Seven people are shown holding shovels in a groundbreaking ceremony in a wooded environment.

Officials broke ground on a 2.5-mile section of a pedestrian and bike trail along the Chattahoochee River near Mableton.

Credit: Cobb County Government

Local, state and federal officials broke ground this week on the first project of what some are envisioning as a 100-mile long trail along the Chattahoochee River in the Atlanta area.

The ambitious larger project is called Chattahoochee Riverlands. Its supporters have their eyes on eventually connecting Buford Dam at Lake Lanier to Chattahoochee Bend State Park near Newnan along a green, riverfront path.

But that could takes decades.

So they’re starting off small with a 2.5-mile section in Cobb County, from Mableton Parkway to Veterans Memorial Parkway.

George Dusenbury is working to advance the projects, both large and small, as the Georgia director for the national nonprofit Trust for Public Lands.

He compares Chattahoochee Riverlands to Atlanta’s popular pedestrian and bike greenway, the BeltLine, which also started with a short, 2-mile-long section.

“When you talk about something as grand as a 100-mile linear park with a trail and increased access to the river, you need to give people a sense of what that looks like,” Dusenbury said.

He notes that when the BeltLine’s first paved section, the East Side Trail, opened in 2012, it became an instant hit, attracting development and funding to extend it.

The BeltLine is now scheduled to encircle Atlanta’s urban core completely by 2030.

But will the long-neglected "Hooch" prove to be as attractive?

Dusenbury thinks so.

“Part of this is bringing people to the river and allowing them experience it the way they want to,” he said. “So you’ll see more coffeeshops, perhaps a brewery and a barbecue joint to really bring people to the river.”

The section in Mableton is expected to cost $44 million, funded both by private and public sources.

That includes $2.5 million in federal transportation dollars earmarked by Georgia members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff.

“This is about families across the metro region who can take advantage of this extraordinary natural resource,” Ossoff said.

The groundbreaking took place at Cobb County’s River Line Discovery Park.