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$1.5M Chattahoochee study launches to better connect Atlantans with nature

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New York landscape architecture and urban design studio will conduct 18-month analysis to craft new river vision

A proposed pedestrian bridge over the Chattahoochee River, connecting the Proctor Creek Greenway to the Silver Comet Trail.
A proposed pedestrian bridge over the Chattahoochee River, connecting the Proctor Creek Greenway to the Silver Comet Trail, as unveiled last year.

The dream of a more activated Atlanta riverfront is taking a significant step forward this month.

Proponents of increasing Chattahoochee River access and beefing up the region’s network of bicycling and pedestrian trails have commissioned a $1.5 million study to create a fresh vision for how Atlantans might use the river, which many consider an undervalued resource.

Officials with the Atlanta Regional Commission, The Trust for Public Land, City of Atlanta, and Cobb County government have tapped SCAPE, a New York-based landscape architecture and urban design studio, to conduct an 18-month analysis across a long section of riverfront.

Work is expected to begin this month.

An earlier overview of the river and its proximity to existing and future trails.
Vision 53

With a goal of pinpointing new investments needed to boost public access, inducing pedestrian and bicycle usage, the Chattahoochee Greenway Study will focus on a 100-mile stretch of the waterway from Buford Dam, at the rim of Lake Lanier, down to Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County, officials announced this week.

“The Chattahoochee is one of our region’s most popular recreation spots, but access to the river remains limited in many areas,” Mike Alexander, ARC’s Center for Livable Communities director, said in a press release. “The goal of this study is to make the river a focal point of the entire region.”

SCAPE’s resume includes work in San Francisco (the Public Sediment project); Lexington, Kentucky (Town Branch Commons); and Norfolk, Virginia (Resilience Park).

The firm is “excited to work along the banks and shoals of the Chattahoochee with this collaborative team of regional partners and community groups,” Gena Wirth, SCAPE design principal, said in a prepared statement.

The Chattahoochee Working Group—a coalition of city and county governments, civic leaders, and local and regional nonprofits—aims to help guide the planning process. The study is being funded by public and private sources, per officials.

“As a region, we too often consider the Chattahoochee to be our back door,” added George Dusenbury, Georgia’s Trust for Public Land executive director. “This study will help determine how to make it our front door—a part of people’s everyday lives.”

In Atlanta, the Proctor Creek Greenway opened an initial three-mile segment this year, linking a MARTA stop toward the river. Meanwhile, Cobb County is exploring how to connect the Silver Comet Trail to the river at two locations, while advancing plans for a 103-acre riverside park with a 1.5-mile trail.

A comprehensive greenway concept for the ’hooch is a “generational investment,” Tim Keane, Atlanta Department of City Planning commissioner, stated in the release.

“Protecting the Chattahoochee and making public spaces along its edges is the next major step in connecting people with nature,” said Keane.