Now that everyone in the world is a pro on the USA state of Georgia’s counties (thanks to coverage of the recent history-making U.S. Senate election runoffs), I’m gonna dive into my Bicycle Mayor focus for January (per this schedule) because improved infrastructure is now more possible than ever.
(If interested: see my summary of my first two months serving pro bono eight hours a week as the Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor here.)
And thus one finds oneself curled up with the Cherokee County Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
Per the document and additional research into a plan called Greenprints, an organization named SORBA, and the websites of local bike shops, it sounds like:
- The majority of trails in Cherokee County are parks-based and intended for sport and recreation;
- The major focus is on mountain biking;
- The City of Woodstock, Georgia has the most forward momentum for bikes additionally as transportation (with big thanks to the mayor, plus the former economic development director of the city and the head of the trails system, who are married). Note: Woodstock’s Town Center is an LCI (Livable City Initiative), as are other Cherokee County locales including the Bells Ferry Corridor, the Canton River Mill District, and the Holly Springs Town Center.
Hmm. What a minute! Something sounds familiar about that.
I have never ridden my bike in Woodstock (and frankly, have barely been there at all in the 31 years I’ve lived in Metro Atlanta). However, it turns out I was hired by Southface Institute (which promotes sustainable homes, workplaces and communities through education, research, advocacy and technical assistance) seven years ago to write a series of case studies*, and one of them was about Woodstock!
See below. Nothin’ like being helpful to my future self!
So, now to decide on:
- Interviews for underreported bike heroes to profile (send me tips! I aim to continue shining a light here on this blog on at least two people each month);
- The People ForBikes RideSpot tour I want to create (Mosquito Flats on Blankets Creek Trail is calling me, if I can get there and elsewhere in Cherokee County during this surge in COVID-19) (see my other free self-guided tours around Metro Atlanta here)
- Additional resources to share with you (including an update on my point people list, as requested by Byron Rushing of the Atlanta Regional Commission)
- The best person (preferably from an underrepresented population on bikes in our shared public spaces known as streets) to encourage to become Bicycle Mayor of Cherokee County and/or one or more of the individual cities within the county!
Tap in each Thursday for Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor updates! Plus, don’t miss Pitch Mondays, and frequent updates while Traveling at the Speed of Bike on Twitter and Instagram. (I’ve also launched a TikTok that I’m going to use for my League Cycling Instructor outreach — stay tuned! In the meantime, check out the first and only bike skills class in the world delivered via text.)
As always, thanks for your support of my book. All proceeds are used to help more women and girls ride bikes (like Helena, Diana, Lerin, Molly, Danielle, Viv, Christina, Andrea, Tracy, and girls in the most diverse square mile in the USA).
Oh, and update, I decided where to make that donation from my settlement after surviving a hit-and run while riding my bike in the Metro Atlanta city of Dunwoody, Georgia. Stay tuned for the big reveal!
And now (drumroll, please) — Woodstock, Georgia! If I get to go there in person, I’ll be able to give you a rubber-hits-the-road update on this.
City of Woodstock (written in 2014)
Woodstock, Georgia, fifty miles north of Atlanta and one of Cherokee County’s oldest cities at more than 100 years old, grew up alongside the abundant water power and railroad that helped gristmill, wood carving, yarn spinning, and mineral industries thrive. Now, as the fastest growing city in Cherokee County with a 70% growth rate over the last 10 years, Woodstock is looking to its natural resources for a different purpose–to serve as a cornerstone in helping it improve air and water quality, create places for diversity of users to enhance community health, provide connectivity for people and wildlife, and protect natural and cultural resources.
The city already boasts a prime location adjacent to Lake Allatoona, extensive U.S. Army Corps of Engineers protected land along the Little River and Noonday Creek, a regional county park and four city parks, easy access to The Blankets Creek mountain biking trail system (attracting over 200,000 visitors annually), the Silver Comet multi-use trail system (with over 2 million visitors annually), and 18 miles of riparian corridors. With population expected to triple by 2030, the City of Woodstock faces some challenges, however. How can it preserve and expand these natural assets and sensitive conservation areas, and utilize them to provide connectivity, open space and recreational options? All roads (trails, paths, corridors) led to one comprehensive solution—the development of a green infrastructure called The Greenprints Project.
The Master Plan Process and Goals
The Greenprints Project, initiated by the Woodstock City Council and the Planning and Economic Development Department, unites land use planning with land conservation by establishing a foundation and framework to create a citywide green infrastructure system that includes parks, trails and open space. If you lived in Woodstock, you’d be able to one day walk or ride your bike from one end of the city to the other, and beyond. You’d be able to enjoy unique natural, cultural and recreational resources for years to come. You’d have more transportation options and less degradation of the environment. You’d even see the general health of your fellow citizens improve and the values of property rise.
It takes nine months to bring a baby into the world, and that’s exactly how long it to bring this idea to life as the City of Woodstock Planning and Economic Development Department and the Greenprints Committee collaborated with a consultant team of planners, landscape architects and trail advocates to lead citizens and stakeholders through a dynamic planning process.
Woodstock’s community and resource-based planning resulted in a vision for a “sustainable greenspace and trail network that defines and enhances the City of Woodstock’s community, natural and economic resources for all generations.” In meeting this vision, The Greenprints Plan first illustrates Land Conservation Priorities based upon goals and criteria determined from the responses to a community-wide survey, and then provides recommendations for both Greenspaces and Connectivity.
Key Elements of the Master Plan
You don’t just build a trail. You blaze one, by working together, aligning with county and state efforts, and engaging a wide range of stakeholders to create a customized, comprehensive solution for your specific community. That’s exactly what the Greenprints Committee did.
The Greenprints Committee used resources from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), toengaged local residents, a steering committee, city staff and council members through six key steps for its community and resource-basedplanning process:
Determine Benefits and Trends
Green infrastructure systems provide numerous economic, environmental and community benefits. Parks, open spaces and trails are desired amenities that boost property values while reducing the tax burden to the local government because of little to no infrastructure costs. They provide diverse recreation and health experiences. They serve as alternative transportation options. They create a buffer between development and water sources, and they provide filtration. They create corridors for wildlife and native plants, preserve history and culture, serve as educational opportunities, and connect people to others and to the land.
A natural first step on the path involved indentifying benefits such as these. In addition, examining the current greenspace and trail planning trends and initiatives at the city, county, regional, and state level (such as county and state plans to protect at least 20% of greenspace over the next 10 years) ensured this process builds on and connects to parallel efforts.
Inventory and Analyze Resources
You can’t even begin to discuss what you need if you don’t already know what you have. The Greenprints process included analysis of land along existing stream banks and rail lines, utility right-of-ways and easements, redevelopment locations and other resources, including hydrology, landforms, utilities, cultural features, and regional features, in order to identify critical key parcels that might enable the City to achieve its conservation and land use goals.
Establish Vision, Goals and Criteria
Improve air and water quality. Create places for diversity of users to enhance community health. Provide connectivity for people and wildlife. Protect natural and cultural resources.
These green infrastructure goals, developed during the public participation phase, add up to a holistic vision of a more livable community. The resulting shared roadmap to the future includes big-picture ideas as well as the specifics to achieve them so that the plan can be successfully implemented.
Determine Needs and Priorities
Community members spoke up, both at meetings and in a survey, and overwhelmingly agreed that greenways and passive parks improve Woodstock’s quality of life. They specifically want more biking and walking trails and support a looping trail system with connections to their residences, parks, greenspaces and other trails. They like the idea of using stream banks for trails, and they support the possibility of a SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax).
The Greenprint Committee weighed in on these suggestions and merged this information with National Park and Recreation Association guidelines, estimated population growth by 2030, and criteria analysis for each goal. Using geographic analysis software, each goal was assigned criteria that were prioritized from high to low. The final Composite Conservation Priorities Map provides a tool the City can utilize in the development review process, along with a set of recommended quantity/ unit standards.
Develop the Greenprints Plan
The vision secured, the goals and criteria defined, and the needs and priorities identified, the Greenprint Committee now engaged in a charrette to explore locations for different types of greenspaces and to identify key places for inclusion and access.
A series of site visits, a community open house, and Greenprints Committee guidance helped refine the resulting Draft Plan.
To assist in future implementation, the final Greenprints Project Report defines a three tiered hierarchy (High, Medium and Low Priority) for greenspace, trail segments and trail heads.
High Priority and Medium Priority greenspaces determined for each greenspace type (Neighborhood Parks, Community Parks, Natural Areas, and Corridor Greenspaces) include descriptions for typical features, space / design, and service area, and an example of a representative park in Woodstock.
High, Medium and Low Priority trail segments determined for each trail segment group include detailed descriptions of the trail segments with approximate lengths, connections created by proposed segment, points of interest along each segment, trail amenities, and preliminary cost analysis.
Identify Implementation Steps
These five steps were identified as necessary for implementation of the plan:
Adopt and prioritize
Management and maintenance
Acquisition and funding
In support of the action items, the Plan recommends establishing model standards for greenspaces and trails, identifying landowner and city- based acquisition/ funding mechanisms, and defining the potential role of partners in supporting the implementation process.
Facets of the Plan
Land Conservation Priorities
The City of Woodstock went down many paths through its Greenprints Project to create a Composite Conservation Priority Map, which prioritizes locations for land conservation and greenspaces. The resources from which it drew include:
The Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) Green Infrastructure Toolkit. This offers preliminary steps for identifying potential greenspaces and provides knowledge of funding sources and opportunities.
The Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) Greenprinting Initiative. This outlines the inventory and analysis of natural and cultural resources in combination with the creation of the community’s vision and goals.
The National Parks and Recreation Association (NRPA) Guidelines. These ensure compliance with established national standards and recommended service levels.
The City of Woodstock Comprehensive Town Plan 2030. This provides population estimates and locations for future growth and potential greenspace.
Here’s what Woodstock stakeholders want–gathering places and greenspaces downtown, both passive and active recreational options, and preservation of sensitive conservation areas as well as historic and cultural resources. A hierarchy of greenspace types to meet these needs will accommodate the City’s future growth. The greenspace types, which include neighborhood, community and regional parks; natural areas; and riparian corridors, allow the City to plan for development as well as identify those areas best suited for conservation.
Woodstock citizens don’t just want trails. They want convenient access to a wide range of them right from their residences; they want them to connect to schools, businesses and greenspaces; and they want to be able to use them for both recreation and transportation.
The Greenprints Plan illustrates over 60 miles of trails encircling the downtown core, connecting community facilities (i.e. schools and community centers), neighborhoods, shopping, and dining opportunities. To meet the needs of all users, The Greenprints Plan includes three types of trails:
Off-road multi-use trails
On-road bike lanes
Specialized trails (i.e. mountain bike)
The majority of the off-road trail system follows a roadway/ urban greenway corridor or a waterway/ riparian greenway corridor. Almost half of them (47%) are within city or county owned road right-of-ways or already-cleared sewer easements, while 27% are within community facilities or public protected land. This intricate web of trail types links the City to regional destinations while overcoming the barriers of an interstate and other heavily traveled roadways.
City of Woodstock Planning and Economic Development Department
City of Woodstock Parks and Recreation Advisory Board
City of Woodstock Planning Commission
The PATH Foundation
Successful Implementation of Plan
The City of Woodstock’s Greenprints Project follows a systematic planning process for the creation and implementation of a Green Infrastructure Network. The Greenprints Project Reportvisually represents this planning process through the project timeline, detailed descriptions throughout each step, and user-friendly graphics, maps, matrices and diagrams that make it easy for virtually anyone to just pick up and read. It serves as a reference for the future implementation of the City’s Green Infrastructure Network.
The Greenprints Plan outlines 5 Steps/ Action Items for implementation of the Greenprints Plan.
Adopt & Prioritize defines greenspace and trail priorities;
Potential Partnerships / Stakeholders are identified as well as their role and responsibility in implementation;
Community Outreach opportunities are suggested for building momentum and public support;
Management & Maintenance defines Greenspace Programming Standards and Trail Design and Maintenance Standards that incorporate Sustainable Strategies; and
Acquisition & Funding mechanisms are outlined at both the landowner based and city based perspectives. An Acquisition & Funding matrix provides brief descriptions and more importantly actions for land acquisition, funding sources and regulatory mechanisms.
The road ahead looks clear. The citizens show overwhelming support for the Greenprints Plan. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the Planning Commission and Woodstock City Council unanimously approved the first step of the implementation plan in June 2008. The City’s Department of Planning and Economic Development staff is incorporating the Greenprints Plan policies and vision within the City’s Comprehensive Development Plan, and it is sharing the Plan’s goals with nearby municipalities at ongoing County Recreational Summit Meetings.
If you go to Woodstock now, you might see signage for the Greenprints Trail
inaugural mile segment and trail head, which was completed in August 2008. You might catch sight of a Greenprints logo or hear about the nonprofit Greenprints Alliance of Woodstock, which was established in 2009. You might cross a pedestrian bridge constructed across the Little River, you may ride miles of a new mountain bike trail, and you may find yourself already planning to come back to see the next section of off-road multi-use trail (approximately one-mile along Rubes Creek), which is currently in planning and design development (www.greenprintsalliance.org).
The investment exceeds $2 million dollars to date, and is comprised of both local and Federal funding sources, primarily Transportation Enhancement funds. Community support for the Greenprints Plan allows the government to continue to allocate funding and resources for its implementation. Additionally, community support for a SPLOST could provide an additional funding opportunity, as could tourism-related taxes, and possible entry, program registration, and parking fees. The City of Woodstock’s Land Development Ordinance provides Open Space Standards, Cluster Housing Development and Conservation Subdivisions, all of which could incent developers to build neighborhoods that incorporate greenspace and trail elements of the Greenprints Plan.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
Lack of green may slow down the Greenprints Plan. Economic uncertainty may affect the trail’s progress, as the local government is witnessing a decrease in tax revenues and funding sources due to the economic recession. However, the City has reached out to the nonprofit Greenprints Alliance of Woodstock (GPA) to work collaboratively with regards to advocacy, awareness and fundraising. Local community festivals, concerts and other programming are mechanisms for engaging the community and potential donors in advancing the Greenprints Plan and overall implementation strategy.
Community support can keep the Plan on the right path. Community involvement has been integral to ensuring that the natural and recreational resources of the City of Woodstock are properly planned for, today and tomorrow. Continued support by the community, Greenprints Committee, and City officials as champions for implementation of The Greenprints Plan can ensure that all stakeholders reap the benefits- economic, social, and environmental- of a citywide and regional green infrastructure system.
City at a Glance
Area: 8.8 square miles
Date of Incorporation: 1897
Mayor: Donnie Henriques
Dept of Community Planning &
Economic Development: Richard McLeod
Sustainable Approaches at a Glance
As a model for smart growth practices, The Greenprints Project integrates land protection, development practices, and connectivity through a strategically planned and locally managed network of trails and protected greenspace types serving multiple community needs. The interconnected system of preserved land and riparian corridors applies conservation planning principles to support natural, social, and economic goals. By considering the multiple facets of preservation and growth, the Greenprints Plan vision and policies are a natural complement to Woodstock’s Comprehensive Town Plan 2030.
* The other case studies I wrote as part of that assignment were:
An Overview of Numerous Cities’ Sustainability Action Plan RFPs
Harvard Revolving Loan Fund
Chattahoochee Hill Country, Georgia
Open Space Ordinance in Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota (Jackson Meadow)
Sacramento Tree Foundation
Water Resource Case Study: Stormwater Management Utility (Griffin, Georgia)