FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — After four years of public input and committee meetings, the Forsyth Board of Commissioners approved a new trails master plan for the north subarea of the county. 

Eric Bosman with Kimley Horn design consultants presented the finalized plan, garnered from three project management team meetings, three stakeholder committee meetings and a public input meeting since December.

The trails will have two main components, both running essentially east and west, with trails connecting those two components north to south along the way. The 35 miles of trails will connect the Etowah River in the northwest to Lake Lanier in the southeast, Bosman said.

The expected project cost is $89 million, and there is no set timeline for completion. 

“The great potential for this is that it ties into many of the other trails that you already have planned in the central and southern portions of the county,” Bosman said. 

Trail construction will be broken up into four phases, with the first phase consisting of projects already funded by current roadway projects. Phase 2 will connect three of the county’s major parks, as well as several schools and neighborhoods. This part of the trail plan will connect Poole’s Mill Bridge Park to Matt Community Park to the Sawnee Mountain Preserve.

Ga. 369 will act as the main “spine” of the trails, Bosman said, and the highway has an existing easement that could allow private developers to build those on-road trails, while the county focuses resources on greenway trails. Trails near major roads like Ga. 369 will require a 10 to 20-foot buffer between the road and trail.

County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she likes the idea of allowing developers over time to build sections of the trails master plan. The City of Alpharetta has a policy by which developers can earn impact fee credits when they do this, Mills said, and she would like for the county to look into creative ways to incentivize developers to contribute to the trail system. Adding the trails would improve property values and the tax digest as well, she said. 

The board will also look into ways to connect these trails with other counties. Mills said she had a conversation with officials in Dawson County who were open to an intergovernmental agreement to eventually connect the trails. Commission Chairwoman Laura Semanson agreed, saying she had a similar conversation with representatives from Sugar Hill in Gwinnett County. 

Funding mechanisms will still have to be decided, but having a plan in place will aid in asking developers to make trails part of their projects. 

“The beauty of all of this, is that the Big Creek Greenway, while we think of it as being District 2, … gets all the way to Etowah,” Mills said. “Somebody could get on the greenway in (Commissioner Todd Levent’s) area and ride all the way to Lake Lanier.”

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