Rogers Bridge revived for recreation use

City, Duluth discuss restoration

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Even discussing the idea of linking Duluth and Johns Creek recreation facilities via the 114-year-old Rogers Bridge was once verboten on Johns Creek City Council. No more.

At the July 14 City Council workshop, council voted unanimously to endorse an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) to establish a basis for sharing the costs and the benefits related to restoring the bridge as a pedestrian crossing over the Chattahoochee River.

The idea had been such a sore spot with the City Council prior to 2014 (and subsequent turnover of members), that Mayor Mike Bodker had been enjoined by fellow councilmembers to even broach the subject.

With fresh eyes on council, the project has breathed new life.

Under the terms of the IGA, Duluth will pay preliminary costs of the restoration study. Should both sides decide to go ahead with the study, Duluth would receive credit for the cost of the study.

It establishes partnership in managing the bridge, said Johns Creek City Manager Warren Hutmacher. It also leaves the door open for future participation by Gwinnett County and the Gwinnett County Water and Sewer System or the Georgia Transportation Department.

Gwinnett and Duluth had long proposed a recreational partnership that would allow residents from both sides of the Chattahoochee River.

“The direction we’re headed in now is to find out just what it is going to take to restore the bridge through this IGA with Duluth. Once we have done that, first and foremost will be to apply jointly for grant funds to see if we can stretch the city’s dollars,” Bodker said.

The final result will be to see the creation of an historic gateway for both cities, he said.

“The advantages will be both symbolic and realistic,” Bodker said. “Symbolically, it’s a gateway between Fulton and Gwinnett. This reopens that. Realistically, it provides access to additional bike paths, and I know Johns Creek cyclists want access to them.

“It also makes available additional parkland that is available right there in Gwinnett,” he said. “Not to mention giving the city a wonderful vista over one of its biggest assets, the Chattahoochee River.”

Councilman Lenny Zaprowski said the plan is a “no-brainer” for him.

“We’re not putting a lot of our dollars into this,” Zaprowski said. “The city manager said our cost will be about $100,000. This is a good deal for everybody.”

There are many of the same benefits for those on the Gwinnett side of the river. They would have access to Johns Creek’s passive park, greenway and bike trails. Beyond that, it gives them access to hiking and bike trails that will extend into Gwinnett County, Alpharetta and Roswell, Bodker pointed out.

“I’m hopeful that eventually we will have a greenbelt along the river that extends from Rogers Bridge all the way to McGinnis Ferry,” Bodker said.

“I think that would be an asset not only for us but residents all around the river,” he said.

Bodker said this was never a controversial project for the people of Johns Creek; the only stumbling block was the opposition by former councilmembers, he said.

In the last election, Bodker said he had overwhelming support for the Rogers Bridge project. The only concern he heard was in relation to balancing the cost to the other needs of the city.

“We have a great and willing partner in Duluth. I put all the blame at the foot of the old council,” Bodker said. “We have a new council with a new attitude, and I think we will get a lot more done.”

JC 07-17-14