Three potential sites picked for public access to the Chattahoochee River have been presented to Sandy Springs’ North End Revitalization Advisory Committee as a means to help stimulate development in that section of the city.

The city has quietly sought to access, connect and “activate” the riverfront between Johnson Ferry Road and Holcomb Bridge Road, Catherine Mercier-Baggett, sustainability manager for the city, told the committee during a virtual meeting on Aug. 13. The goals include building upon the city’s Trail Master Plan and is intended to implement the Next Ten land use plans developed for the North End.

The initial concept for improving Chattahoochee River access at Morgan Falls includes additional trails, establishing conservancy and park areas and ramps to access the river directly. (City of Sandy Springs)

“This idea of a connection with the river is not new,” she said.

The biggest determination of what can be done is the Metropolitan River Connection Act, which passed into law in 1973.

“The intent is to make sure any kind of development that happens within 2,000 feet of the river will take into account the environmental impact,” Merier-Baggett said.

Staff picked three sites to consider for improved river access: Morgan Falls, which includes parkland within city limits and outside city limits that is part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (NRA); north Roswell Road on both sides of the bridge to the city of Roswell; and Crooked Creek Park, west of Holcomb Bridge and the most environmentally sensitive of the three sites.

The city began analysis and mapping for the project in mid-November. Preliminary concepts were created starting in June up until the committee’s meeting. The city seeks public engagement online at through Aug. 23 to gain input for final concept plans.

As the committee discussed redevelopment ideas for North End shopping centers, consultants said the project might serve as a catalyst to encourage redevelopment.

“That’s absolutely something that could change the market on the North End,” said Geoff Koski, president of the Bleakly Advisory Group.

Morgan Falls

The Morgan Falls site has the most developed greenspace, including Morgan Falls Overlook Park and the Steel Canyon Golf Club. Connections to the trail master plan would include a boardwalk. And the trails would tie back to Roswell Road to increase access.

“After speaking with the golf course, we determined that we wanted to keep it open for now,” Mercier-Baggett said.

Some riverfront developments by other communities that were studied kept their golf courses, while others repurposed them. Another option would be to convert it to a nine-hole course, she said.

North Roswell Road

This site is closest to one of the four shopping center sites the city wants to see redeveloped to revitalize the North End.

“It has the potential to tie in with the North River concept,” Mercier-Baggett said.

Sections of the riverfront land are environmentally sensitive, she said. A connection was added to the concept plan to connect to the proposed trail in the Trail Master Plan that leads to conservation property,” and also to the future bridge that will connect us to the city of Roswell.”

Crooked Creek

The site near the far northeast corner of Sandy Springs is notable in that most of the land already is publicly owned. A parking lot is under construction at the site.

“But we have faced some challenges on putting a trail there because of how environmentally sensitive it is,” she said.

A conservation park is the best possible use, staff said. A portion of land connecting to Spalding Drive might accommodate more use, she said. Otherwise, any trails must have a light footprint.

Most of the land is owned by the Chattahoochee NRA, including Holcomb Bridge Park and sections of the parkland in Sandy Springs across from Garrard Landing, a city of Roswell park.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.