USC Upstate’s Anonymous Creek Finally Gets ‘Name Recognition’

January 10, 2019 at 10:13 am

A scenic creek that meanders through the center of the University of South Carolina Upstate’s campus is no longer anonymous. USC Upstate is pleased to announce the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has approved the university’s proposal to apply the new name Persimmon Creek to the previously unnamed stream.

The agency said the name has been entered into the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), which is the nation’s official geographic names repository, and is available and searchable online at

“We are so pleased to see our beloved creek finally get the name recognition it deserves,” said Jack Turner, director of USC Upstate’s Watershed Ecology Center, who led the effort to name the creek. “Things with names tend to be more protected than things that are nameless.”

Turner explained the new name is inspired by the persimmon tree, a fruit-bearing species native to the region that grows along the banks of the 1.9-mile creek.

“We thought (Persimmon Creek) was the best reference,” he said. “It’s also a reflection of Chancellor (Brendan) Kelly’s vision for the transformation of USC Upstate.”

Turner was responsible for naming Butterfly Creek, a small spring-fed stream on the city of Spartanburg’s north side that has been featured as part of a major public-private endeavor to rejuvenate the surrounding community. He said his work with that naming project enabled him to become familiar with the process and served as part of his inspiration to do the same with USC Upstate’s campus creek.

“When Jack presented the name to me, he explained that for many years the creek has fed the persimmon trees growing along its banks and those trees have sustained life in the same way that we are trying to feed the Upstate of South Carolina,” said Dr. Brendan Kelly, chancellor of USC Upstate. “It’s really a beautiful and fitting tribute. I commend Jack for his work on this project.”

Persimmon Creek flows generally northeast from the Southern Shops community to its confluence with Lawson’s Fork Creek about 1.3 miles southeast of Valley Falls.

Throughout the years, the creek has been referred to as Pollywood Creek, an unofficial name Turner suspects attached itself to the stream years ago when geographers or developers mapped out the property.

Pollywood Creek has been recorded in GNIS as a variant name, according to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

The creek is a focal point of the university’s Susan Jacobs Arboretum. Created in 2002, the 12-acre arboretum features a dozen gardens that span from Gramling Drive to Hodge Drive, a 300-seat amphitheater, lighted walkways, foliage indigenous to the area, and rows of Nuttall Oak trees that define its north quadrangle.

Named for Susan Jacobs, a 1980 graduate of The Mary Black School of Nursing, the arboretum serves as the center for activity for future campus life and student programs. It provides a place for relaxation, enjoyment and reflection, and for cultural, social, and entertainment events.

In other action:

On Friday, Jan. 4, Spartanburg Water donated $20,000 to the university’s Watershed Ecology Center. Ken Tuck, the utility’s director of water treatment, presented Turner and his team with a check during a brief ceremony at the center.

Turner said the funding will be used to benefit the center’s educational outreach programs. Those programs engaged more than 23,000 local students in kindergarten through 8th grade in 2018, a more than fivefold increase from 3,800 during the center’s inaugural year in 1999. 

“USC Upstate’s Watershed Ecology Center has had a great impact on the community and helped shine a light on our water resources in the area,” Tuck said. “We are pleased to support Jack, his team, and the university with this gift. We know they will be able to do great things with it.” For more information about how to benefit USC Upstate, please call University Advancement at 864-503-5234.