By Joel Hall
The City of Morrow took steps this week to secure land that will allow the building of the second phase of its Jester's Creek Pedestrian Path. The land the city intends to purchase will also support a stream-restoration project being done by the Clayton County Water Authority.
During a special called meeting on Monday, the Morrow City Council voted to move forward with the purchase of the first of three properties located near East Jester's Creek, starting at 6120 Oakridge Drive. According to Mayor Pro Tempore Virlyn Slanton, the purchase will allow the city to extend the first phase of Morrow's trail system all the way to Morrow Road. It now extends from Reynolds Road, south to Oakridge Drive.
"We are purchasing three separate tracts that are contiguous to Jester's Creek ... hopefully they are closing one of those pieces of property as we speak," Slanton said on Thursday. "It will give another access point. Now the people in Foxcroft and Navaho Trail [subdivisions] can easily get to the trail system. Instead of walking down Phillips Drive or Morrow Road, they can get on the trail system and go all the way down to Reynolds Road."
The city expects to close on all three properties in about 30 days, according to John Lampl, executive director of the Morrow Downtown Development Authority. He said the city is budgeting "a little north of $100,000" to collectively purchase the land.
"All of these are, basically, very large backyard areas, so this is picking up some of the flood plain areas behind the creek," Lampl said. "The first mile [of the trail system] was just finished. It [the purchase] gives us about another mile. It gives about 30 percent of our population direct accessibility to the path system."
Meanwhile, the county's water authority has been working on a stream-restoration project near the property since late June of this year, according to Clayton County Water Authority Stormwater Manager Kevin Osbey.
He said the authority has been working to slow creek erosion caused by development, and that Morrow's purchase of the land will help preserve the land surrounding the creek as greenspace. "As we have developed and replaced grassy surfaces with impervious services like roads, all that water that used to soak into the ground, more of it is going into the river," Osbey said.
"It cuts the sides of the channels and continues to cut the stream wider and wider," he said. "What we are doing is trying to restore the stream to its natural bends.
"For those three properties, we already have a temporary construction easement to do the work," he continued. "Now that the City of Morrow is going to buy those properties, we don't have to worry about going to those properties and getting them to sign a conservation easement. We won't have to worry about anybody building a house right on the stream."
Osbey said the creek-restoration project has already had some positive effects on the property where the second phase of the Jester's Creek Pedestrian Path will go. He said the water authority expects to begin planting trees and shrubbery in December.
"[Before the restoration,] you couldn't get anything to grow over there other than privets and kudzu," Osbey said. "There was a lot of silt. There wasn't a lot of wildlife. In those areas, you see a good amount of life coming back. This [purchase] allows Morrow to put their trails along these areas, and it really makes it a nice place to walk."
Lampl said Morrow hopes to begin construction on the Jester's Creek Pedestrian Path next spring.