Any one driving from northeast Pickens to Jasper for a Valentine evening outing may have found themselves at a standstill on the long uphill leading from the bridge at Long Swamp Creek into town.
And anyone trying to get home to places like Still Hollow, Hickory Cove, as well as the large gated communities of Bent Tree and Big Canoe found themselves similarly brought to a halt as they made the turn on to Cove Road last Thursday.
The traffic snarl resulted from a two-car wreck at the intersection of Cove Road and Old Cove/Old Grandview roads. The intersection sits at the end of a sloping curve that can take drivers coming from town unawares if cars are stopped waiting to take a left.
Speed can always be a problem, but the larger problem is that Cove Road is unsuited as the major east-west county thoroughfare it has become. Especially in the first four miles out of Jasper, Cove Road is steep and curvy. Wrecks are common in this stretch, especially in the narrow S-turns on the east side of Long Swamp Creek (commonly called the Cove).
Having this road closed while emergency crews deal with auto-accidents is not uncommon. Christmas Eve also saw motorists waiting. Fortunately, there have been very few fatalities here. None are recalled in recent years.
Cove Road with the creek, and old marble mines is a scenic drive. It was never planned to handle heavy traffic volumes.
Based on recent population estimates, it’s fairly safe to say that a quarter of the roughly 30,000 people in Pickens live in the northeast quadrant of the county. And for a majority of these homes, Cove Road represents their best route to reach Jasper or Highway 515 for further commutes.
Big Canoe and Bent Tree, with more than 3,000 combined households in Pickens County, including weekend getaway rentals are both accessed from Jasper via Cove Road.
Highway 53 offers an alternative at some points. But once you get past a certain point coming to Jasper, you have to know your county backroads fairly well to detour off Cove. It can be done but not quickly and you can end up on even narrower routes.
At one point the powers-that-be sought a reservoir in the Cove area to supply Pickens County and Jasper water needs. An added benefit touted was the construction of a dam offered the chance to re-build the most troublesome portion of this road – the section around Long Swamp Creek.
But reservoir plans all drowned in state regulations and this is no longer mentioned as a likely plan, though it remains an idea we would like to see pursued.
For now, we’d strongly urge the county to put a very generic item “find traffic alternatives to Cove Road” near the top of their long range plans.
This might take the form of expanding that road; adding another route that parallels it; re-building portions of that road or something not even thought of yet.
NOTED: none of the options come easily, cheaply or without years of planning, lobbying and work. The topography created by the Long Swamp Creek Gorge, running all the way to Marble Hill from the Grandview area, presents a formidable natural obstacle. It’s not the Grand Canyon – not even the Grand Canyon of Georgia, but any road crossing will strain planners, road builders and budgeters.
None of the options mentioned here (aside from the reservoir) appear very good. We know that another route through the area is difficult to envision. We know that it will be a monumental task to widen/straighten a road that has sheer cliffs alongside it.
But we recognize, (looking at regular wrecks on a windy route that is the key east-west connector in the most populated area of the county) that the choice of doing nothing is the only option that shouldn’t be considered.