Improved river access, more parking, and expanded walking and biking trails are among the potential changes coming to Settles Bridge Park, a unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area located in Suwanee, GA.
After soliciting community, user and other input during 2021, the National Park Service published its plans in 2022 in a detailed 278-page proposal for the 14 parks within the Chattahoochee unit. The improvements are part of a long-term, $9.6 million comprehensive improvement plan developed by the NPS, the first proposed since the recreation area’s founding in 1978. NPS is inviting written public comments on the plan through April 30.
In the northern portion of the Settles Bridge park, NPS plans restoration of “unsustainable trails and (creating) improved, gently sloping routes,” the plan states. For the southern portion, NPS wants to replace unauthorized, user-created trails that travel through wet bottomland areas with more sustainable and usable paths.
Overall, authorized trail distance would more than double under the NPS preferred plan, reaching nearly 5 miles compared to the current 1.8 miles. Included in the plans for new trails are 1.6 miles of accessible, multi-use bike and walking trails, according to the published plan.
The NPS also is seeking to improve the visitor experience by partnering with the Gwinnett Police Department to increase law enforcement visibility, especially to “address unauthorized activities occurring in the Settles Bridge parking lot,” the plan states.
No reference is made in the NPS improvement plans to the abandoned steel truss bridge within the park boundaries. According to Bridgehunter.com and HistoricBridges.com, the bridge was built in 1896 and abandoned in the 1950s. Historic photos indicate the location and bridge was used for baptisms in the early 1900s.
Located on the Chattahoochee River adjacent to Gwinnett’s County’s Settles Bridge County Park, Settle’s Bridge is one of 14 park locations within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, stretching along the Chattahoochee River from Lake Lanier to the northern perimeter of Atlanta.
Created on August 15, 1978, in legislation signed by President Jimmy Carter, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area includes the following 14 parks and 19 locations listed in the NPS improvement proposal:
- Bowmans Island – West
- Bowmans Island – East and Orrs Ferry
- Settles Bridge
- McGinnis Ferry
- Suwanee Creek
- Abbotts Bridge
- Medlock Bridge
- Jones Bridge – North
- Jones Bridge – South (Chattahoochee River Environmental Education Center)
- Holcomb Bridge
- Island Ford
- Vickery Creek
- Gold Branch
- Johnson Ferry – North
- Johnson Ferry – South
- Cochran Shoals – Sope and Gunby Creeks, Interstate North
- Cochran Shoals – Powers Island
- Palisades – East
- Palisades – West
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