AUGUSTA, GA – This past Saturday, the Augusta Canal Authority celebrated the official opening of Phase IIID of the River Levee Trail with a formal ribbon cutting ceremony and the Hawk’s Gully Hurdle 10K. Stretching seven miles and running parallel between the Augusta Canal and the Savannah River, this phase of the Benesch-designed trail connects a previously completed trail section to the Augusta Riverwalk in downtown Augusta and to the Augusta Canal Authority’s existing trail system.
As a federally funded project constructed alongside an existing levee of the Savannah River and on public rights-of-way, coordination between the Georgia Department of Transportation, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the City of Augusta was critical to the completion of this phase of the trail.
“One of the most interesting pieces was incorporating an existing levee gate structure into our design in order to connect the new trail section,” Benesch Project Manager Oliver Weston said.
At eight feet wide, the existing levee gate structure was narrower than the Georgia Department of Transportation’s preferred minimum trail width of ten feet.
The levee gate controls the water level of the Augusta Canal. Due to specific clearance requirements necessary to ensure the gate could open to freely flow into the Savannah River, the levee gate structure had to be incorporated into the trail design as-is to meet US Army Corps of Engineers, ADA, GDOT, and local utility requirements.
“Through close coordination with GDOT, we were able to get the narrower-than-normal design approved and start construction on the trail segment,” Weston said. “Since the project was just about a mile from our office in Augusta, it was really exciting to see it progress on my way home from work every day.”
At just over 17 miles long, the Augusta Canal Authority’s entire trail system connects Columbia and Richmond County, providing opportunities for residents to get outdoors and utilize alternative transportation modes for business or pleasure.
“With the completion of this seven-mile section of the trail, residents can now remain entirely on multi-use trails and don’t have to use roads,” Erik Hammarlund, Quality Control Manager for the project and senior project manager at Benesch, explained. “I think it will encourage more residents to bike from Columbia County to downtown Augusta.”
An already popular trail network in the area, residents were looking forward to the completion of the new segment.
“Even before construction was finished, trail users were taking advantage of the new trail,” Weston said. “At each site visit, we received several comments of thanks and gratitude.”
While running 6.2 miles is not typically how members of the Benesch Team mark the opening of a project, the newest addition to the River Levee Trail was cause for celebration. Benesch has assisted the Augusta Canal Authority with design on all six phases of their trail network, including some trailheads, and has worked alongside the Authority on several important projects over the last 30 years.
“The Augusta Canal Authority’s Trail System is a project I’m really proud to have worked on as it directly improves the quality of life for our region,” Hammarlund said. “When they announced a 10K race would be held alongside the ribbon cutting, I signed up right away as running is a hobby of mine. The Canal Authority has been an outstanding client—always very appreciative—and I wanted to show our support for them and the opening of the trail.”
While the final connection into downtown Augusta is a major milestone, there are several other shorter sections of the River Levee Trail planned to further improve connectivity as well as access to and from the trail.