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Atlanta's Next Big Trail Could Be On the Chattahoochee as Work Starts in Cobb County

Thu May 04, 2023 - Southeast Edition #10
Georgia Public Broadcasting & Cobb County

Officials broke ground on a 2.5-mi. section of a pedestrian and bike trail along the Chattahoochee River near Mableton. (Cobb County Government photo)
Officials broke ground on a 2.5-mi. section of a pedestrian and bike trail along the Chattahoochee River near Mableton. (Cobb County Government photo)

Local, state and federal officials broke ground in late April on the first segment of what some are envisioning as a 100-mi.-long trail along the Chattahoochee River in the Atlanta area.

The ambitious larger project is called Chattahoochee Riverlands. According to Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), the trail's supporters have their eyes on eventually connecting Buford Dam at Lake Lanier to Chattahoochee Bend State Park near Newnan along a green, riverfront path.

But that could take decades to accomplish.

So, they are starting off small with a 2.5-mi. section in Cobb County, from Mableton Parkway to Veterans Memorial Parkway.

The kickoff event for the trail's construction in the county attracted a large crowd to Riverline Discovery Park in Mableton, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, a demonstration of the work's importance to a regional trail network along the river.

Ossoff praised the start of work on the pathway, before adding, "Ultimately, this is about families across the metro region who can take advantage of this extraordinary natural resource."

In her remarks, Cobb County Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid described the project as "a truly equitable transformation for this part of the metro region."

The county's Chattahoochee River Trail Pedestrian Improvement project is geared to provide connectivity to future tributary trails planned along nearby Mableton Parkway and Nickajack Creek. It will eventually be part of the regional Chattahoochee RiverLands project, linking trails to other parts of metro Atlanta.

In Phase I, Cobb County's Discovery Park will see improvements in the form of both paved and unpaved trails between Mableton Parkway and Veterans Memorial Highway. Phase 2 includes bridges across Nickajack Creek and connectivity to other future trails, according to a news release on the county's website.

New Pathway Could Be as Popular as Beltline

George Dusenbury is working to advance the trail projects, both large and small, as the Georgia director for Trust for Public Lands, a national nonprofit.

He compares Chattahoochee Riverlands to Atlanta's popular pedestrian and bike greenway, the BeltLine, which also started with a short, two-mi.-long section.

"When you talk about something as grand as a 100-mile linear park with a trail and increased access to the river, you need to give people a sense of what that looks like," Dusenbury told GPB.

He recalled that when the BeltLine's first paved section, the East Side Trail, opened in 2012, it became an instant hit, attracting development and funding to extend it.

The BeltLine is now scheduled to encircle Atlanta's urban core completely by 2030.

But will the long-neglected "Hooch" trail prove to be as attractive?

Dusenbury thinks so.

"Part of this is bringing people to the river and allowing them experience it the way they want to," he explained. "So, you'll see more coffeeshops, perhaps a brewery, and a barbecue joint to really bring people to the river."

The section in Mableton is expected to cost $44 million, funded both by private and public sources.

That includes $2.5 million in federal transportation dollars earmarked by Georgia members of Congress, including Ossoff.

"Quality of life was one of my top priorities when I ran for office," said Monique Sheffield, the Cobb County commissioner representing District 4, who touted the trail network as a boon to both residential and business developments in the area. "This project will improve our quality of life by providing access to one of Georgia's greatest natural resources."

The Chattahoochee RiverLands project is a cooperative partnership with the county, Atlanta Regional Commission, Trust for Public Lands, and the city of Atlanta. The first section of the Chattahoochee River Trail Pedestrian Improvements project in Cobb County will demonstrate the goals and strategies of the broader project.

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