Reconsidering Our Relationship with the Chattahoochee River: Where Will We Be in 20 Years?
By Walt Ray, Director, The Trust for Public Land Chattahoochee River Program
“What will the BeltLine look like in 20 years?”
Before The Trust for Public Land commissioned Alexander Garvin’s “Emerald Necklace Corridor Study” in 2004, the BeltLine was a great idea that was gaining momentum, but it needed a concrete plan to pivot from vision to action. That study helped inform the early investments and long-term plan for the BeltLine, which has undeniably reshaped Atlanta.
Today, as our region grows and demands on natural resources increase, we believe the most pressing question is, “What will the Chattahoochee River look like in 20 years?”
That’s why The Trust for Public Land convened the Chattahoochee Working Group, comprised of more than 50 organizations who bring myriad perspectives to envisioning the future of the Chattahoochee River. The group is overseeing the Chattahoochee RiverLands Greenway Study, a $1.5 million study commissioned by The Trust for Public Land, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the City of Atlanta and Cobb County to create a master plan for a public realm spanning a 100-mile stretch of the river, from Buford Dam in Gwinnett County on the north, to Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County on the south. By design, the group is comprised of diverse stakeholders with varied, vested interests in the future of the Chattahoochee. The inherent tension created by those diverse interests is driving a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to helping the metro Atlanta region reconsider its relationship with the Chattahoochee River.
As expected, the process has created more questions than answers. How do we reconcile those varying perspectives and priorities? Can active recreation spaces with athletic fields, walking trails and restrooms along the Chattahoochee coexist with the protection of natural habitat in and around the river? How do we both activate and protect the river when the two ideas may at times seem at odds? What does equitable development along the river look like? What can we learn from the BeltLine’s successes and challenges? How might a popular regional destination along the Chattahoochee River reshape how metro Atlanta develops? What should we consider now to ensure that all benefit from this initiative?
With so many stakeholders and so many questions, one point is clear: to be successful, we must hear from and listen to all of those diverse perspectives.
Eight months into an 18-month study process, SCAPE — a New York-based landscape architecture and urban design studio selected to conduct the study — has interviewed hundreds of individuals and organizations, and has completed an “existing conditions” analysis and literature review. This informed the development of a comprehensive assessment that captures information about the river’s geography, history, cultural significance, ecology, potential for transportation, and beyond. As the Chattahoochee Working Group begins to formulate goals for the Chattahoochee, perhaps the most important question in the process is aimed at the public: What’s YOUR vision for the Chattahoochee River?
Share your answer to that question at an upcoming forum. These free events are open to the public and will include refreshments. Please register and share with friends.
Saturday, June 22, 2019
Northwest Library at Scott’s Crossing
2489 Perry Blvd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Chattahoochee River Environmental Education Center
8615 Barnwell Rd.
Johns Creek, GA 30022
1– 4 p.m.
The Chattahoochee Working Group team also will have a table at the Sandy Springs Lantern “Take It to the River” Parade on Saturday, June 15. Stop by and talk to the team about how to get engaged in the process. And keep up with the latest news on the process and ways to get involved by following us on Facebook and visiting the Chattahoochee RiverLands website.
Walt Ray is Program Director for The Trust for Public Land. He is a landscape architect and planner committed to improving the community in which he lives.