By Amy Wenk
Morgan Falls Overlook Park covers 27 acres at the end of Morgan Falls Road on the edge of Bull Sluice Lake, the portion of the Chattahoochee River above the dam.
“I mean, look at this setting,” City Manager John McDonough said July 9 as he toured the park. “It’s fantastic.”
The city purchased the land, with money from the Sandy Springs Society, from Fulton County after it incorporated in 2005, and first wanted to use it as a dog park. But after clearing the land of bamboo and wisteria in fall 2008, the city discovered the view of the river and decided it would be better suited for people.
Sandy Springs has since spent almost $3.4 million creating the park.
“We have so few parks. We want to take advantage of any greenspace we’ve got,” Dist. 2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries said, adding that only 3 percent of the city’s land is undeveloped.
“The city is built out,” Blake Dettwiler, Sandy Springs’ assistant director of land development, said. “We wanted to make sure to fit as many program options as possible.”
Sandy Springs officials will open Overlook Park to the public on July 28.
Visitors will find a little bit of everything at the new recreational facility, from hiking trails that scale a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River to a spiderlike jungle gym, 300-person open-air pavilion and a circa-1840s chimney.
“I think it is going to be the crown jewel of the city’s park system,” Dettwiler said. “We’re really excited to have this amenity available.”
Overlook Park features a large playground with a springy synthetic turf, a jungle gym shaped like a spider web, slides, swings, monkey bars and more.
The site also has a 3,200-square-foot open-air pavilion, four charcoal grills, picnic tables and a stone fireplace centerpiece.
A floating dock provides kayak and canoe access to the river, and two boathouses are on the site. One will house the Sandy Springs Police Department’s new rescue boat.
A 0.75-mile trail allows people a more natural park experience. The trail winds up the 6-acre bluff at the river’s edge.
“This is an entirely different experience for the parkgoer,” said Linda Bain, executive director of the Sandy Springs Conservancy. The conservancy funded the trail on the bluff and the dock for canoers and kayakers.
Walkers and runners along the trail might spot box turtles, pheasants or snakes and should enjoy the shade of established trees such as tulip poplars, white oaks and hickories.
“It’s like a different world up here,” said Todd Branham of Long Cane Trails, who laid the trails at Overlook Park. During a visit July 7, Branham said the only trees cut down during the process were diseased or posed a risk to parkgoers.
The bluff, like the new park, is on land with a rich history. The site was once a river crossing for Native Americans and became the home of early white settlers.
“It is one of Sandy Springs’ most tangible links with the past,” said historian Kimberly Brigance with Heritage Sandy Springs. “In one spot, we can really see the epic of change in Sandy Springs.”
She said the land once belonged to area pioneer Joseph Power, who deeded the property to son William Power in 1839. Joseph Power built a homestead on the site, but all that remains is the stacked-stone chimney that now stands as a focal point in the park. A fire pit and about 20 porch swings surround the area that overlooks Bull Sluice Lake.
“The historical part of that park is salvaging that chimney,” Parks and Recreation Director Ronnie Young said.
The park will be open from 6 a.m. to dusk, Young said. No swimming will be allowed, he said. People can hold gatherings at the park with special permits available from the city.
“The interest is huge,” city spokeswoman Tisa Moore said.
One thing, however, will not be ready for the park opening: Morgan Falls Road. The narrow road is damaged from park construction but is not an easy or cheap problem to fix, city officials have said. Dettwiler said repairs to the road are scheduled to begin later this year.