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Chattahoochee Rec Area announces plans for a $11.8 million rehab of the Paces Mill Unit

The fog drifts over the Chattahoochee River at Paces Mill. (Photo courtesy of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.)

Summertime is approaching, and for many folks living in the metro area that means it’s time to shoot the ‘Hooch. And one popular stop along the Chattahoochee will soon be getting a facelift.  

Paces Mill Unit, part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA), is a hotspot for folks paddling or floating down the river because it’s the last take-out point within the park. The 14-acre park has become much more popular since it was established in 1978, now bringing in around 270,000 visitors each year, so the CRNRA team has drafted plans for a nearly $12 million revamp of the Paces Mill site. 

The recently released Paces Mill Unit Rehabilitation/Environmental Assessment outlines the proposals for the site, and the plans are now open for public comment. Currently, Paces Mill has a few trails and boat ramps, but the new plans aim to enhance the space and its connection to the river.

The new design includes river overlooks, trail connections, a visitor contact station, a river amphitheater and a parking lot.

The drafted plans for Paces Mill. (Photo courtesy of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.)

The current parking lot is the first thing visitors see, which faces flooding issues and doesn’t accommodate the high volume of river-goers. A new parking lot will be paved to address these traffic issues, and the current parking lot will be restored into a Piedmont prairie.

The current entrance to Paces Mill versus the new proposal. (Photos courtesy of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.)

A Piedmont prairie, CRNRA Superintendent Ann Honious explained, is created with plants that are native to the Piedmont region. Under the new design, the flourishing meadow will be the first thing visitors see, paired with educational placards about the role of these native plant species in the local ecosystem.

Paces Mill has several trails, including Rottenwood and Bob Callan, but the area is also covered with social trails worn down over time, with many visitors seeking routes down to the river.

It’s clear to the team that visitors want more access points to the river, so the plans also include two new river overlooks, improved boat docks and a river amphitheater. The construction is designed to have minimal impact because most Paces Mill lies within a flood zone.

While many folks visit Paces Mill for recreation — like kayaking or tubing — Honious added that other visitors seek a space to sit and relax, a respite from the bustle of the city.

“When I walk on the trails, I see people that have slid off the trail and are sitting on rocks along the edge of the river, just enjoying it,” she said. “So I think that space is something that a lot of people look for.”

The new amphitheater, overlooking the Chattahoochee, will offer a space to do just that and can also be used for local programs and events.

A rendering of the Visitor Contact Station. (Courtesy of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.)

“[The amphitheater] could be an opportunity for small programs or if someone wanted to do music there,” Honious said. “It’s an amphitheater without a stage; the stage is the river. It’s looking at places for people to sit and enjoy that opportunity to view the river.”

Paces Mill will also have a new open-air visitor contact station with information about the unit and the larger Chattahoochee Rec Area.

The CRNRA team is working on the rehabilitation project in partnership with the Cumberland Community Improvement District (CCID). CCID is made up of 190 commercial property owners who pay additional property tax within the Cumberland area, and those funds are leveraged to support infrastructure and transportation projects within the district. 

CCID is leading the preliminary engineering and design process with Barge Design Solutions and is also responsible for securing funding for the $11.8 million project. The team has already secured $1 million in appropriations from Congresswoman Lucy McBath, Congressman David Scott and Senator Jon Ossoff.

“For us and for the park, it’s about protecting this incredible natural resource in our community and enhancing the visitor experience,” CCID Executive Director Kim Menefee said. “The park has been loved, and now we’re going to make it even better.”

If everything goes according to plan, the team aims to break ground on the project next year. Ultimately, the folks involved hope that the new design helps connect folks with the natural beauty and outdoor fun that the Chattahoochee provides. 

“[The plan] brings the park up to current use,” Honious said. “We’ve never had a whole planning effort for one of the units, and this is an opportunity to make it a great visitor experience and let people enjoy the park and this great amenity in the Atlanta region.”

The rehabilitation plans are open for public comment from now until Wednesday, June 8. Click here to take a closer look at the proposed design. 

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native who recently graduated from Georgia State University, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah is excited about the opportunity to serve the City of Atlanta and its people. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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