Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens signed an agreement that gives three Midlands outfitters access to the zoo's parking lot for river patrons. This decision came after the zoo announced it will build a fence around the lot to restrict access to the river from their parking lot.
"Within the last several years, it has grown in popularity," said Hartley Barber.
Barber is part owner of Get Your Gear On, one of the three outfitters paying the zoo $3.00 for every one of their customers that use the zoo lot for river access.
Barber agrees with the zoo's decision and says in the last two years, the spot has increased in popularity.
Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens CEO and President Satch Krantz said last year 20,000 people parked in their lot to access the river.
"Unfortunately, a certain percentage of those people are down there for the wrong reasons and they have created lots of problems for the zoo and our parking lot," said Krantz, who cited littler, public drunkenness, and public nudity as specific examples.
"I think it's their prerogative. It's their property," said Christopher Bergen, who has frequented the spot for more than 25 years. "Over the years I've seen a lot of things going on in their parking lot that they wouldn't want going on in their parking lot and that they're liable for."
Zoo officials believe a fence will curb the problem and say construction will begin as early as August 1st.
"The thing that's really most important in our eyes is river access," said Barber. "We're going to work with the river keeper to promote the building of the greenway."
River regulars say a greenway on that stretch of the Saluda would at least help increase access to the popular spot.
"It will allow a central spot for the greenway to grow on this side of the Saluda river," said Barber. "It will also allow a police presence and an emergency vehicle presence."
As for Bergen, "I think it's a shame that access will be limited but I think people will make it down here all the same."