By Frank Avery
The Daily Gamecock, the student-led newspaper at the University of South Carolina, today released their staff editorial on last night's State of the City address, led by Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. As always, we at EngenuitySC are ecstatic to see student engagement from University students and love that they feel the city is "trending up." However, we were a little saddened to see students still seem to feel Columbia is lacking in "culture." While we are certainly realistic about the challenges Columbia faces, we did want to take a moment to highlight one of Columbia's best resources for the young and talented to engage Columbia's "culture" that may change at least a few minds - Columbia Opportunity Resource, or as, it's more commonly referred to COR (pronounced "core," like how they're kind of the "core" of the City's culture).
COR is a fantastic portal for all things fun and exciting, from events in Columbia like the Indie Grits Festival to the World Beer Festival to Historic Columbia, to the amazing LOCAL restaurants and vendors, like Hunter-Gatherer, Bone-In BBQ, or Motor Supply Bistro, that embody the life-blood of our town. Best of all, it's a great network to meet new people and potential find lasting work with people who care about their community. After all, you're young. It isn't just about finding a job. It's about finding something fun that pays the bills.
So if you're a student who falls into the category the TDG was describing (or you're not, but you want to get even more involved), take some time, check out their website, get on their mailing list, follow them on Facebook or Twitter.
No matter how exciting or vibrant a city may sound, nowhere just hands you the fun and excitement it promises. It takes a little time and effort.
So put a few moments into engaging your city through this fantastic organization. You might be surprised at all the "culture" you will ll find. And I promise, you'll get connected with exciting people and events much more quickly than you will in Atlanta or Charlotte or any other mega-city.
To start you off on your way, Greg Hilton, former chairman of the board for COR, compiled a few recommendations below:
Mad Arts Scene
· Tapp’s Center for the Arts – Where art, creativity, and culture collide
· 701 Whaley
· The state’s best art museum (Columbia Museum of Art) in downtown columbia
· First Thursdays on Main – Arts Crawl, shopping experience, social networking
Amazing Outdoor Opportunities
Lake Murray – One of the largest man made lakes in South Carolina, with coastline stretching into four counties. The local utility built a massive hydroelectric dam and had the forsight to put in a bike and pedestrian friendly segment that is now one of the most popular jogging spots in the City with a 1.7 mile stretch and two publicly accessible parks on either end. A great 5K run with amazing views that make you feel like you are on the coast
Three Rivers – In the heart of our downtown area is the confluence of three awesome rivers, the Congaree, the Broad and the Saluda. The cities of Columbia and West Columbia are (actually) working together to build out more than 20 miles of riverfront jogging and biking trails. A 5 minute jog from downtown and you don’t even feel like your in an urban setting. The city is working to extend those trails up and into the creek system. The three rivers are becoming a magnet for paddlers and those that enjoy a good “tube” float (cooler optional). In fact, Columbia hosts the U.S. Junior Whitewater Championships on the Saluda and Congaree rivers.
World Class Urban Angling
Within Columbia’s city limits is a hidden world-class river system where anglers from anywhere can come and catch the “Saluda Slam”— a trout, a striped bass and a small- or large-mouth bass. People are coming from all over the country to experience this and it is the best kept secret in the southeast (see article: http://www.free-times.com/index.php?cat=1992912064227409&ShowArticle_ID=11012607114126351).
In addition, Lake Murray boast several fresh water tournaments that bring thousands of angling fans into the region every year (American Bass Anglers National Championship) and is said to be one of the best places in the country for Strippers.
Aside from a pleathora of awesome urban green space and parks, Columbia has the state’s only national park in the Congaree National Park…filled with backwater paddling opps, old growth forests, and more wildlife than you can shake a stick at. This city of neighborhoods has invested in world class green space in almost every downtown neighborhood and anchor parks like Earlewood Park are helping to transform dilapidated districts of the city like the NOMA (North Main) district.
· Biking – Columbia has a very long way to go in terms of becoming a bike friendly community, but there are several opps that rock it out. We boast one of the largest military bases on the city’s southeaster edge. This symbiotic relationship has make Fort Jackson a bikers mecca. With the only requirement being your id to get on base, a world of low traffic options opens up for the road biker with 10, 15, 25, and even 35 mile loops where you’ll see a car every 5 minutes or so. On a given Saturday, the base plays host to hundreds of cyclists. The traffic is next to zero, the uphills are challenging, and you can launch from nearby Lake Katherine neighborhood. Don’t forget your identification to get on the base and best times are in the morning.
· Racing – Columbia is catching on to the health vibe…finally but has a long way to go. However, the city does boast possibly the largest Mud Run in the U.S. called the USMC Mud Run Columbia where every year, more than 15,000 racers line up to get man handled by a 5.1 mile course with marines screaming down their throats. It is amazing and is an awesome cause behind which our city rallies (with over 500 volunteers).
A Connected City
· Columbia has more than 10 young professionals organizations (Contempoaries, YLS, Palladium Society, Columbia YP, Lexington Young Professionals (LYP), etc…)
· Columbia has an amazing vehicle for connecting young talent into the fabric of this community in COR | Columbia Opportunity Resource (www.ourcor.org). Columbia Opportunity Resource (COR) connects young, talented professionals in the greater Columbia area to diverse and meaningful networks for leadership, service and fun.
1) Vibrant networks attract, retail and motivate talented people,
2) Motivated and talented people create exciting communities; and
3) Exciting communities continually renew their talent pool.
Our vision is an innovative, energized and successful Columbia community that attracts, inspires, develops and retains the best talent in the world.