Five outdoors projects in metro Atlanta tentatively win $9.5 million in state funding
By David Pendered
Five projects to improve access to the great outdoors in metro Atlanta are to share in up to $20 million in funding the state has tentatively awarded to conservation and outdoor recreation projects.
The potential recipients in metro Atlanta include:
- South Fork Conservancy: Confluence Natural Trail Network and Blueway, $950,500;
- Trees Atlanta, Inc., Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and the PATH Foundation: Atlanta BeltLine Westside Extension Trail, $1 million;
- The Trust for Public Land: Chattahoochee Camp and Paddle Trail, $2.26 million;
- Forsyth County: Eagles Beak Park, $2.25 million;
- City of Johns Creek: Cauley Creek Park Development, $3 million.
These grants remain tentative at this point. Recipients still have to complete another step in the process before the awards become final. By May 30, the proposed recipients must submit what’s called a “second level application” to ensure they comply with the Georgia Environmental Policy Act of 1991.
This step establishes that a project will not have adverse impacts on the environment or other sensitive areas. The purpose of the two-step application process is to remove the burden of completing an environmental checklist for applicants whose projects don’t gain initial approval.
Questions in the second level include: “Will the proposed action involve disturbance of any historic property?; Will the proposed activity alter coastal sand dunes?; Will the action occur in a ‘wetlands’ area?”
Sally Sears, founding executive director of the South Fork Conservancy, said Saturday she hopes the conservancy’s grant will win final approval from the board that oversees the Department of Natural Resources. The money will help complete projects that aim to help visitors to the urban trail system enjoy an experience once reserved for more remote areas.
“We will be able to do in Atlanta what you used to have to drive to do – wet a line and launch a kayak in a Georgia river,” Sears said. “These dollars will help remind Atlantans of the beauty of the outdoors, like our Georgia relatives have long enjoyed outside metro Atlanta.”
The state funding is coming from a funding mechanism Georgia voters approved by an overwhelming margin in November 2018.
With 83 percent of the vote, voters authorized the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act. To put that victory in perspective, voters passed the lottery for education with a 52 percent favorable vote.
The vote established the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program., which is the state’s first source of dedicated funding to conserve land and support local parks and trails. The state law provides that up to 80 percent of the state sales and use tax collected on the sale of outdoor recreation equipment is set aside for purposes including: “stewardship for state parks, state lands, and wildlife management areas; support local parks and trails; and protect critical conservation land.”
In a statement, DNR Commissioner Mark Williams observed:
- “This program is a dynamic and lasting initiative for the future of conservation in Georgia. We look forward to working with state and local partners to increase recreational access and protect critical conservation areas. We are excited about these projects and the potential impact on the communities across Georgia.”
Descriptions of the five projects to win tentative funding in metro Atlanta follow. A list of other tentative winners is available on the statement from DNR, available here:
- South Fork Conservancy ($950,500) plans to create, “2-miles of nature trails in the heart of Atlanta, connecting four regional trail networks and 25 acres of greenspace. This project will enable hundreds of thousands of residents within a 10-minute walk of the trail to enjoy new outdoor recreational opportunities in some of the most park-deficient neighborhoods of Atlanta.”
- Trees Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and the PATH Foundation ($1 million) plan to construct, “the Atlanta BeltLine Westside Trail Extension to the Silver Comet Trail. The project will help close the gap between downtown Atlanta and the Silver Comet Trail, while also addressing fragmented wildlife habitat in an urban environment by extending the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum.”
- The Trust for Public Land ($2.26 million) plans to create, “a 48-mile long camp and paddle trail on the Chattahoochee River. Funds will be used to install three rustic campsites within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area boundary to enable multi-day paddling trips.”
- Forsyth County ($2.25 million) plans to create, “a 225-acre outdoor passive recreation space along the biologically diverse Etowah River. This project will serve as a recreation corridor for residents and visitors, featuring a large greenspace area, ADA-approved play park and extensive trail system marking the historical Trail of Tears.”
- The City of Johns Creek ($3 million) plans to develop, “the 200-acre Cauley Creek Park located on the Chattahoochee River between Abbotts Bridge Chattahoochee River NRA and National Park Service land. The funds will be directly used to develop the park into a community destination that both serves the local population and encourages visitation by providing nature-based recreational opportunities such as hiking, biking, fishing and wildlife viewing that are not presently available in the area.”