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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Could Proctor Creek - and northwest Atlanta - be revitalized by a greenway project?

Posted By on Tue, May 14, 2013 at 5:20 PM

Proctor Creek flows through Vine City, English Avenue, and other northwest Atlanta communities to the Chattahoochee River
  • Atlanta Department of Watershed Management
  • Proctor Creek flows through Vine City, English Avenue, and other northwest Atlanta communities to the Chattahoochee River
For years, community members, environmental groups, and the city have tried to clean up Proctor Creek, the troubled waterway that flows from downtown to the Chattahoochee River. What should be an asset for the community and surrounding northwest Atlanta area has instead been plagued by illegally dumped tires, high bacteria levels, pollution, and flooding. This week we might get more details of how that could change.

On Friday, Mayor Kasim Reed, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and local eco-groups are expected to announce that Proctor Creek will be included in an expansion of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

The program aims to "revitalize urban waters and the communities that surround them, transforming overlooked assets into treasured centerpieces and drivers of urban revival." The partnership would bring together multiple federal agencies and their know-how to address various problems, find ways to improve the stream, and revitalize the surrounding areas.

"Projects under the partnership will address a wide range of issues such as improving water quality, restoring ecosystems and enhancing public access to Proctor Creek," the city said in a press release. "Creating a sustainable creekside community in the city will reconnect citizens to open spaces, and have a positive economic impact on local businesses, tourism and property values, as well as spur private investment and job creation in downtown Atlanta."

Proctor Creek could definitely use the help. According to Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Sally Bethea, the stream, in addition to being beautiful in some parts, is "possibly one of the most stressed and polluted tributaries to the Chattahoochee in the Atlanta area." Some sections are marked by illegally dumped tires, high bacteria levels, flooding, and water pollution. Nearby neighborhoods could use a boost.

City, federal officials, nonprofits, and private sector have focused a lot of attention on the creek and surrounding area over the last two years. The EPA has awarded grants to environmental groups such as the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, the River Network, the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance for clean-ups and water-quality monitoring.

One of the projects under consideration involves something we first reported in December 2011 - buffered greenspace, cleaner water, and possibly a bike trail linking the city and nearby neighborhoods to the river. The linear park could possibly connect with the Atlanta Beltline near Bellwood Quarry and give the long-overlooked part of the city a new amenity, identity, and link to downtown. You can see the project's potential in a Georgia Conservancy study of NPU-G, which encompasses the area.

In addition, Alpharetta-based real-estate firm Emerald Corridor LLC, which owns properties in the Proctor Creek area, recently pitched the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the idea of creating a "mitigation bank" program along the stream. Such programs usually involve developers paying to restore a wetland in one area to offset the damage of a nearby ecosystem. Judging by our calculations, the public comment period on Emerald Corridor's application is nearing its deadline. Expect more information soon.

Lots of questions remain, some of which might be answered at Friday's presser. For one thing, it's unclear how or when the partnership will take shape. Or exactly what projects would be involved (we asked the EPA for more details and will update once we hear back). Or how the various initiatives, which could stretch out over many years, would be funded. Stay tuned.

NOTE: This post has been altered to correct an error about environmental remediation at Maddox Park. The EPA Brownfields program has agreed to provide the city with technical assistance to expand the use of Maddox Park.

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