SOUTH COBB — As she walked the trails at Discovery Park at the Riverline on a muggy Sunday afternoon, Christy Dyson said she couldn’t wait to see the park filled out with paths and boardwalks.
The trails at the newly opened Discovery Park at the Riverline in south Cobb are slated within the next five years to be peppered with “nooks” that will be used as gathering places for friends, launch points for kayakers and outdoor classrooms. Boardwalks and bridges would be built on portions of the trails.
All of those ideas, Dyson said, are welcome additions.
“I’m excited about it, because I’m a fitness enthusiast. So I love anything outdoors, and I live right down the street from this project. I’ll be able to do my workout, exercise and sit in nature all at once down the street from the house,” she said, finishing her sentence with a broad smile.
The Austell resident and her daughters, Zoë Thomas and Kris Silien, were among a group of about 20 who took a two-hour tour of the trails along the Chattahoochee River that will be the “showcase” for the larger recreation and education infrastructure that is to come.
The larger Chattahoochee RiverLands project, a collaboration between Cobb, the city of Atlanta, the Atlanta Regional Commission and The Trust for Public Land, would span a 100-mile stretch of the river from Buford Dam in Forsyth County to State Bend Park in Coweta. The ultimate goal is also to connect the trails, the total length of which leaders say will vary as the project evolves, along the expanse to the Silver Comet Trail and The Atlanta Beltline.
Multiple tours of the Cobb portion, called RiverLands Rambles, were scheduled for June, though registrations for the remaining June tours are closed. More tours are expected in coming months.
Fundraising for the $43 million in construction projects and land acquisition on the 2.7-mile “pilot site” in Cobb County, which begins at the Riverview Landing housing and retail complex and ends on the southern side of Mableton Parkway, is nearly half complete between public and private contributions, according to Tres Carpenter, who sits on the project’s steering committee and led Sunday’s tour.
The fundraising goal for Cobb County’s pilot site is $18.1 million in private and $25.3 million in public money. So far, they’ve reached $10 million in private and $14.2 million public commitments.
As he walked along the Discovery Park trails, Carpenter pointed to wetlands, open fields and trenches left by Civil War soldiers, describing what was to come at various points, to the delighted “oohs” and “ahs” of the self-described outdoor enthusiasts in tow.
George Dusenbury, Georgia state director at The Trust for Public Land, agreed with the overall project label of generational undertaking, saying it would take decades to complete. He pointed out that there are many challenges when considering a project that spans seven counties and 19 cities.
But, he said, there’s been an outpouring of support from governments and residents alike.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to show the metro region what the river lands can become,” Dusenbury said. “We have some excellent public partners and some excited philanthropic partners that will ensure we’re successful.”
He said the Chattahoochee River is “an incredible untapped asset,” and “it’s very exciting that Smyrna, Cobb (and) Mableton” will be first to unlock the opportunities it provides.
“Parks improve public health, they help strengthen communities by creating that public sense of space, and then the recreational opportunities are amazing,” he said.
Dusenbury said the Cobb showcase stretch is expected to be complete within five years, “but hopefully sooner.”