Re-imagining the Chattahoochee
A new study offers an ambitious vision to transform the river into a focal point for metro Atlanta that connects communities, provides new places to walk and bike, and improves access to this vital natural resource
The Chattahoochee River is one of our region’s most important natural resources. It provides drinking water for millions, and is one of the Southeast’s premier recreation spots.
The river flows through metro Atlanta for more than 100 miles, from Buford Dam to Chattahoochee Bend State Park.
Along the way, the river showcases our region’s rich diversity, passing by quiet neighborhoods, leafy parks, and bustling job centers.
But in some places, access to the river is limited. Many people feel disconnected from the river and don’t even realize it’s there, except when they drive over it.
Now, an ambitious effort is under way to re-imagine the Chattahoochee’s place in metro Atlanta.
The Chattahoochee RiverLands aims to reunite the river with the Atlanta region and link suburban, urban and rural communities into a continuous public realm that provides new places to walk and bike and much greater access to this vital natural resource.
The Riverlands is a network of greenways, parks, and opportunities to recreate on the water, including defined “blueways” -- all designed to promote stewardship of the river and reveal the natural wonders of the Chattahoochee to all.
The Chattahoochee RiverLands report was developed by SCAPE, an award-winning landscape architecture firm. The two-year-long effort was commissioned by the Atlanta Regional Commission, The Trust for Public Land, Cobb County, and City of Atlanta, and guided by input from local residents and other stakeholders.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the key elements of the Chattahoochee RiverLands Study.
The Chattahoochee RiverLands vision calls for a continuous 125-mile multimodal trail that follows the river and connects 19 cities across seven counties.
It also includes 25 new or improved river crossings and boosts accessibility via 25 new trailheads.
The plan provides much greater access to the water itself via a 104-mile Blueway (think a marked trail, but on the water). And 42 access points – one every two miles on average – make it easier to find places to boat, float, or fish in the river.
Stopping points along the water trail include campsites and picnic areas, directly accessible from the water.
Chattahoochee RiverLands builds upon generations of support and stewardship of the health of both the river and surrounding land. The Greenway will be designed to protect floodplains and sensitive native ecosystems, and the trails and parks will create opportunities for ecological advocacy and science along the banks of the river.
A Living Legacy
The Chattahoochee RiverLands will evolve and grow over multiple generations. The RiverLands will carefully facilitate opportunities for communities and neighbors to interpret and link these sites into a storytelling network that grow and change over time. And it will promote responsible growth that reduces impacts to the river and fosters equitable development.
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“The Chattahoochee RiverLands is a powerful demonstration of what can be accomplished when we work collaboratively and are not afraid to dream big,” said Doug Hooker, ARC Executive Director.
“Bringing this vision to life is far too large and complex a task for any one organization--it will require close cooperation of regional agencies, local governments, nonprofits, philanthropy and residents.”
How does this vision become reality? The Chattahoochee RiverLands report includes several “demonstration projects” that showcase the possibilities.
Demonstration Site: Sugar Hill Trailhead
Potential features of the Sugar Hill Trailhead, located at the northernmost entrance to the RiverLands, include a new boat ramp, kayak storage, a bike-ped bridge across the river, and overlooks to observe and learn about the historic fish weir at Bowwan’s Island.
Demonstration Site: Proctor Creek Trail Extension
This project represents an important opportunity to bring historically underserved communities to the river and connect communities from Cobb County and City of Atlanta to share the river as common ground.
Potential site features include outdoor classrooms, overlooks, a dedicated bridge for walking and biking across the river, and pedestrian paths along the river.
Demonstration Site: Chattahoochee Hills Riverland Park
This site represents an opportunity to add a large recreational asset to the region that can serve as a model for other park spaces throughout the RiverLands.
Based on stakeholder input, the project envisions a ‘water hub’ at White Oak Creek with a boat ramp and parking dedicated to boat access and elevated structure providing river views, and an event space and nature center.
The Trust for Public Land will champion the effort to realize the Chattahoochee RiverLands vision. The non-profit organization will coordinate with and collaborate with local governments and other partners to help these groups execute RiverLands projects within their geographies.
A steering committee called the Chattahoochee Working Group will continue to coordinate ongoing communication, advocacy, and fundraising. ARC will encourage partners and leaders across the region to help bring this transformation project to life.
The effort will require collaboration of communities up and down the Chattahoochee. And it won’t happen overnight. Consider it a generational project, an aspiration for a new metro Atlanta where the river plays a more vital role in our lives.
Images are courtesy of the Chattahoochee RiverLands.