to find more time to hike and enjoy the outdoors. Working with PCF has allowed him to do that and more. Spending time on the trails not only lets Jim enjoy nature while doing some of his favorite activities, it also makes him feel good inside and out. “I’ve benefitted a lot from spending time on the trails,” Jim said. “It’s good for the mind and body, and it gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing I’m helping.”

Jim is eager for others to discover the healing powers nature offers. Through PCF’s programs, he’s able to share his passion by helping others learn about and experience the outdoors.

“PCF gives back to the community by providing instructional opportunities that help people develop new skills and participate in activities that keep them healthy,” Jim said. “It’s important to get outside and be active. The nice thing about the trail is the variety of terrain – there’s something for everyone, no matter your level of expertise.”

Jim looks forward to working with PCF to expand the Palmetto Trail across the State, connecting South Carolina from sea to mountains. “It’s not just a trail – it’s a link between communities,” he said. “By establishing complete passages and making them accessible to everyone, PCF provides a continuous link from the Lowcountry to the Upstate and ties together different communities and historical, cultural and natural areas.”

For more information about PCF, visit www.palmettoconservation.org.

Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County, the Hollingsworth Funds, the Jolley Foundation and The Graham Foundation. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages professional development for Together SC. As an advocate for the nonprofit community, regularly Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She has served on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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