FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County will move ahead on replacing an aging section of the Big Creek Greenway, but not exactly as originally planned.
County officials had previously signed off on a study to replace 1.3 miles of wooden boardwalk from McFarland Parkway to Union Hill Road with steel and concrete. However, the brakes have been pumped on that plan because of funding issues and potentially damaging a 40-year old sewer line that runs beneath the Greenway.
With those concerns, the County Commission recently approved a $68,000 amendment to its contract with Heath & Lineback Engineers to redesign the boardwalk using pressure treated lumber instead of steel and concrete.
Steel and concrete construction would provide more longevity to the section of trail, but it also incurs a much higher cost. Those are funds the county does not have allocated for the Greenway.
To replace the 1.3 miles of boardwalk near McFarland Parkway would cost around $5 million to $7 million. County Manager Eric Johnson told the County Commission at its May 12 meeting that the county has only set aside $5 million for Greenway repairs over the next five years. While the county could potentially use steel and concrete construction on the boardwalk near McFarland Parkway, by doing so, it would be financially handicapped to make any other Greenway repairs.
“We don’t have the money to take on that new design and move out of the conflict with the utility line unless we do a very short section, which means we will continue to have other sections that we can’t get to with $5 million,” Johnson said.
Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department Director Jim Pryor supports the wooden boardwalk plan, which has a longevity of around 15 to 20 years.
“I think it’s best that we just go ahead and do the wood here until we can get it to where we can get some substantial work done with the other (steel and concrete) design,” Pryor told commissioners May 12.
Funding aside, using steel and concrete to replace the boardwalk would require a shift in the trail’s path to move it away from the sewer line.
“As we looked at Phase 1, pretty much that entire span is over a 40-year old cement sewer line,” Pryor said.
Though steel supports would not be driven into the sewer line, Pryor said the county’s Water & Sewer Department warned that moving earth could compromise the structure. And the county doesn’t “have the time” to wait on acquiring easements to move the path while keeping the section of Greenway open, Pryor said.
The new wooden design will have better structural integrity with steel beams across the bottom of the boardwalk, Pryor said, and sections prone to floodwater will be raised. Pilings, support structures in the ground, will remain in place, he added.
The county will need to move quickly on its new plan.
“We literally have sections that are close to being shut down today because of the condition of those early sections (of Greenway),” Johnson told commissioners.
Pryor said the county should have Heath & Lineback’s updated plan completed by July. At that point, the county can open the project to bid.
“We hope to get this done as soon as possible,” Pryor said. “The Greenway is awesome, people love it and it is a great asset to the community. But through these improvements, it has shown that it is expensive to maintain and build up.”