A proposed bridge at Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in the Atlanta area is stirring debate among local residents and government officials. Among the issues is the perceived potential for increased mountain bike use on and off of area trails.
The bridge for pedestrians and cyclists in the Morgan Falls area would connect heavily populated northern Fulton County, on the east side of the Chattahoochee River, with Cobb County on the west side of the river. At present, there is no bridge spanning this section river for several miles. If you aren't familiar with the area, a park overview map will help orient you to the terrain.
The proposed bridge would provide a connection between national and local park property on both sides of the river. As part of the project, the NPS would create connecting trails among its other riverfront parcels. Dan Brown, superintendent of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, is quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “This is not going to be a bridge to nowhere.”
Officials in Sandy Springs, where the eastern end of the bridge would be located, have been supportive of the plan. A local non-profit group, the Sandy Springs Conservancy (SSC), has completed a feasibility study and conceptual design for the bridge. According to information on the group's website, the bridge will
• create a regional recreation hub at Morgan Falls for walking, hiking, bicycling, fishing and boating.
• connect the planned riverside park [on the east side of the river] to the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area's Hyde Farm, Johnson Ferry, and Cochran Shoals
National Park units in Cobb County [on the west side of the river.]
Under one scenario advanced by the SSC,
the National Park Service will manage the project, apply for a federal grant for construction, own and maintain the bridge. The City of Sandy Springs and Cobb County will provide matching funds for the federal grant. Georgia Power has generously donated and leased land at the project site to the stakeholders.
Some residents and local officials on the opposite, western side of the river, have been less enthusiastic about the idea.
According to a recent story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at least some of the opposition from Cobb County residents involves concerns about mountain bikers cutting trails through wooded areas. “They won’t stay on the trails,” one resident said. “The mountain biker is looking for a challenge. They’ll take off in the woods.” Another resident voiced similar concerns, citing the potential for soil erosion and habitat destruction. “Pedestrians are a different story,” she said. “It’s the mountain bikers that are the issue.”
The park will conduct the first of at least two public meetings about the proposal from 7 – 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, 2009, at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. A park press release notes,
The proposed bridge would connect the planned Overlook and riverside parks in Sandy Springs with National Park Service (NPS) property, including Hyde farm, in Cobb County. The proposed trail connections would originate as a single trail beginning at the Cobb County terminus of the bridge.
The main trail would run approximately 1.5 miles along a maintained Colonial Pipeline easement and connect to existing NPS trails and parking area at Johnson Ferry North. Near the bridge, a second trail would branch off the main trail and connect to an existing dirt road that leads to the terminus of Hyde Road.
This is the first of two public meetings regarding the proposed project. It is intended to be informational, and solicit public input and comments regarding the project. A second public meeting will be held later this year, most likely in September, to review the alternatives addressed in an environmental assessment.
If you are unable to attend the public scoping meeting, you may submit comments or questions on the proposed project by mail to Superintendent, Chattahoochee River NRA, 1978 Island Ford Parkway, Sandy Springs, GA 30350, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next step in the process of building a bridge appears to be building local consensus.