Landmark Vision for Chattahoochee River Released

September 1, 2020

After nearly two years of research, public engagement and collaboration, the Chattahoochee RiverLands Study is complete. More than a trail, the study outlines a network of greenways, blueways, parks and destinations that bring people to the water’s edge, promote stewardship and conservation of the river, and reveal the subtle magic of the Chattahoochee to all.

Gresham Smith is proud to be on the project team led by SCAPE, a New York-based landscape architecture and urban design studio, for a 20-month study of a 100-mile section of the Chattahoochee River between Buford Dam and Chattahoochee Bend State Park. The goal of the study is to reunite the river with the Metro Atlanta Region and link suburban, urban and rural communities into a continuous public realm. The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) oversaw the publicly funded project along with The Trust for Public Land, the City of Atlanta, and Cobb County.

In August, the board of the ARC formally adopted and approved the plan. Next, The Trust for Public Lands will champion the effort and coordinate with local governments and other partners to help these groups execute the RiverLands project within their communities.

“This landmark study highlights the exciting opportunity we have to make the Chattahoochee more accessible and inviting to all residents and visitors to the greater Atlanta area,” said Jody Braswell, Georgia state transportation leader at Gresham Smith. “Gresham Smith engaged leaders from both our Transportation and Land Planning markets to lend our expertise to creating a new legacy for the Chattahoochee River for future generations to enjoy.”

As The Trust for Public Land continues to build support for executing the plan, the most immediate next step for the vision could be implementing the RiverLands Pilot Project. This project is rooted in the vision and goals of the larger study, and it will test and demonstrate design strategies to be employed over the entire 100-mile study area. The concept is a 2.4 mile mostly multimodal trail on Cobb County-owned land along the west bank of the river. The trail provides direct access to the river as well as a nearby park, and it includes a bridge over Nickajack Creek and an elevated boardwalk to facilitate movement over wetlands. This part of the trail presents opportunities for gathering and socializing as well as educational programming in an outdoor classroom setting.

“What we heard from the pilot project steering committee is a desire to prioritize direct access to the river but keep the feel of walking in the woods,” said Erin Thoresen, senior transportation planner at Gresham Smith. “The group identified a new ‘Cobb Beach’ at the confluence of Nickajack Creek and the Chattahoochee River as an emerging social hub for the site. This exercise really illustrates the opportunities and challenges of this project, and it will serve as the first step toward implementing the vision.”

To learn more about the RiverLands study, including a history of the area, an overview of the study, preferred alignments, design strategies and recommendations, read the full report online at