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West of Buckhead, 'Riverwalk Atlanta' has Great Potential

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On the topic of game-changing ideas for Atlanta's outdoor landscape, lest we forget the "Riverwalk Atlanta" project, which remains under-the-radar despite its potential for Beltline connectivity and riverfront leisure. The vision: A 100-acre-plus park on the Chattahoochee River, just west of Buckhead, with the repurposed Harstfield Incinerator site perched at the main entrance, all buzzing with activity. We haven't heard much from the Riverwalk Atlanta folks in recent months, but any ATL outdoor enthusiast should hope that work is occurring behind the scenes right now. Like the potential Westside parks, this undertaking is in initial phases. But unlike the others, it has substantial cash flow and federal backing. And it could be a direct route from intown Atlanta to the Silver Comet Trail.

Back in November, project officials announced that (take a deep breath) the National Park Service Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance group (exhale!) had chosen Atlanta to receive Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Program pilot funding and technical assistance to develop the project. The American Society of Landscape Architects first pitched a similar vision called the "Chattahoochee Riverway Project" back in 1997. Since 2011, a group called Riverwalk Atlanta Inc. has been working to advance those ideas.

The grant announced in November totals $275,000 over three years, including matching funds of $75,000 total from the City of Atlanta. The initial grant phase will cover an "intense feasibility study in historic northwest Atlanta" to plan for the development of a localized group called Groundwork Atlanta. To that point, officials added:

"The study will identify short- and long-term projects that integrate environmental education and job training while reclaiming derelict lands for parks and recreation. The funding also will provide for organization building, allowing Groundwork Atlanta to collaborate with stakeholders and attract funding for project implementation, management, design and construction, fundraising and support for maintenance."

Plans include an amphitheater and activity area at the incinerator site, as well as the "Chattahoochee River Trail" first envisioned by the PATH Foundation in 1992. Officials said that trail would be the backbone of Riverwalk Atlanta and the connection between the Atlanta Beltline and Silver Comet Trail in Cobb County. Yes, please.

[Photo/rendering via Riverwalk Atlanta Inc.]