Chattahoochee River poised for rebirth
A largely abandoned corridor snaking through Atlanta. Industrial sites that have treated the corridor more as a dumping ground than an asset. Sparsely used rail lines serving one or two customers. For decades, Atlanta has turned its back to it.
The above corridor is not the Atlanta BeltLine, but the Chattahoochee River. And like the BeltLine, the Chattahoochee River is poised for rebirth.
The rebirth started in 1972 with the creation of the Metropolitan River Protection Act, which established development guidelines meant to protect the river that provides 70% of metro Atlanta’s drinking water.
The effort took off in the 1990s with the formation of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the launch of the Chattahoochee River Land Protection Campaign. The Riverkeeper has spent more than two decades fighting to improve water quality in the river – to tremendous effect. Today, the river is cleaner than it has been in decades, perhaps a century.
The Chattahoochee River Land Protection Campaign, led by The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy, acquired land along the Chattahoochee as a means of preserving water quality, preventing future degradation of the landscape and ensuring access to the river. 18,000 acres and 80 miles of riverfront have been preserved.
Much of this preservation has taken place in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area (CNRA), which contains one out of every five park acres in the 10-county metro region. The National Park Service, Chattahoochee Parks Conservancy and Chattahoochee Nature Center work with cities, counties and the state along a 48-mile stretch of river that annually attracts 3 million people (like Duane “The Rock” Johnson) to hike, kayak, float and fish (the Chattahoochee is the only top trout stream to flow through a major American City).
As the Chattahoochee flows out of the CNRA and through the perimeter, trout give way to twenty-pound striped bass and the riverfront becomes more industrial. As the crow flies, it is only 7½ miles from Atlanta City Hall. It is here that the river is being reborn.
Cobb County is building a five-mile multi-use trail along the river, and plans a bridge spanning the river at the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Proctor Creek. The City of Atlanta has invested millions of dollars cleaning up and creating public parks in the Proctor Creek watershed – and is busy building a trail that will connect the Atlanta BeltLine to the River. It also is looking to increase public access to city-owned land along the river.
Chattahoochee Now, Riverwalk Atlanta, The PATH Foundation and The Trust for Public Land are working with the City, Cobb County and others to create a park and greenspace plan along this eight-mile stretch of the river, much like TPL’s Emerald Necklace vision for the Atlanta BeltLine.
Just as the BeltLine has redefined in-town Atlanta, the Chattahoochee can redefine metro Atlanta. In so doing, we will create a public greenway and blueway that is the pride of Atlanta – and Georgia – for generations to come.
Georgia State Director,
The Trust for Public Land