Sandy Springs’ long-stalled plan for a new park called Crooked Creek is reviving in partnership with the National Park Service. The new concept: Crooked Creek Park essentially would become a gateway to a now inaccessible wilderness area of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

The city would still foot the bill – estimated at over $335,000 – and do most of the planning work. In exchange, it would get a direct link to the national park.

An illustration showing a trail connecting the new Crooked Creek Park, at bottom, along the creek to the Holcomb Bridge section of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, at top, and winding through its woodland. (City of Sandy Springs)

The 5 acres of wooded land reserved for Crooked Creek Park sits at the intersection of Spalding and River Exchange drives on the very tip of the city’s eastern panhandle, on the Peachtree Corners border. Its namesake creek runs through the site.

The city bought the land more than four years ago, intending to build what City Councilmember John Paulson calls “an interesting little pocket park” with a trail and benches. It took two years for the park to get an official name, and plans to build its amenities have not materialized, last appearing as a $200,000 wish-list item in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget process.

About a thousand feet up the Crooked Creek sits the Holcomb Bridge section of the National Recreation Area. The national park runs along nearly 50 miles of the river on such scattered, separate parcels. The Holcomb Bridge site is more than 40 acres of woodland lacking a public entrance. It runs along the river between Crooked Creek to the west and Holcomb Bridge Road to the east.

The new concept, presented by city Parks and Recreation Director Michael Perry at the Oct. 3 City Council meeting, involves building a trail from the city park, along the creek, and winding through the national park. Perry said it would be a “walking trail, not a multi-purpose trail.”

The National Park Service “presented an agreement with us to partner on this site,” Perry told Mayor Rusty Paul and the council.

Bill Cox, superintendent of the National Recreation Area, sat in the council meeting’s audience to show support. He did not offer formal comments.

The plan would require gaining trail right of way, by easement or purchase, from the Retreat at River Park, an apartment complex that sits between the two parks.

Bill Cox, the National Park Service’s superintendent of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, listens to the Crooked Creek Park trail concept presentation at the Oct. 3 Sandy Springs City Council meeting. (John Ruch)

Perry estimated design costs at $35,000 and construction at $300,000. City Councilmember Chris Burnett noted that right of way acquisition could require still more money. Perry said the department currently only has about $267,000 available for the project, so further budget discussions would follow if and when a formal agreement is signed between the National Park Service and the city.

Besides allowing connection to its parkland, the National Park Service would provide technical advice on environmental reviews and how to build the trail to its standards.

Perry gave his presentation during a non-voting “work session” of the council, which informally directed him to proceed with negotiating a formal legal agreement with the National Park Service.

Paulson, the main advocate for Crooked Creek Park, said he recently toured the Holcomb Bridge woodland, “and truth is, no one can get to it now … That property up there is undisturbed.” He said he liked the concept of a “small Sandy Springs park that gives public access to the wildlife area” of the national park.

Other governments have green space close by as well, including Roswell’s Garrard Landing Park on the other side of the river, and Gwinnett County’s Holcomb Bridge Park along Holcomb Bridge Road.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.