Built in 1845 and designated by the United States Congress as Georgia’s first National Heritage Area in 1998, (making it the first National Heritage Area in Georgia), the Augusta Canal’s importance is unquestionable. The Heritage Area is designed to showcase the history of the Augusta Canal as it relates to the industrial development of Augusta and the south. The master plan for the Heritage Area includes amenities, exhibits, Petersburg boats, docks, interactive features, monuments, recreational areas and trails. The trail system is the backbone of the area and creates the connectivity of features and trailheads. The section of the trail system designed in this project, the River Trail, provides a critical link in the trail connectivity, joining the Canal and its multiple trail heads to downtown Augusta along arguably one of the most scenic sections of the heritage area – the Savannah River.
By creating new vistas along the river, as well as an innovative suspension-bridge design and prefabricated weathered steel bridge, Benesch has provided this historical landmark the long-wanted connectivity of the trail system to areas that would have been otherwise inaccessible. This project has achieved the desired goal of providing alternative modes of transportation and serving recreational needs, while positively impacting the Augusta economy. The completion of this trail section provides direct access to the downtown area which boasts approximately half a million user days annually.
Benesch was the prime consultant for the project, handling total project management, lead design, permitting, and construction administration and inspection for the three-mile section of the multi-use trail. This section is part of a 13-mile system of trails that provide alternative transportation from West Augusta and Columbia County. This trail segment includes two bridges and a significant timber boardwalk. As designed, the Augusta Canal River Levee Trail resulted in a three-mile section of new trail including two bridges spanning 250 and 190 feet respectively, and 416 feet of boardwalk.