A proposed plan for a trail system in north Forsyth that connects many of the area’s natural amenities, including parks on Sawnee Mountain, Lake Lanier and the Etowah River, is being developed, and residents recently had a chance to check it out.
Recently, Forsyth County officials held an open house to let members of the community give their input on the proposed plan. Information gathered from attendees will be considered in the plan before it eventually comes to county commissioners for approval.
District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills – whose district will contain the majority of the trail, along with Districts 1 and 5 – said it was important to have a plan in place before development came to north Forsyth.
“This is, to me, the important part about the trail: it gives north Forsyth something south Forsyth has – and they desire and they use it a lot – in the Big Creek Greenway,” Mills said. “Without adopting a plan, you don’t have anything to go to development as it comes in and ask for right-of-way acquisition for the trail, perhaps help from the developer to be able to do some of the trail.”
In a nutshell, the plan would connect Matt Community, Six Mile, Central, Coal Mountain, Poole’s Mill, Eagle’s Beak, Charleston parks and the Sawnee Mountain Preserve, which would serve as trailheads.
“We tried to save money by using existing features,” Mills said. “Like Eagle’s Beak Park has a big parking lot and a bathroom, then going next to Matt Park and trying to link and use as many features as we have in place so you don’t have to build more.”
According to information at the meeting, the plan would cost about $74.5 million and total 30.4 miles. The current proposal is both cheaper and shorter than a 2018 proposal that would have been about 70 miles – a total of 93 miles including spur trails – and would have cost about $357 million, which Mills said the 2018 proposal spent money on “bells and whistles we were not looking for.”
She said at the meeting she heard from nearby residents who both wanted the trail closer to their home and those who wanted it further away.
“At the meeting, Etowah Trails came out in big numbers … and they came out saying, ‘We do not want the trail next to us,’ which they had done that [previously] for the Big Creek Greenway when it extends north; they didn’t want that either, so we changed it,” Mills said, “but River Rock was there, and if you look at [one] option, they have a new section of their subdivision that is being built [near trails] right now; Fisher Homes is doing it, and [residents] very much want it.”
The meeting was heavily attended by residents in the area.
“Our house may or may not be a part of the plan, so we just wanted to see how close it may be,” resident Gabe Nurmi said. “It hasn’t been determined yet, but I like the overall thought of a greenway, as long as it is planned out well and is well thought out and they get a lot of good community support and feedback.”
Residents TJ and Monica Larson said they live off Hwy. 369 and regularly travel to the Big Creek Greenway because they find it safer than running around the neighborhood.
“I’m just really excited to hear about any expansion because I travel regularly to the greenway 30 minutes one way, so it takes an hour out of my day to go work out,” Monica Larson said.
“There are no sides to the road around here, so you’re constantly hopping a ditch and spraining ankles to not get hit by a car,” said TJ Larson. “So the best option for us is the greenway.”
Current plans show a “369 Spine Trail” that would have a path along the roadway. Mills said while there is little desire to go beside the heavily-traveled road, she is hopeful a path could be added near the roadway once the state widens it.
“As roads are widened, they will put in more multi-use trails within that road system, so we’re actually trying to contemplate some of that and have access to connectivity with those roads as they expand,” Mills said, later adding, “Hopefully, whenever GDOT decides to widen 369, they’ll have either a multi-use trail or a widened sidewalk that will be able to do that and will be a good spine for the trails going north or south.”
Mills said those with input for the plan could send comments to her email at email@example.com.