By Amy Wenk

amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

Four options for the proposed bridge across the Chattahoochee River below Morgan Falls Dam were presented at a community meeting June 17 in Sandy Springs, ranging from doing nothing to building a bridge to accommodate both bicyclists and pedestrians.

The strong public response to the bridge proposal led to the specially scheduled meeting at the North Fulton Service Center. An April 30 meeting at the Chattahoochee Nature Center was supposed to be the only public discussion about the bridge until the fall, but the National Park Service added the June meeting and extended the public comment period to July 16.

“We are taking comments to assist us in the decision-making process,” said Dan Brown, the superintendent of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. You can submit comments by mail (Superintendent, Chattahoochee River NRA, 1978 Island Ford Pkwy., Atlanta, Ga. 30350), e-mail (chat_superintendent@nps.gov) or the Web (parkplanning.nps.gov).

The bridge would connect the planned Morgan Falls River Park in Sandy Springs with National Park Service property in Cobb County. The Cobb land includes Hyde Farm, which officially opens in August.

The National Park Service is working with Cobb and Sandy Springs on preliminary plans for the estimated $1.2 million project, although funds are not yet allocated.

An environmental assessment is being conducted to determine the use of the bridge for pedestrian and bicycle access and to evaluate possible trail connections north to Hyde Farm and south to Johnson Ferry North park on the Cobb side of the river. The Sandy Springs Conservancy is funding the assessment and hired Jordan, Jones & Goulding to conduct the work.

About 100 people attended the initial meeting April 30, and 156 public comments have been collected since. Roughly 60 percent (94 comments) favor building a bridge to connect the two communities, while approximately 27 percent (42 comments) oppose the project. Twenty people did not specify a preference.

Of the comments in support of a bridge, 74 percent (70 comments) favor pedestrian and bicycle access. Nearly 12 percent favor a pedestrian-only bridge, and about 14 percent did not specify a preference.

The purpose of the June 17 meeting was to present the four project alternatives and gather more input from citizens.

The first option is for no action, meaning no river bridge would be constructed. The public would be allowed continued use of the informal trails along the Colonial Pipeline easement, which follows the west bank of the river south to Johnson Ferry North park. Pedestrians would be given access to the old farm road at Hyde Farm as well. Five bridges would be built over former irrigation channels along the pipeline easement for public safety and resource management, especially to assist lawn mowers.

The second alternative would construct a bicycle/pedestrian bridge that would connect to 8-to-10-foot-wide trails made of a crushed aggregate material like slate. The paths would be open to cyclists and people on foot. It would follow the old farm road, which would be improved, and the pipeline easement south. This alternative also calls for the five bridges along the easement.

The third proposal draws on the second and allows both pedestrian and bicycle access. But it requires cyclists to dismount for about a third of a mile along the Hyde Farm entrance road and the old farm road that connects to the lower fields. This alternative was suggested to preserve the historical setting at Hyde Farm.

The final option would allow only pedestrians on the bridge and trails, which would be dirt paths 4 to 6 feet wide. The same trail connections are proposed here, as well as the five bridges and improvements to the old farm road.

Under all alternatives except the no-action choice, the bridge across the river would be built with a low-profile design. It would be as far north as possible, close to the Department of Natural Resources boat ramp. All bridges, including those along the pipeline easement, would be 10 feet wide and constructed of weathered steel.

After the comment period closes July 16, Jordan, Jones & Goulding will analyze the impact of each alternative on soil, water, air quality, animals and vegetation. If there are significant issues, an environmental impact study will be necessary, lengthening the process.

A third public meeting will be held, most likely in September, when a preferred alternative and study results will be presented. A 30-day public comment period will follow.