By Amy Wenk
amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

Trees along Lake Forrest Drive were removed in early June to make room for new sidewalks.

It didn’t take long on June 10 for Alex Lemus with Green Leaf Landscaping to cut down a hardwood tree off Lake Forrest Drive.

Lemus perched near the treetop with only carabineers, rope and ground-level lookouts to prevent his fall. With a steady hand he cut huge limbs in mid-air with a chainsaw that hung on a rope, sending crashing tree branches for his coworkers to chop up below.

Eleven trees were cut down that week along Lake Forrest Drive to make room for new sidewalks, said Dion Thornhill, project manager with Urey Companies.

The city of Sandy Springs is constructing sidewalks on Lake Forrest Drive to provide crucial connections between residences, businesses, a park and a school, said Deputy Director of Public Works Jon Drysdale.

“Lake Forrest is a narrow road, and cars go fast on that road,” Drysdale said. “People who didn’t walk along it before, now will.”

In early June, the city began working to build a half-mile of new sidewalks on Lake Forrest between Northwood and Hammond drives.

Workers help remove trees on Lake Forrest Drive. New sidewalks and street lights will give pedestrians better access to Lake Forest Elementary School and to Allen Park.

Motorists can expect lane closures on Lake Forrest Drive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until August, Drysdale said. The project should be complete in September, he said.

“As we are building a sidewalk along the west side and there is not much room to work, we will need to close a lane frequently,” Drysdale said. “We are encouraging the use of alternate routes during the weekday during this construction period.”

The new sidewalks will give pedestrians a much-needed route to Lake Forest Elementary School, which is bounded by Lake Forrest Drive and Sandy Springs Circle. Since the school was built in fall 2008, parents and students have had to walk to school along a worn path just inches from the road and passing traffic.

The sidewalks also will provide easier access to Allen Park.

Funds for the sidewalk project were allocated in the city’s 2008 and 2009 budget.

But the nearly $1 million project was delayed for nearly two years because the road has a narrow shoulder and some steep banks, which presented obstacles when designing the project. The sidewalks also will lie near a stream, which required the city to obtain a stream buffer variance from the state. That process took months.

Part of the project will build barrier walls along the sidewalks, Thornhill said, to prevent erosion alongside the road’s steep banks.

Street lights will be installed to light the paths of pedestrians such as backpack-toting kindergarteners, sweaty soccer players from Allen Park, nearby homeowners and others who care to stroll down Lake Forrest Drive.