The Other Side of the River: Chattahoochee RiverLands to the east of Cobb County

A sign with a Riverwalk Atlanta logoRiverwalk Atlanta sign (Photo: Larry Felton Johnson/Cobb County Courier)

[Corrections: one error and one clarification were pointed out to us for the article below: One is that it was the Conservation Fund that acquired the Chattahoochee Brickworks on behalf of the City of Atlanta. We originally wrote Trust for Public Land. Also, the six acres on Paul Avenue were not purchased from Georgia Power, but were bought from 18 different landowners over a 6-year period of time. The land owned by Georgia Power is the 20 acres on the other side of the RR tracks, where the trail network was built.]

Our previous articles about the Chattahoochee RiverLands project have focused on the west bank of the river in Cobb County.

But just as important as the network of parks and trails that connect within Cobb County, are the enhanced connections the project is likely to bring with destinations across the river in the City of Atlanta and Fulton County.

So this article will explore some of those destinations.

What is the Chattahoochee RiverLands project?

The Chattahoochee RiverLands is a planned 100-mile-long network of parks and trails running from Buford Dam on the north to the Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County on the southern end.

The project vision page on the Chattahoochee RiverLands website describes the project as follows:

“The Chattahoochee RiverLands will reunite the River with the Metro Atlanta Region, and link suburban, urban, and rural communities into a continuous 100-mile public realm. 

“More than a trail, the RiverLands is a linear network of Greenways, Blueways, parks, and the destinations they create, that will bring people to the water’s edge, promote stewardship and conservation of the river, and reveal the subtle magic of the Chattahoochee to all.”

So what’s going on across the river?

In late March the Courier had separate conversations with two community leaders in the City of Atlanta who serve on the working committee for the Chattahoochee RiverLands project: Jim Moulton, who lives in the Bolton neighborhood, and Keith Sharp, a long-time community activist in the adjacent neighborhood of Riverside.

Both interviews took place at Chattahoochee Coffee Company in Riverview Landing in Smyrna.

Moulton has lived in a number of neighborhoods within the City of Atlanta, including Ansley Park, the Old Fourth Ward, and for the past four years, Bolton.

“Fourth Ward was a very bikeable place, very walkable … everything was active outdoors. Mental health was great because we could get outdoors and not have to get in a car to go somewhere and do the activities of daily living,” Moulton said.

He then described his participation in Connect the Comet.

Connect the Comet

A group of people, one on a bicycle, stand around a table set up on the Silver Comet Trail
Photo by Larry Felton Johnson/Cobb County Courier

Perhaps the most high-impact direct connection linking Cobb County and the City of Atlanta within the scope of the Chattahoochee RiverLands will be a link between the regionally important Silver Comet Trail and the equally important Atlanta BeltLine.

“Before I moved to Bolton, I had been a part of Connect the Comet,” Moulton said. “That was probably seven years ago.”

“Roberta (Cook, the founder of the River Line Historic District), Celeste (Burr, a long-time Cobb County cycling activist), and Keith Sharp were all a part of this,” he said. “And when I moved to Bolton, Keith and I renewed that friendship.”

Moulton said that Sharp had been working on projects along the river, and they began working together.

“I got involved and formed a friends group with Park Pride and decided okay, well now I’ve got a few people working with us.”

“We joined up with the Trust for Public Land and worked on the Chattahoochee Working Group,” he said. “So we have monthly meetings about how to make this better, whether it be Smyrna, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, all the way from Buford Dam and down to Chattahoochee Hills.”

Other projects across the river in close proximity to Cobb County

Moulton said that in addition to Connect the Comet, the group became involved in the Whetstone Creek Trail.

This is a rails-to-trail project spearheaded by the PATH Foundation that connects Marietta Road to Bolton Road with a spur to Adams Street near Bolton Academy. The PATH Foundation posted on its website that It will become part of the Centennial Olympic Park to Silver Comet connection in a few years.

Another project in the planning stages is the historic (and notorious) Chattahoochee Brick Company. The facility, built by a former Atlanta mayor, used forced convict labor to work under often deadly conditions. The Chattahoochee Brick Company was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, by Douglas Blackmon.

The property was acquired by the Conservation Fund and turned over to the City of Atlanta for development as a future park. (see the correction at the beginning of this article).

Sign at the start of Riverwalk Atlanta, a network of trails paralleling railroad tracks at the Chattahoochee River (Photo: Larry Felton Johnson/Cobb County Courier)

Keith Sharp mentioned another project on the border of the Bolton and Riverside communities: Riverwalk Atlanta.

“Yeah, we’ve made significant progress,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces and parts over there.”

“We did a land acquisition along Paul Avenue about six years ago that adjoins the railroad tracks that parallel the river and beyond the railroad,” he said. “That was the land owned by Georgia Power. And it’s on that Georgia Power land that we have created a whole network of trails.” (see the correction at the beginning of this article)

“I’ve been leading first Saturday of the month volunteer groups, for now, eight years,” he said.

The Chattahoochee River seen from Riverwalk Atlanta, looking toward Cobb County (Photo: Larry Felton Johnson/Cobb County Courier)

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Sharp also talked about the Connect the Comet project and said that he expects the issues delaying it will be cleared up soon.

“The PATH Foundation and Cobb County are all teed up to start construction,” Sharp said.

Recently the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Marietta-based C.W. Matthews to prepare a stretch of South Atlanta Road from Plant Atkinson Road to the bridge over the Chattahoochee for a future link between the eastern end of the Silver Comet Trail extension and the City of Atlanta.

Sharp said that it was Cobb County that pushed the envelope on trail networks early in the process of planning for work along the Chattahoochee and that Cobb had approached the City of Atlanta suggesting cross-river connections.

At the ground-breaking for the Mableton Trailhead for the Chattahoochee RiverLands project, George Dusenbury, the Georgia Director of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) had also credited Cobb County for initiating the early discussions. Dusenbury said that Eric Meyer, at the time a manager in the Cobb DOT, had approached him suggesting the TPL’s help in creating destinations around the trailheads on the river.

Meyer had told Dusenbury that the Cobb DOT was good at building the trails, but not as good at developing destinations around the trails.

Possible pedestrian bridge across Chattahoochee

Sharp said that long ago two different planning studies were done for the Proctor Creek Greenway, which included a plan for a pedestrian bridge to cross the river and connect Cobb County to the City of Atlanta.

But there is nothing of that sort currently in the works.

[Editor’s note: I removed a description of the start and end point of the Proctor Creek Greenway because of a discrepancy between the PATH Foundation description and a report from a reader who rode the greenway. After I check it out, I’ll replace the description]

Sharp said the most recent discussions of pedestrian access across the river involved building a walkway onto an existing bridge.

A few photos of Riverwalk Atlanta and the Silver Comet Trail

All photos (Larry Felton Johnson/Cobb County Courier)

The Chattahoochee River from Riverwalk Atlanta
The Chattahoochee River from Riverwalk Atlanta
The railroad tracks running parallel to Riverwalk Atlanta
Cyclist on the Silver Comet Trail in article about Silver Comet Trail reopen
Cyclist on the Silver Comet Trail (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)
Cyclists on the Silver Comet Trail for article about Silver Comet Extension
Silver Comet Trail near Mavell Road (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)
Skateboarder on the Silver Comet Trail at the Nickajack Creek Bridge (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)