A network of parks along the Chattahoochee River in Sandy Springs would be created in three concepts presented by city-hired consultants last month. 

“As we all know, the Chattahoochee River is one of the city’s greatest natural resources. However, despite improvements to its use, it’s still an underutilized element in the city,” Carlos Perez of Perez Planning and Design, one of the city’s consultants on the plan, said during a virtual public meeting on Oct. 26 that shared the latest concepts.

Perez said the final vision plan for the river access parks will be completed in December.

The early draft concepts presented during a virtual meeting on Aug. 13 drew mostly favorable comments, he said, though some residents saw parking and development in ecologically sensitive areas as negatives.

Catherine Mercier-Baggett said the concepts are high-level concepts and much work needs to be done before the city can make cost estimates. She said it’s a vision for 20 years or more in the future.

Each of the three parks – Morgan Falls, Roswell Road and Crooked Creek – have proposed trail connections to tie into trails that are part of the city’s master trail plan, she said.

The Morgan Falls Overlook Park would offer river access at the existing park and add the neighboring golf course property and Morgan Falls athletic fields to create a 200-acre interconnected park. (Sandy Springs)

Morgan Falls Riverfront Regional Park

The Morgan Falls Riverfront Regional Park concept proposes creating an interconnected 200-acre regional park. That would include Morgan Falls Overlook Park, Morgan Falls Dog Park, the Georgia Power Morgan Falls Hydro Plant, Steel Canyon Golf Course, Sandy Springs Recycling Center and Morgan Falls Athletic Complex.

The concept divided the project into three areas, including the overlook and two activity areas in Morgan Falls Meadow.

The concept would expand the overlook area and add a pier for more access to the river. Relocating the dog park would enable moving the road and parking areas away from the river. The river edge would be restored with access to the water provided in an ecological sensitive way, he said.

The first activity area concept suggests turning the Steel Canyon Golf Club into multipurpose open spaces and grass meadows. Those would be linked with permeable roads and parking, multipurpose trails, and soft surface nature trails. Plazas and stage areas would accommodate major events. Power lines and the landfill cap restrict tree planting in many areas, so Perez said picnic pavilions were suggested for shade.

The concept suggests enhancing the driving range for socialization and entertainment, expanding the building for a community center.

The second part of the Morgan Falls Meadow and activity area would add dog parks, expand the Sandy Springs Recycling Center to add an educational center, and add nature trails connecting to the Morgan Falls Athletic Area.

One of the Roswell Road Riverfront Park alternatives would use a barge or riverboat to create a commercial space on the riverfront. (Sandy Springs)

Roswell Road Riverfront

The Roswell Road Riverfront concept considers creating a network of nature trails, docks, natural river drop-in areas and river overlooks. These would be anchored by a mixed-use commercial/recreational development where the Metropolitan River Protection Act allows it, he said.

Each of the three alternatives would include a drop-off/staging area and 14 on-street parking spaces along an access lane separated from Roswell Road by a median on its west side. A controlled intersection with crosswalks at Roswell Road and Roberts Drive is proposed. Access to a separately planned pedestrian and bicyclist bridge over the Chattahoochee River would be gained through a multi-purpose trail that would go under the Roswell Road bridge.

Where the plans differ is how the commercial/recreational development would be accomplished. The first alternative proposes a one- or two-story, 3,000-square-foot building. The second alternative proposes docking a river boat or barge along the banks of the Chattahoochee River for that use. The third alternative suggests constructing two buildings three to five stories tall for that use.

The Crooked Creek Riverfront Park would expand on existing park development efforts and allow interconnectivity to parkland in Roswell across the river with a floating bridge and east under Holcomb Bridge Road into Gwinnett County’s park. (Sandy Springs)

Crooked Creek Conservation Park

Crooked Creek Conservation Park’s vision looks to connect four adjacent sites through a network of trails: Crooked Creek Park, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Garrard Landing and Holcomb Bridge Park across the road in Gwinnett County. That would create an integrated 50-acre conservation and educational park, though only one of the sites is city property. The concept builds on the existing trail and parking lot being constructed along Crooked Creek with two river overlook boardwalks.

The concept would add permeable multipurpose trails, nature trails, exercise stations, a floating multi-purpose trail across the Chattahoochee River to connect to Garrard Landing, which is in Roswell, and a pedestrian bridge to connect to adjacent sites. The plan only details the parkland being created in Sandy Springs.

With all the attention on the north side of the city, one person asked if the city had any plans for the south side of the city. Officials said the river access concepts were coming out of city efforts to spark redevelopment in the North End.

“This particular project really was focused on the North End as part of the North End Revitalization effort and in combination with other projects as well,” Mercier-Baggett said. “I don’t think that the south side is forgotten.”

One project that she said will serve the south side is an extension of Buckhead’s PATH400 multiuse trail, which will run along Ga. 400 and someday might connect pedestrians and bicyclists with an extended Big Creek Greenway trail in Roswell.

Patrick Peters, who manages the trail department for Heath & Lineback Engineers, said the PATH400 trail is under design, with parts of the section moving north from the Buckhead area. He said it is being developed and some right-of-way acquisition will soon begin.

“But funding is still to be determined for construction on the extension piece through Sandy Springs,” he said.

Bob Pepalis

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