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Big Creek Greenway on track for 2015 opening
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The Big Creek Greenway's expansion is on track to open in 2015. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

One of the advantages of living in Forsyth County is the natural beauty of the area, and the Big Creek Greenway is an opportunity to get a firsthand look at nature.

Soon the greenway will reach all the way to the Sawnee Mountain visitor center, but what’s next?

Forsyth County’s Big Creek Greenway currently extends from McFarland Parkway to Bethelview Road, and is about 6.8 miles. Construction of the trail up to Kelly Mill Road is expected to be completed in early 2015.

“Currently phase three stops near Bethelview,” said Tim Merritt, Forsyth County deputy county manager. “Phase four is what’s under construction now and it will stop on Kelly Mill Road near Johnson Road.”

“Phase four is nearing completion. I expect phase four to be completed up to about [Kelly Mill Road] in probably about two to three months,” he said. “We are still working with the contractor to finish by the end of December, but the contractor is having some delays so it might take a little longer, so I’m saying three months.”

The current phase of the trail started about a year ago, and will extend the trail by about a third of its current length. The construction is being funded by the Parks, Recreation and Green Space Bond of 2011.

“We started work on phase four, which is the phase we’re on right now, in November of 2013, and that’s going to be an extension of approximately 2.85 miles,” said Jodi Gardner, communications director. “In approximately three months or so when phase four is completed, we’ll be up to a total of … 9.65 miles that will be open.”

Once phase four is complete, the county will move onto phase five of the Greenway which will go all the way to Sawnee Mountain visitor center and will extend the greenway to 15.7 miles. Early work is being done on the trail to figure out where exactly it will go.

“It is a phase that we have done preliminary design work on,” Merritt said. “We have had some concerns on some of the routes and some of the details. The board of commissioners have allowed me to work with consultants and engineers to try to improve the design of some sections of phase five.”

Part of the planning of the new trail is getting it to work with other projects in the county, and Merritt said he wasn’t sure when the project would be complete.

“The commissioners have tried to work with developers to incorporate as possible the greenway either in, or near or beside their projects. So we’ve been working to try to do that,” Merritt said. “That’s changed the trail slightly, but overall that route is still pretty well on target.”

Though phase four hasn’t yet been complete, and phase five hasn’t yet been started, the county is looking to the future and what to do after the greenway is finished.

One idea that has been proposed by Forsyth County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills and is still in early concepts is a subarea plan that would extend from around the area of the Hwy 306/Ga. 400 intersection to Eagle’s Beak Park, and there is talk about how to incentivize developers to build trails off that plan to their neighborhoods.

“There is a new discussion that is beginning, and that is just the concepts of a trail system that, I will use the word both extends and crosses this trail,” Merritt said. “Commissioner Mills has looked at this and has understood how much the public likes this; how well it is utilized … she is beginning to look at a small extension and a crossing of a trail way system.”

There is also consideration for the greenway to go south and reach Alpharetta’s portion of the Big Creek Greenway.

“There has been discussion, conceptual talk, about tying a connection from the McFarland Parkway Trailhead down to the adjoining community,” Merritt said. “Our prior parks director Jerry Kinsey and the park director for that community have conceptually talked about doing that.”

Merritt said that the county takes such an interest in the project, because it is so popular with residents.

“I’ve used it. I’ve enjoy it, it’s delightful,” Merritt said. “When I’ve been on it, it’s been very well used.”