The Town of Fort Mill is grieving the loss of its most celebrated environmentalist and philanthropist, Anne Springs Close, who died Aug. 20, 2021 at the age of 95.
Mrs. Close is remembered as a hands-on member of the community, from her charitable efforts with the Springs Close Foundation to the fitness programs and equestrian camps she participated in at the Anne Springs Close Greenway. She is also known for her many contributions to the Town, including the dedication of Walter Y Elisha Park and the donation of the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex, which is now operated by the Upper Palmetto YMCA.
Anne Springs Close’s love of the outdoors was fostered as a child by a governess who encouraged her to spend as much time as possible outside. She grew up with a love of hiking, swimming and horseback riding. She attended Fort Mill schools, and further schooling in Charleston and Virginia. She later attended Smith College in Massachusetts.
Her life was filled with momentous accomplishments, including being a passenger on one of the German zeppelin Hindenburg’s last flights, being selected as an Olympic torch runner in 1996, and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro three times.
Conservation, recreation and environmentalism were important parts of her life and she regularly helped foster those elements throughout South Carolina with the help of the Springs Close Foundation. But the accomplishment she is most well known for is the creation and preservation of Fort Mill’s Anne Springs Close Greenway.
“My desire to conserve the land grew over time as I watched area farms get swallowed up by development and disappear,” Close said in a 2017 story written by Domtar. “I decided then to find a way to preserve some land so other children could play in the woods as I did as a child.”
When asked why her family decided to preserve 2,100 acres of family land to create the Greenway, she said they had long been active in conservation issues. The family announced the creation of the Greenway on Earth Day in 1990 and opened it to the public on Earth Day in 1995.
The greenway is used for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and fishing, and as a classroom for students and campers. It also links to the Palmetto Trail, which is another project she supported connecting the state’s mountains to its beaches through a 400-mile-long walking trail.
Close was known as a hands-on member of the greenway, having directed summer equestrian camps, riding lessons, fitness programs and programs for handicapped members of the community. She also promoted conservation through many roles, including as director of the American Farm Trust, chair of the National Recreation and Park Association Board of Trustees, and on the Board of the National Recreation Foundation, among many others.
Close remained active for most of her life, and continued biking, riding horses and swimming during her later years. She always encouraged others to get back to nature and experience the world outdoors.
“Being outdoors and surrounded by natural beauty helps to keep people grounded, healthy and strong, both mentally and physically. By getting people out here on the Anne Springs Close Greenway and appreciating it as children, hopefully as they grow up, they will do what they can to preserve it or it’ll be gone,” she told Domtar in 2017. “The rhythms of nature are so important. Looking at those little glass cell phone boxes is not enough. Your imagination grows when you’re outdoors. I hope to inspire people to do their part to help conserve our Earth.”
In that same interview, she said she was pleased about the legacy the Greenway would leave Fort Mill.
“I don’t know what programs will be here 20 years from now, but I can die happy knowing that the Greenway will always be green. The land trust has strict guidelines as to what can and can’t be done, so I know it will always be undeveloped,” she said.