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Residents question proposed rerouting of Big Creek Greenway in west Forsyth

WEST FORSYTH — A proposed alternate route for the fifth phase of the Big Creek Greenway has upset some Forsyth County residents who thought the issue had been settled six years ago.

During a recent meeting, the Forsyth County commission heard from about a dozen speakers on the proposal to shift part of the greenway extension between Kelly Mill Road and the Sawnee Mountain visitors’ center.

The segment in question, about a mile in length, would run from Chamblee Gap Road to Canton Highway (Hwy. 20).

Under the current plan, the popular pedestrian and bicycling path would pass in front of homes on Valley Lane and Mountain Valley Circle, before cutting through a wooded area to the highway.

The alternate route would take the trail behind Conley Drive along the city of Cumming’s sewer easement and a creek before reaching the highway.

The current route would pass in front of homes in the Mountain Valley Estates subdivision, while the alternate would cut through lots in both Mountain Valley Estates and the nearby Dyer Farms subdivision.

“There are benefits and concerns on both routes, frankly,” said Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt. “Both routes will have some nearness to structures. Both routes have the potential to be disturbed by maintenance of either waterlines or sewer lines.”

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 near Johnson Road, remains under construction. Work began in November 2013. As of Tuesday, no completion date was available. 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.

On Thursday, many of those who opposed changing the fifth phase pointed out that the county chose between the two routes in 2009. At that time, a petition was brought to the commissioners, asking them not to move forward with what has since become the alternate route.

“The proposed route … we got a petition together, because the residents of Mountain Valley did not want the line coming through,” said Jan Wilson.

“It’s 10 feet from some people’s front door, it’s 10 feet from some people’s back door. I don’t understand why we’re back at this again.”

Several speakers also spoke out against the current route or suggested eliminating the fifth phase.

The general points seemed to be: it wouldn’t be a nature trail, because it would cross in front of houses; it could lower property values; and it would draw strangers to the area.

In addition, a few residents had only recently learned of the greenway extension.

“The first time I heard about the [current route] was about six months ago,” Phillip Joyner said. “Unless you’re going to put a 10-foot high wall with barbwire around it, I don’t want to see either line.”

As in the past, Commission Chairman Pete Amos recused himself from the discussion as the route “may or may not” cross through land he owns.

However, his wife, Catherine Amos, suggested during the meeting that officials should reconsider the greenway extension.

“I appreciate the challenge of trying to find a way to get a trail through a subdivision or a place where people live,” she said. “I don’t know of anywhere else on the trail that it goes between two houses.

“I certainly don’t have a plan how to get to Canton Highway from Chamblee Gap Road, but maybe another route could be [considered].”

The matter will be revisited Oct. 27, after the commission voted 4-0 — with Amos recused — to move its decision to that date.