By Amy Wenk

Education has bridged what has seemed a difficult impasse.

Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, fourth- and fifth-grade students from the gifted classes of Tamera Neal and Angela Wilson at Tritt Elementary School in Cobb County visited Morgan Falls Dam. The purpose of their trip was to gain real-life experience for a class project about constructing bridges.

“It just turned out to be the most wonderful experience,” said Linda Bain, executive director of the Sandy Springs Conservancy.

For several years, the Conservancy has advocated for a pedestrian and/or bicycle bridge across the Chattahoochee River. The crossing would connect planned riverside parks in Sandy Springs to the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area’s Hyde Farm, Johnson Ferry and Cochran Shoals National Park units in Cobb County.

Public hearings were held last year to collect public input, but the project has since been put on hold.

“There was an extraordinary pushback from people in Cobb, saying they don’t want a bridge,” Bain said. “A lot of it was around the idea of bicycles.”

She was excited when she heard children from Cobb County were interested in learning more about Morgan Falls and the proposed bridge. The class project uses the Conservancy’s 2003 feasibility study and challenges students to come up with their own solution for the proposed crossing.

“I love the idea of thinking about a common boundary and the fact that it doesn’t need to be a boundary,” Bain said. “The whole history of the river valley was one. The river wasn’t as much as an impediment as it seems to be now.”

During their Morgan Falls visit, the Cobb students were split into three groups that alternated between three experiences.

“It’s learning at its best,” said Phillip Hibbert, parent of fourth-grader Kristin who chaperoned the school’s visit to Morgan Falls.

The children listened to speakers including historian Kimberly Brigance with Heritage Sandy Springs and architect Tim Fish, a Conservancy board member who explained the inner workings of bridges.

Students also toured the Georgia Power hydroelectric plant at Morgan Falls.

“They all thought that was the coolest thing,” Bain said.

Lastly, a group went down by the river to look at where they wanted to construct their bridge.

“It’s really cool,” said fifth-grader Brian Daniel. “We never knew what the landscape was like we were going to build on. It’s cool to see it in person.”

Bain said she would like to develop the program into the curriculum of middle schools in Sandy Springs.