On a recent visit to Sandy Springs’ future Crooked Creek Park, city parks director Michael Perry pointed out the dead trees and overgrowth that will soon be removed in favor of a trail. The city plans to begin construction early next year on a long-awaited trail to activate the undeveloped city park and connect it to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area —though for $15,000 more than previously approved.
The city bought 5 wooded acres at Spalding and River Exchange drives in the panhandle over five years ago to be used for Crooked Creek Park. In 2017, the city announced it would team with the National Park Service to link its park with a currently inaccessible part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area via a walking trail.
The Sandy Springs City Council approved at its Aug. 21 meeting a $54,500 purchase of nearly 2 acres of undeveloped land behind The Retreat at River Park, an apartment complex at 3100 River Exchange Drive, to be used to build the trail. Construction of the trail is planned to begin in spring 2019, said Michael Perry, the city’s director of recreation and parks.
On a recent tour of the area, Perry said the development of the park will include clearing debris on the ground, which is currently overgrown and covered with fallen tree trunks and branches; installing some benches or other seating; and adding a few trash cans. The focus is really on the trail, Perry said, and the park will remain passive without any playground equipment or major amenities.
A previous Leadership Sandy Springs volunteer project has added a short mulch trail into the park.
Getting to the park now is somewhat difficult with a lack of any parking spaces and only a few feet of sidewalk recently built during construction next door. The city plans to add six to eight parking spaces, and more sidewalks should be coming to the area through different projects, he said.
Floodplain restrictions don’t allow any construction of a cement or other hard surface, Perry said, so the trail will likely just be cleared and leveled dirt.
The trail is planned to run approximately 1 mile from the city’s park, behind the apartment complex and up to the Holcomb Bridge section of the National Recreation Area. The national park runs along nearly 50 miles of the river on such scattered, separate parcels. The Holcomb Bridge site is more than 40 acres of woodland lacking a public entrance.
Bill Cox, the superintendent of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, said in an email that he believes working with adjacent cities like Sandy Springs provides “an opportunity to connect people to the natural resources that provide quiet and solitude and improve our quality of life.”
He hopes creating new access, like the Crooked Creek Park trail, will create new advocates for protecting the Chattahoochee River.
“Having opportunities for quiet and solitude in such a densely populated urban area is quite unique and worth preserving,” he said.
The owner of the apartment complex previously was against selling the right of way to the city due to security concerns about the trail, but later changed its mind, according to the city. A city memo about the purchase said the owner now wants a fence installed along the length of the trail inside its property as a “security measure for its residents.” That request will be discussed during the final design process, the memo said.
The land purchase was previously approved by the council in February at a lower cost, but the Utah-based owner of the apartment complex later notified the city that closing costs would be an additional $15,000, Perry said.
“We pushed this along a little quicker than we needed to. We thought we had our bases covered. We did not,” Perry said.
The additional cost is covered in the project budget, according to the city. The approximate budget for the trail is $275,000 to $300,000, Perry said.
Councilmember John Paulson has been the main advocate for the park, and “gleefully” moved for approval. The purchase was unanimously approved by the council.