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Big Creek Greenway's route to Sawnee Mountain altered

WEST FORSYTH — Just weeks after altering the route for the fifth phase of the Big Creek Greenway, Forsyth County is making some additional changes.

The sixth phase of the project, whose time frame has not been established, will take the popular bicycling and pedestrian path to Sawnee Mountain. However, it will do so on a slightly different course.

During a recent work session, the county commission voted 5-0 to run the route along Canton Highway (Hwy. 20) to Spot Road Connector and Spot Road, before reaching the mountain.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt said the county hopes to be able to work with the state department of transportation on this phase.

“[The new route] basically lies along Canton Highway, it is just to the west side of [it], and that would work in conjunction with DOT as they widen [the corridor,” Merritt said.

“We would ask them to include a wide trail, 10- to 12-foot trail, with improved service as part of their construction.”

The DOT is considering two strategies for the 24-mile stretch of Hwy. 20 between Cumming and Canton: widening the existing route or expanding the road while also constructing localized bypasses around more heavily developed segments.

The process is ongoing and no final decisions have been made. Officials have said construction could start in 2022, with designs targeting growth projections for 2045.

The greenway change was necessitated by adjustments to the fifth phase of the trail.

Last month, the commission voted to shift the route to avoid homes on either Mountain Valley Circle and Valley Lane or Conley Drive, before ending up on Canton Highway (Hwy. 20).

Doing so, however, brought the path farther down the highway. That, in turn, created the issues for reaching the mountain directly from Spot Road, which had been the original plan.

An exact timeline for the greenway’s 5.5-mile fifth phase has not been determined.

The 3.6-mile fourth phase, from Bethelview Road up to Kelly Mill Road near Johnson Road, remains under construction. Work began in November 2013. No completion date has been announced. Officials have previously attributed delays to the weather and redesign work.

The greenway construction is being funded by the parks, recreation and green space bond program voters approved years ago.

The greenway currently runs about 7.8 miles between McFarland Parkway in south Forsyth and Bethelview Road.

Two other routes were proposed for the phase to the mountain, but not adopted.

One route would have taken the greenway along Doctor Bramblett Road to Spot Road, while the other would have connected to it at nearby Sawnee Mountain Preserve.

Commissioners expressed concerns that the Doctor Bramblett route would create another issue with property owners. The Sawnee Mountain Preserve proposal would have involved a steep incline, natural trails and not allowed for dogs or bicycles.