Ty Houck has been the Director of Greenways, Natural and Historic Resources for Greenville County Recreation District since 2007 after holding another dream job as a park manager of Paris Mountain State Park, where, as he describes, he had the whole uniform, the whole Smokey the Bear thing, the whole nine yards. With a sense of humor and an ability to transfer energy like a leaf does when it synthesizes oxygen from the sun, Houck offers insights on the ins and outs of Greenville’s happy trails.
Hop to It// Ty Houck, Greenville’s go-to greenway guy, is all about creating a sense of community around the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail, including the upcoming corridor from Cleveland Park to CU-ICAR.
So, forgive me, but I must ask if you have seen the show Parks and Recreation? >>
Yes, everyone asks. (laughs) Before it came out, the entire industry was getting excited. Nationally, everyone was getting together having these watch parties, and it was like, ‘Okay, this is going to be really cool, we’re going to kind of get our day in the sun.’ Then we quickly realized it was The Office kind of humor . . . The funny thing is I feel an obligation to watch it! I flip through shows every once in a while and I do catch things that [actress] Amy Poehler is doing . . . talking about doing these community meetings . . . so there are nuggets in there that’s like, ‘Yes, they’ve got that spot on.’
You’re a good sport, I can tell. Speaking of sports, I would imagine the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail is the crown jewel of Parks & Rec? >> There was a reason I left a fun job being a park ranger at Paris Mountain State Park—knowing that I could be involved in the development. I was on a career track to stay with the state park service and I was enjoying that, but just my personal background [made it more appealing]—and obviously a lot of people share that because it’s the most requested recreational amenity around the country.
Oh, wow, and here we have such an amazing one. >> I like to tell people, I’m just the guy lucky enough with the day job to get to be involved with the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail, but I’m also blessed that we have a community that just makes cool things happen around it.
Yours is such a specific job. You probably could say so much, but what do you love about your job? >> In both jobs what I really enjoyed were those frequent reminders of what I was doing and what I was involved in and that we were impacting people on a very personal-need level.
So the next thing up—the Laurens Road corridor— that’s becoming quite a . . . >> Hot topic?
Yes, that’s the word. What’s happening with it? >> Because of the sense of community that’s been created around the existing trail, there’s so much demand, so this is exciting that this is yet another Swamp Rabbit network. The term “Swamp Rabbit” is an experience. It’s an experience, and so we want to create—and we are creating—a Swamp Rabbit network. The corridor from Cleveland Park down to CU-ICAR is the next opportunity we have because we have a nice long corridor, and we plan to be under construction of that by January 2018.
What can we look forward to? >> It’s going to be a lot of the similar experience because that’s what people expect. That “riding down a tree-lined country road but without any cars.” When people first started riding between Greenville and Traveler’s Rest, they were like, ‘Where am I?’ because nobody went to that part of town in that fashion. You’ll have that same kind of experience. My passion for all this is that people say, ‘Hey, that’s the way I want to get around town.’ It’s not like you have to put the work in to get to the reward—the reward is there the whole time.
Right, and some other facets you’re excited about. >> Campbell’s Covered Bridge and the Poinsett Bridge are some of our iconic historic sites that we manage. You go into them and you can just envision these two farmers passing each other by horse across this creek. I can envision the drovers herding turkeys down to market through the mountains over the Poinsett Bridge. We’ve got cool natural resources right in the county, but if you don’t know about it, [we need] to create an exciting entryway. That’s our responsibility at Parks and Rec—to say ‘Hey, put your toe in the water here.’ If you put a trail right in front of your house, you’re going to start using it. We do that with the trail, we do that with historic sites, and we do that with natural resources. We have such an abundance of all of those, but in a cool community way so we all have ownership of it.