The 43o-mile-long Chattahoochee River cuts across a wide swath of northern Georgia, including in and around Atlanta in a southwesterly direction from its source in the Blue Ridge Mountains before forming the southern half of the Georgia–Alabama border and continuing toward the Florida Panhandle to meet the Apalachicola River. While a 48-mile stretch of the river located just north of Atlanta has been designated as a National Recreation Area, an extensive section of the Chattahoochee flowing through Atlanta proper has long been an untapped and unappreciated natural resource that remains inaccessible to many Atlantans, if not overlooked altogether, due to decades of unchecked development and river-adjacent industry. That could soon change.
As recently reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the administration of Mayor Andre Dickens has made big moves in creating new public parkland near the banks of Chattahoochee within city limits.
On March 9, the Mayor’s Office announced that the City of Atlanta had acquired nine acres of land for the Department of Parks and Recreation in the appropriately named northwest Atlanta neighborhood of Riverside, with the goal of developing the city’s first-ever park with direct public access to the Chattahoochee. The new park, dubbed Lower Paul Park, wouldn’t be located directly on the Chattahoochee per se (railroad tracks still separate the park from the river) but it would, for the first time in city history, create a point of access to the river via a dedicated trail.
“Acquiring this land allows the City to provide our residents with public access to the Chattahoochee River and offer needed parkland to the Riverside community—all while preserving beautiful greenspace for future generations,” said Dickens in a statement. “Partnerships between the City and greenspace advocates are vital for our Administration to continue to preserve Atlanta’s open spaces.”
As detailed by the Mayor’s Office, the future nine-acre park is comprised of 17 total greenspace properties assembled over a five-year span and all located within the Riverside neighborhood. This includes three parcels donated to The Conservation Fund by Georgia Power and additional parcels donated by Riverwalk Atlanta.
Lower Paul Park will also serve as a contributor to the Trust for Public Land’s ambitious, river-reimagining Chattahoochee RiverLands project. Per New York- and New Orleans-based landscape architecture and urban design studio SCAPE, which is leading a multidisciplinary design team for the effort, Chattahoochee RiverLands is a vision to “reunite the River with the Metro Atlanta Region and link suburban, urban, and rural communities into a continuous public realm that centers the River as a regional resource.” Over 1 million residents live within 3 miles of an expansive multi-modal linear network proposed by Chattahoochee RiverLands that would include greenways, blueways, and parks with the future Lower Paul Park serving as just one gateway. Joining the Trust for Public Land on the Chattahoochee RiverLands project management team is the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), Cobb County, and the City of Atlanta.
“The Chattahoochee River Greenway Study aims to create a new vision for the river’s future–one with greater public access and new investments to increase bicycle and pedestrian usage,” elaborated the ARC in a comprehensive overview of the plan. “The goal is to make the river a focal point of the entire region, while building on metro Atlanta’s legacy of stewardship of this vital natural resource.”
Details, including specific park features, and timing are still being ironed through a park visioning plan led by the nonprofit Park Pride, “through continued collaboration with other property owners and stakeholders.” But as mentioned, Lower Paul Park is anticipated to include a trail with direct access to the Chattahoochee River as well as a connection to the Whetstone Creek PATH multi-use trail according to the city.