Greenway expansion pedestrians

Community members walk and ride at the North Oconee River Greenway trail on April 4, 2018. 

The University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County communities have bridged a gap by completing a new 235-foot long bridge that links the North Oconee River Greenway to the University of Georgia’s East Campus.

“This is the first bridge in Athens-Clarke County traversing the North Oconee River in over 40 years,” Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz said.

“To borrow from Robert Frost, ‘We believe good bridges make good neighbors,’” Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission chair Nat Kuykendall said in a speech on Sept. 5 to mark the completion of the newest addition to the North Oconee River Greenway.

The project took just under 15 months to complete and features a concrete elevated walkway in order “to keep everything as much as possible out of the flood plain,” ACC SPLOST administrator Derek Doster said.

The bridge is made out of weathering steel and a poured concrete deck, according to Doster.

Girtz led the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Girtz thanked his colleagues on the county commission, members of the UGA administration who helped with the project, state officials, Georgia Department of Transportation personnel, ACC Leisure Services staff, bridge designer Pond & Co., contractors from The Astro Group and the Greenway Commission.

“When I first began some engagement for this project I had a full head of hair,” Girtz said.

Cyclists, Greenway members and other Athens residents were in attendance.

“This is part of what will soon be more than 15 miles of paved off-road trail network where people can safely get from many parts of the community to right here at this spot,” Girtz said.

The connector bridge also highlights an important milestone for ACC.

UGA Vice President of Student Affairs Victor Wilson addressed the audience as well.

“We look forward to ongoing ways to connect the university and local communities even more closely,” Wilson said. “All these things happen because of folks within this amazing community. When you take green spaces like this in the Athens area, you make them even more vibrant, and you make them even more accessible.”

Cyclists, pedestrians, students and anyone who wants to use the bridge can access it off of River Road on campus and behind the UGA Park and Ride lot off North Oconee Access Road.

Wilson expressed his excitement for students and the UGA community to be able to easily and frequently access the new space using all different kinds of transportation.

The UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music’s Hodgson Wind Ensemble performed an original piece composed by UGA senior music theory and composition major Cameron Gwynn. The piece, entitled ‘Murmurs and Prestige’ is inspired by Georgia state songs, the UGA Alma Mater, the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Athens band R.E.M.

Wilson expressed his excitement for students and the UGA community to be able to easily and frequently access the new space using all different kinds of transportation.

“We look forward to ongoing ways to connect the university and local communities even more closely,” Wilson said. “All these things happen because of folks within this amazing community. When you take green spaces like this in the Athens area, you make them even more vibrant, and you make them even more accessible.”

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