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Gainesville's plan to link parks under way

Work to include shoring up Rock Creek’s banks

POSTED: February 6, 2008 5:04 a.m.
Robin Michener Nathan The Times/

Melvin Cooper, left, director of Gainesville Parks and Recreation, and Michael Graham, deputy director, talk about phase three of the Rock Creek Greenway expansion in Ivey Terrace park.

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GAINESVILLE -- Step by step, Gainesville is gaining ground on becoming a more pedestrian-friendly community.

The director of Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department, Melvin Cooper, will meet with contractors Monday to begin phase three of the Rock Creek Greenway project.

He expects Whitford Construction, an Alpharetta contracting company, to begin work on the greenway in the coming weeks.

This phase of construction will continue an existing trail from Ivey Terrace Park to Ridgewood Terrace. There, the trail will meet the Wilshire Trails system, and run to Lake Lanier at Longwood Park.

The project will add to the greenway, and serve to correct and prevent future erosion of the stream banks within Ivey Terrace Park. This phase of the project will include construction of gabions, or rock walls held together by wire baskets, and the installation of native trees to protect the banks of Rock Creek from further erosion.

"We try to keep it as natural as possible," said Michael Graham, deputy director of Gainesville's Parks and Recreation Department.

Even the smallest rains can inundate Rock Creek with stormwater flowing from downtown Gainesville, Graham said. Without fortifying Rock Creek's stream banks, the banks will sink lower and the stream will become wider, taking over the narrow strip of land that is Ivey Terrace Park, Graham said.

"If we keep widening the banks and eroding it away, the park's eventually going to go away," Graham said.

The bulk of the project, which should take about six months to complete, is paid for with federal funding managed by the Department of Transportation. The funds, called transportation enhancement funds, already have supported nearly $1.4 million in enhancements to the Rock Creek Greenway, according to Cooper.

The city has $500,000 in these DOT-doled funds to spend on phase three, or the Ivey Terrace portion of the enhancements. The total budget for this phase of the project, including local funding, is $625,000.
Graham says that future development of the greenway will focus on the Wilshire Trails system. Work will include revitalizing stream banks suffering from erosion damage and rebuilding cracked and broken walkways.

But first, he and Cooper want to connect Rock Creek Park, the gateway to the greenway system at the edge of downtown Gainesville, to Ivey Terrace Park, about 50 yards away. Funding applications for that particular phase of construction, which may include building a small amphitheater, are currently under review by the DOT. Cooper says he anticipates being able to start taking bids on that project next month.

With the Rock Creek Greenway, Cooper says the city's goal is to become a pedestrian-friendly community.

"If you want to walk to your neighborhood grocery store, walk to your neighborhood school, you can step outside on the sidewalk and walk to your neighborhood park, to your neighborhood trails and do that kind of thing," he said.

As he walked through the park, picking up plastic bottles and other items littering the greenway, Cooper expressed pride in the project in which he has been engaged for most of his tenure in Gainesville. "This is really one of those quality-of-life things that makes our community unique," Cooper said.


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