Though the first trail isn’t expected to be completed until mid-2022, the city of Sandy Springs has taken some big first steps in its trails master plan.

“I’m thrilled with the plan, and what I want to know is … can we do this faster?” District 6 City Councilman Andy Bauman said. “... If we say it so and lay the ground work … for a faster pace, I think we’ll have the overwhelming support of the community.”

At its meeting Oct. 15 at City Springs, the council voted 6-0 to approve the master plan. The city’s preliminary findings determined it hoped to have 17 miles of trails once its mission is accomplished. But because comments taken in person at an open house meeting in June and online via email and the city’s website were “overwhelming(ly) in support” of Sandy Springs’ trail system, said Mike Perry, the city’s parks and recreation department director, that number has nearly doubled.

“We have a recommendation for 31.4 miles identified for trails connected to 12 schools and 15 parks and greenspaces,” Perry said. In a previous interview with the Neighbor, he said the plan’s total cost is estimated at $142.6 million.

The council also voted 6-0 to approve the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program grant pre-application, which would pave the way for the city’s first/model trail project, the Marsh Creek Greenway.

“It’s the one with all the planning already done,” said Catherine Mercier-Baggett, the city’s sustainability manager. “The trail head is behind the tennis center on Abernathy Road and would connect to a park at Aria, a new (residential) development at Glenridge Drive.”

The Marsh Creek trail will be mostly concrete, span 2,000 feet and be 12 feet wide, with a boardwalk and bridge included.

It will cost $3.6 million, with the city chipping in at least $1 million ($750,000 in fiscal 2020 and $250,000 in fiscal 2021) and $342,000 combined from the Sandy Springs Conservancy, the Path Foundation, Morris & Fellows and Westmoreland Co./Trinity Co. The remaining monies could be provided by the state, based on its grant program, and possibly other entities.

“It must be completed within 24 months (from summer 2020), so we’ll be working as quickly and as efficiently as we can,” Mercier-Baggett said. The pre-application had to be filled out by Oct. 31, so it had to be approved by the council Oct. 15 to meet the deadline.

Going back to the master plan, all four of the residents who spoke about it during the meeting’s public comment portion were in favor of it, though two had concerns. One asked whether or not the neighborhoods’ homeowners associations would be informed about any right-of-way acquisitions needed for the trails.

Another objected to the proposed trail head at the YMCA athletic fields near Windsor Parkway, arguing it would bring more traffic from neighboring cities’ residents wanting to use the trails.

District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio said there will be plenty of meetings ahead where residents can provide more input.

“It’s not the end; it’s the beginning,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. “In a lot of ways it’s the beginning of the beginning.”

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