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Governments scramble to make Big Creek Greenway whole

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Big Creek Greenway Union Hill

Cyclists navigate a turn near the Union Hill trailhead of the Big Creek Greenway. A portion of the trail just beyond the trailhead to MacFarland Parkway is currently closed for repairs which are expected to be completed by the end of the year, weather permitting.

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Spanning more than 20 miles from Roswell to the Sawnee Mountain Preserve in Forsyth County, the Big Creek Greenway connects thousands of people in Metro Atlanta.

After years of steady progress, the City of Alpharetta finally, if not temporarily, closed its chapter on the Greenway in June with the last leg of its trail completed near the border with Forsyth County.

It took the city almost three years and $11 million to complete the final 2.8 miles of trail running from Marconi Drive north to Union Hill Road. The final link into Forsyth County will have to wait because of road widening work along McGinnis Ferry Road.

Big Creek Greenway is officially a big deal

Alpharetta took the initiative in July to build a makeshift Greenway connector to the county line, extending about 800 feet.

Alpharetta Parks and Recreation Director Morgan Rodgers said the connection took city workers about a week to complete, and it ended up costing the city almost nothing.

“It was a very timely and a very cost-effective temporary connection,” Rodgers said. “We’re real proud of the Public Works folks for thinking outside the box, or, in this case, off the trail.”

Alpharetta gives nod to revised Greenway link to Forsyth County

Alpharetta Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz told the City Council in July the makeshift connection would cost about $275,000. But it turned out, his department was able to lay the path using asphalt millings donated and delivered to the site by a contractor for free. Millings are the debris left after a road is prepared for resurfacing, and they are usually discarded.

In this case, the Public Works Department applied a bonding agent with the millings to form the temporary path, suitable for feet and bicycles, but not durable enough for motor vehicles.

The McGinnis Ferry Road widening project is well over a year away from completion, but when its time comes, the temporary connection will be removed, and a permanent link will be placed.

Of Forsyth County’s roughly 15 miles of completed Greenway trails, 3 miles are currently closed to the public for repairs.

“It’s a trail system that weaves its way through nature,” Forsyth County Assistant Director of Communications Russell Brown said. “Here in Forsyth County, it goes along swamp lands, wetlands, a lot of trees. So, as you can imagine, over time, the wood there on the boardwalk will deteriorate and need some updates.”

The closed portion of the trail runs from south of Fowler Park to north MacFarland Parkway.

Brown said the first section of those repairs which include the trail from MacFarland Parkway to Union Hill is expected to be completed by the end of the year, weather permitting. The repairs have been budgeted $5 million from the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VIII.

The remaining portion is expected to be completed by fall 2022. Bids for the second phase of repairs are currently under review so the funding source has yet to be determined. Both repairs, Brown said, are entirely expected from wear-and-tear.

“Once that opens up, we’re talking connectivity all the way to the northern end of Forsyth County up here in the lake country, so it’s about as beautiful as it gets,” Brown said.

New portions of Big Creek Greenway open

All sections of the Big Creek Greenway in Alpharetta are currently open to the public, Rodgers said.

“The Greenway connects so much of what we in Alpharetta hold important which is greenspace, waterways, community coming together, access for all and inexpensive quality of life,” Rodgers said. “I think that the value of the Greenway falls in its connection and how many people it connects to literally and figuratively.”

Both Alpharetta and Forsyth County use social media and their websites to communicate updates about the greenway with residents.

Reach Sydney Dangremond at 770-847-7404. Follow her on Twitter @syddang_.

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