Buckhead is set to soon be home to the first Chattahoochee River public access point owned by the City of Atlanta. The East Palisades Trail in Whitewater Creek also provides public river access in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
Mayor Andre Dickens and officials from the Trust for Public Land, which is spearheading efforts to create 100 miles of trails and parks along the river, held a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 2 at Standing Peachtree Park to mark the future park amenities and access point, which are slated to open in 2024.
Upgrades and river access coming to Standing Peachtree Park
Standing Peachtree Park, located off Ridgewood Road NW in west Buckhead, will receive a host of upgrades, in addition to serving as Atlanta’s first city-owned public access point along the major waterway.
The Nov. 2 groundbreaking ceremonially kicked off the construction of a new accessible kayak launch, an ADA-accessible pathway to the river, regrading of the access road on the site, and woodland restoration.
“Standing Peachtree is a great amenity for residences there, and this project will highlight the site and bring to the forefront access to the river,” Christine Hassell, Chattahoochee program project manager with the Trust for Public Land, said.
The kayak launch site will be along Peachtree Creek, Hassall said, allowing kayakers and others to acclimate to the water before the creek quickly meets the Chattahoochee.
The site will be far more manageable to reach.
“Right now if you want to kayak, you have to navigate a pretty rough, rutted, dirty and muddy road all the way down to the confluence of Peachtree Creek and the [Chattahoochee],” she said. “It’s quite a haul. And depending on the water level, you might have to navigate some steep, rocky grade to get into the water.”
The upgrades proposed for the project will bring the launch point closer to Standing Peachtree’s parking area, and the gravel pathways will be compacted and graded to ADA requirements, “so everyone can get access to the river,” Hassall said.
The city and Trust plan to cut the ribbon on the park’s upgrades, and thus open the Hooch to residents, in late summer or fall of 2024.
Other amenities could be coming further down the pipeline, Hassall added. The Trust for Public Land is also exploring a potential trail directly to the Chattahoochee River and repaving the park’s road.
Public access point marks a significant milestone in the river’s history
The Chattahoochee River is a staple of the Atlanta area and far beyond. Following decades-long efforts to clean up the river, Mayor Andre Dickens highlighted the significance of the city’s first public access point in Buckhead.
“In my first State of City address, we announced that we’re taking the city to the river, and with this acquisition we’re providing the vibrant parkland that Atlanta deserves,” Dickens said. “We’ve come a long way from a river that used to be a public health threat to recognizing the Chattahoochee River as a special gift that has been given to us.”
George Dusenbury, Georgia state director with the Trust for Public Land, said the groundbreaking at Standing Peachtree “marks a huge step forward in providing connectivity to one of the region’s most popular and significant natural spaces.” Dusenbury also credited public and private partnerships in bringing the access point to fruition.
As the public begins to access the Chattahoochee outside of multiple parks in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Hassall said work continues to change the “image problem” of the river.
“The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has done so much work along the river for years, really setting standards, addressing pollution, keeping the river as clean as possible and monitoring [water] quality,” she said. “The health of residents and the health of the river is not something any of us take lightly. The river is a lovely amenity. It’s clean. And the Riverkeeper can notify us when it’s necessary to get out of the river for water quality issues.”
Buckhead’s river access point begins 48-miles of ‘camp and paddle’ amenities along waterway
Buckhead’s access point is part of the Chattahoochee Riverlands project envisioned by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization aiming to provide parks and protect greenspaces. The Riverlands project includes proposed parks, river access points, trails, and points of access along 100 miles of the Chattahoochee beginning near Lake Lanier in Gwinnett County, and following the river south through Metro Atlanta to Chattahoochee Bend State Park near Newnan.
The Standing Peachtree Greenspace access point will serve as the northernmost section of the Camp+Paddle Trail portion of the Riverlands project. The 48-mile section of the Riverlands project includes the Buckhead access point, camping at Fulton County’s Buzzard Roost Island — which will only be accessible by kayak — along with camping at Campbellton Park in Chattahoochee Hills and a new overnight site in Chattahoochee Hills. The Camp+Paddle Trail ends at McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County. The Riverlands states this project will allow park goers four days and three nights camping and paddling along the river.