Managing Rights of Way for Resource Benefit

Allyson Read, Natural Resource Specialist, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, National Park Service 

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area stretches along 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River from Buford Dam at Lake Lanier to Peachtree Creek in the city of Atlanta. The federal park includes the river plus 16 land units that provide almost 70% of the region’s greenspace offering diverse recreational opportunities and ecosystem diversity within the urbanized environment. The river corridor in this rapidly growing metropolitan area includes many utility rights of way that pre-existed the park in addition to the constant expansion and improvement of local infrastructure. In an effort to minimize resource injury yet allow the utility companies full access to their lines for maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation, CRNRA has created a program to ensure the utilities maintain structure integrity while protecting the park resources. An integral part of the program are several management tools that when used with existing agreements and resources makes the program easily transferable and available for use on most utility corridors. Collaborative efforts among local and national utilities, botanical gardens, non-profits, and individuals have facilitated the ability to promote the utility corridors as locally critical early-successional habitat. The result has been a decrease in resource injury and an increase in the botanical and biological diversity within these corridors and within the urban environment.