Twenty-six years after the Chattahoochee Riverwalk was dedicated, city officials are very close to completing the broken places along the walking and biking trail from the Lake Oliver Marina to Fort Benning.
Residents have been asking city officials about getting the popular trail connected since it was dedicated in 1992. A $10-million contract with Southeastern Site Development Inc. of Newnan will finished elevations at the North Highlands Dam near the old Bibb Mill and sections of the trail near City Mills along First Avenue at 18th Street.
“Those are the last two pieces we had to complete,” said Rick Jones, director of the Planning Department for the Columbus Consolidated Government. “We hope to open it up by the last of November or the first part of December.”
By the time the two areas are connected with the rest of the trail, Jones said walkers, bike riders and others who want to get outdoors will be able to travel the entire 22 miles from north Columbus to the Army post along the Chattahoochee River.
Jones described breaks in the trail like completing a major highway. “You had to get off of it and get back on,” he said. “Folks are not going to do that. With the opening of the Riverwalk, it’s going to open it up to new development opportunities.”
One of the most challenging areas was building a massive bridge to clear the elevation at the dam. From the top of the dam to the Riverwalk is about a 30-foot drop and the structure had to meet Americans With Disabilities Act standards. Another bridge takes trail users down the north side of the dam.
“You got to get enough height and grade at the same time to get over the top of that dam,” Jones said. “It’s going to work its way toward the back part of the mill itself. “
When asked why the work will take more than two decades to complete, Jones said money wasn’t available. In the early 1990s, the Columbus Water Works came up with the idea to leave a trail after completing mandated repairs to the city’s combined sewer system. Jones said the city found grants and applied for them when possible to continue the trail.
Money for the last two projects came from the Transportation Investment Act and Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by voters.
“It’s been a long time coming but we are trying to get to that point where we are through with it,” Jones said. “We kept our promise on what we told voters.“
When trail users finally get to the top of the dam along the Riverwalk and see the scenic views, I think most may think it surely was worth the wait.
If you’ve seen something that needs attention, give me a call at 706-571-8576.