A plan to give metro Atlanta a riverfront is gaining new momentum that may one day bring it to Buckhead.
The city recently committed new funding to the plan, which would add new parks and trails along the Chattahoochee River.
The project, dubbed the Chattahoochee River Greenway, is planned to include new parks, hiking trails, boat ramps, bicycle paths and other amenities along a 100-mile stretch from the Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County up to Lake Lanier, traversing the riverfront through northwest Buckhead and around Sandy Springs along the way.
The city has committed $100,000 to the project as part of needed funding to contribute toward a local match of a $1.5 million Atlanta Regional Commission grant. Cobb County and the Trust for Public Land, a nationwide conservation group, each contributed $100,000 as part of the local match.
The ordinance to commit city of Atlanta funding was led by District 9 City Councilmember Dustin Hillis, who represents the area west and south of I-75.
“I believe that parks, greenspace and trail connectivity enrich the lives of city of Atlanta residents,” Hillis said in a press release. “I’m very excited about this project and our work to preserve this land for public use.”
One of the first developed trails is planned to run from Standing Peachtree Greenspace near Buckhead and the Paces area down to Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in Atlanta’s Westside, Hillis said.
“North of Peachtree Creek, the City of Atlanta border with the river is largely residential developed land, with those homeowners probably unwilling to sell or provide right of way along the river,” he said.
The Trust for Public Land is one of the main drivers and is working closely with the ARC on the project. It’s also working with a coalition of more than a dozen not-for-profit organizations, including the Buckhead-based Atlanta Audubon Society, Park Pride and the Sandy Springs Conservancy, the website said.
George Dusenbury, the director of the Trust for Public Land’s Atlanta office, said that the master plan is planned to be completed in 2019 or 2020 with community meetings held to gather public input.
“To us, this is a transformative project. To accomplish that, we need everybody on board,” he said.
The $1.5 million ARC grant will go toward a study led by the ARC that would create a master plan for the full 100-mile concept and a detailed plan for a 1.5-mile “pilot project” in Cobb County, according to the document. The ARC distributed a request for proposals for the study May 31.
“The Chattahoochee River Greenway Study is an opportunity to reconsider the region’s relationship to the river and create a new vision for the river’s future that will raise public awareness, improve connections and access, identify potential areas for protection or investment, and build on a legacy of ecological conservation and protection,” the RFP said.
The greenway would connect to other already built parks, including the popular Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area parks found along the river from the Standing Peachtree Greenspace up to Lake Lanier.
A similar, separate proposal has been supported by a group called Chattahoochee Now for several years, but its plan focuses on a smaller, 53-mile area. Its focus starts at Standing Peachtree Greenspace down to Chattahoochee Bend State Park.
The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a major advocacy and conservation organization, is serving on a stakeholder group for the ARC study, as well as on a committee for Chattahoochee Now’s separate proposal.
“It’s exciting to see more folks are paying attention to the river area and trying to envision people using it,” said Eric Fyfe, a watershed protection specialist at the Riverkeeper.
The Atlanta City Design, a book detailing plans for the future of Atlanta released in 2017, supports and discusses the park. The book notes that city can take advantage of the mostly industrial uses south of the Peachtree Creek confluence near Buckhead.
“By investing in access and connectivity, along with other strategic interventions, we will create a wild, adventurous riverfront that provides a welcome change of pace in the city,” the book said.