It has already been a busy year for improvements on the Big Creek Greenway, but there is still plenty to be done.
The greenway, a 7-mile bike and pedestrian path that originally opened in 2009, starts near McFarland Parkway and spans to Bethelview Road. For now. Eventually the plan is to more than double the path’s length and reach Sawnee Mountain.
“The trail will go from the Sawnee Mountain Preserve and will traverse the county all the way down to McFarland Parkway trailhead,” Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt said. “The total length is going to be about 16-17 miles at that point.”
The greenway features a 12-foot wide improved surface, concrete and boardwalk, with 4-foot shoulders on both sides.
Given the length of the trail, it should come as no surprise that there are several ongoing projects to make it a reality, both on portions that are already open to the public and those yet to be explored by residents.
In May, it was announced that two sections of the Greenway would be closed for up to three months. Merritt said one closure is related to the widening of Ga. 400 and its bridge over Big Creek.
“Work is progressing on the lower section, the section there under [Ga.] 400,” he said. “That’s closed to allow the road contractor working on 400 to widen those bridges across the trail.”
The other project will replace about 200 feet of boardwalk and foundation starting at the Union Hill Road trailhead and extending about a half-mile.
“The second area, we have not awarded the contract on that yet, but we have that ready to be awarded, so I suspect that will be awarded soon,” Merritt said.
According to the county, all four of the greenway’s trailheads will remain open throughout these closures.
Work on Phase 4 of the trail began in 2014 and was originally slated to open in 2015, but has long been delayed.
County officials announced in March that portions of the fourth phase had spilled onto private property and that the county settled with the project’s contractor.
Merritt said work could be done soon.
“The contractor is working on Phase 4, working to get that finished up,” he said. “They have made some pretty good progress on that, and they have about 30 more days to finish that work up. If they don’t finish within 30 days, they will probably go into liquidated damages.”
The fourth phase will extend the path from Bethelview Road to the area around Kelly Mill and Johnson roads and will bring the total length of the route to about 9.6 miles.
A slight reroute is also happening due to the widening project on Bethelview Road, which will add a new bridge over the creek.
“It’s maybe less than 200 feet of trail through there that we will be rerouting slightly to not be in conflict with that new [bridge] support column, so that should be a pretty minor diversion,” Merritt said.
Construction is being funded by a parks, recreation and green space bond program voters approved nearly eight years ago.
Though Phase 4 is still ongoing, the county is already working on the greenway’s fifth phase, which will eventually take it all the way to Sawnee Mountain.
“We are working with our surveyors and our engineers to survey the routes that have been approved by the Board of Commissioners,” Merritt said. “That information is due to go to the engineers later this month. Then the engineers will work on the last part of the alignment, the slopes, the crossings, those type things.”
As part of that phase, the county is working towards a new trailhead across from Spot Road Connector.
“We are in the due diligence period, and we are working toward a closing,” Merritt said. “I would suspect that the closing would occur sometime within the month of June.”
Earlier this year, the commission approved altered plans for the fifth phase to avoid denser residential areas on Mountain Valley Circle and
Valley Lane or Conley Drive, which had been part of previous plans.
Under the current version, the route will avoid both neighborhoods and travel farther down Canton Highway before reaching Spot Road Connector.
From there, it will travel to Spot Road before ending at the mountain. It originally would have reached the mountain directly from Spot Road.
The fifth phase will add an additional 5.5 miles.
Work along Canton Highway (Hwy. 20) will likely wait until the road is widened by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Phase 5 is also funded by the park’s bond.