The complete guide to the Chattahoochee River

What is the future of the Chattahoochee River?

Chattahoochee Future Map
Proposed project areas

Illustration by Joel Kimmel

Connecting more people to the Chattahoochee is not a new idea. The Trust for Public Land has helped buy more than $150 million of land in the hopes of creating a 180-mile greenway between Helen and Columbus. But developers move faster than government and nonprofits, and the southern stretch of the river has been crowded with industry, warehouses, and utilities. Here are two smaller-scope projects—and one big one—for that segment.

Chattahoochee Riverwalk
The details: Along this roughly 17-mile stretch of the river, Atlanta and Cobb County want to build a bike trail and a new pedestrian bridge spanning the water near I-285.
The players: Atlanta and Cobb want grant funding to conduct a study on the idea first pitched in the 1990s by the PATH Foundation.
What’s next? Acquiring the needed right of way. Lincoln Terminal Company wants to turn 42 acres of a former brick company adjacent to the river, which boosters envision becoming a park, into a freight terminal.
Cost: Building a trail near the river costs roughly $2 million per mile, and the bridge could add $4 million to the tab, experts say. Project leaders have not identified funding.
Timeline: If leaders support the vision, says Ed McBrayer of PATH, “a 10-year time line is not unreasonable.”
Odds: With two PATH trails in the works nearby, the effort has momentum. Atlanta’s next mayor will decide whether it is worth pursuing.

Chattahoochee Now
The details: A 5,000-acre, 53-mile park from Atlanta to Chattahoochee Bend State Park dotted with mixed-use, public art, and nature areas—plus 20 new access points to the river.
The players: Atlanta BeltLine visionary Ryan Gravel and Serenbe developer Steve Nygren are among the heavy hitters leading the vision.
What’s next? Fifty-three miles includes a lot of land—and property owners to convince.
Cost: The project is in its early phases, so no estimates are available. Much will depend on planners’ and property owners’ ambitions.
Timeline: See above
Odds: Starting small with places to fish, paddle, and see the river could coax cities, counties, and property owners to jump on board.

Proctor Creek Greenway
The details: Parks and a seven-mile path hugging long-neglected Proctor Creek stretching from the Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside Trail in northwest Atlanta to the river.
The players: Project boosters include Debra Edelson, who helped build New York’s Highline, and former Atlanta Brave Mark Teixeira.
What’s next? Nearby residents and activists, well aware of the BeltLine’s effects on property values, are leery of displacement.
Cost: PATH, which has partnered with Emerald Corridor to build the trails, puts the price tag at $11.5 million.
Timeline: Officials expect to finish construction in June 2020.
Odds: Bet on it. Construction on the first two miles begins this summer.