College of Architecture, Art and Construction

Landscape architecture faculty team with SCDNR to design a clean future for Bald Rock


Bald Rock Heritage Preserve is well known to Upstate locals for two things: spectacular views and rampant graffiti.

“While hiking, photography and wildlife viewing are compatible uses of the property, the public currently engages with it in destructive ways such as graffiti, litter, cutting down trees for firewood and trampling patches of vegetation on the rock outcrop,” explained Austen Attaway, a heritage preserve biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).

SCDNR acquired the property in 2001 to protect its significant geographic features and rare plant life, Attaway said. Now the agency is developing a master plan to address the mismatch between the preserve’s intended purpose and the way it is currently treated.

It’s a problem that requires a design solution, one which the landscape architecture faculty in Clemson University’s School of Architecture are trained to address.

This is an opportunity for us to contribute, collaborate and give back to South Carolina in a way that is unique to our discipline.

Paul Russell, Associate Professor of LAndscape Architecture

“We’re looking at how do we change Bald Rock from being a destination for graffiti to being a destination for being outdoors with your family and friends,” said Paul Russell, associate professor of landscape architecture at Clemson. He is leading a team of landscape architects—including faculty members Matthew Nicoletti and Lara Browning as well as graduate student Annie Steele—to consult with SCDNR on the master plan.

“As part of the land-grant mission of Clemson, this is an opportunity for us to contribute, collaborate and give back to South Carolina in a way that is unique to our discipline,” Russell noted.

In looking for solutions to improve Bald Rock, the landscape architecture team will review the watershed scale of the property and compare the space to similar properties such as Caesar’s Head State Park and Sassafras Mountain. Their goal will be to recommend the ways in which design choices such as access points, trails and signage can shift the ways visitors engage with the land.

In addition to input from Clemson’s faculty, the master plan study will engage Friends of Bald Rock Heritage Perserve, a nonprofit volunteer service organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing the site. The group’s volunteers regularly plan events for litter pick-up and pressure washing to remove spray paint from the acres of exposed rock on the site.

“This agreement represents the first step toward creative and sustainable solutions for the many issues that challenge SCDNR’s mission,” said Susan Jordan, president of Friends of Bald Rock Heritage preserve. “We are confident that the study will offer designed solutions to deter vandalism, minimize maintenance, enable restoration of plant and animal habitats, enhance the safe public use of the property and protect and preserve the natural resources.”

The master plan study is the beginning of a longer process, and Russell says the goal for his team is to be able to educate SCDNR as a design client, so that when the time is right to make changes at Bald Rock, the agency has the best information possible.

Members of the community interested in learning more about plans for Bald Rock or giving feedback to the study are invited to contact Attaway at or (864) 986-6242. Those interested in supporting Friends of Bald Rock Heritage Preserve’s volunteer efforts can contact them at

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