The city of Sandy Springs revealed plans to construct a trail section from Morgan Falls Overlook Park to Roswell Road by way of Orkin Lake as the first step in realizing its Trails Master Plan during a virtual meeting on March 11.

Greta deMayo, executive director of the PATH Foundation, presented the plan. The city contracted with the nonprofit that has been building trails since 1991 for design and construction management for this trail segment.

The first segment of a trail looping around an area that includes Morgan Falls Athletic Fields, Morgan Falls Overlook Park and Edgewater Apartments will include a boardwalk over Orkin Lake south of the apartments. (Sandy Springs)

The foundation worked with the city and the Sandy Springs Conservancy in 2019 to develop a citywide Trails Master Plan. The plan identifies 31.4 miles of proposed greenway trails, side paths and neighborhood greenways, connecting to 12 schools, 15 parks and green spaces and providing connections to neighboring jurisdictions. The 10-year implementation plan includes seven miles of trails.

The first trail section the city plans to construct is a five-mile loop that connects the Morgan Falls Recreation Area to Roswell Road and surrounding neighborhoods using greenway trails, side paths and boardwalks. After that is completed, discussions will resume with Cobb County on a bridge over the Chattahoochee River at Morgan Falls. That looping trail has been divided into five segments. 

DeMayo presented designs for the first segment planned, labeled “segment 2A.” She proposed a 10- to 12-foot-wide multi-use trail designed for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

The city and its partners, the PATH Foundation and the Sandy Springs Conservancy, have divided the Morgan Falls area trail into separate sections and will first construct 2a. (Sandy Springs)

Planners refer to it as a “greenway trail.” The term means trails that are constructed in green areas such as parks, stream corridors or undeveloped land, and that are a minimum of 10 feet wide. Trails in developed areas are created by retrofitting the right-of-way into a side path with a minimum 5-foot-wide landscaped buffer. 

“A greenway trail is for both bicyclists and pedestrians. And it really is a safe experience for both bicyclists and pedestrians to be able to be on the trail together,” deMayo said.

Design and engineering will be finalized this spring, with permitting through summer and into fall, deMayo said. The advertisement for construction bids will go out in fall or winter. Construction could begin in early 2022. It would take 12 months, city spokesperson Dan Coffer said after the meeting.

A feature of this trail segment is nearly 3,000 linear feet of boardwalk over the water on the southern side of Orkin Lake. It will include overlook areas to let visitors step off the main boardwalk and enjoy nature. The boardwalk will rise out of the water on wooden piers with wooden railings. A concrete deck is planned for durability and low maintenance needs, deMayo said.

Bridge Properties, the owner of Edgewater Apartments at 7600 Roswell Road, is working with the city on the project. The company wants to keep the trail on the northern side of Orkin Lake where Fulton County is doing work in a sewer easement.

“We are working with Fulton County with their improvements to the sewer easement in that area, so that we can come right behind them and be able to put the trail in,” deMayo said.

The multi-use trail will leave the lake and connect with Monterey Parkway and on to Cimarron Parkway. To gain the width needed for the trail, the city plans to reduce the width of the two streets from 26 feet to 23 feet. The trail would follow the existing sidewalk route along Cimarron Parkway, including its path along the median and crossing to the other side of the street.

The city does not have construction funding allocated for those trail sections, said Kristin Smith, assistant city manager.

“These would be up for potential general fund allocations moving forward from the mayor and council should they make that decision in an upcoming budget,” she said.

The presentation and a recording of the meeting have been posted online. Public comment is open until March 29.

The first segment of the city’s Trails Master Plan will run from Morgan Falls Overlook Park south along the river, over Orkin Lake on a boardwalk and along two streets to connect with Roswell Road

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