Sweetwater Creek State Park

7/15/12: Visit to Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park is a 2,549 acre park located in Lithia Springs, GA, just 15 miles from downtown Atlanta. This park is particularly interesting because of the historical value it holds, in addition to just being a beautiful natural setting. In 1838, federal troops began forcing the native Cherokee tribes out of Georgia via the Trail of Tears. Their land was then divided into 40 acre lots and distributed through a public lottery. In 1845, the 40 acres of land that is now part of Sweetwater Creek State Park was sold for $500 to former GA Governor Charles J. McDonald and Colonel James Rodgers. The following year, these men began building a five story, water-powered mill along Sweetwater Creek and in 1849 the mill was open for business making cotton, yard, and fabric. McDonald and Rodgers named their business the Sweetwater Manufacturing Company, later changed to the New Manchester Manufacturing Company after the center of the British textile industry in Manchester, England. By 1860, the mill had produced 700 pounds of cotton which was turned into 120 bunches of yarn per day. In 1861, the American Civil War began, and three years later two divisions of Union Calvary approached the factory and ordered it to be shut down and arrested all of the employees inside. The ruins of the brick building that was once the New Manchester Manufacturing Company still stand in the park today. The hiking trails that run through the park allow visitors to see the ruins as well as old roads and land that use to be a town where factory workers resided. And, of course, Sweetwater Creek itself.

In addition to its history, another interesting aspect of Sweetwater Creek State Park is its sustainably designed Visitor’s Center. Completed in 2006 at a cost of $1.5 million, this 9,000 square foot establishment is the first of its kind in the Southeast and twentieth in the world to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Certified, meaning that the building’s design, construction, and operations maintain a high level of sustainability. These sustainable design features include 10.5 kilowatt solar panels; a 10,000 gallon cistern that harvests rainwater; a 2,800 square foot rooftop garden; composting toilet system; high efficiency HVAC with heat recovery; clerestory windows which let in a larger amount of natural light; and low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints, adhesives, and sealants. The reduced environmental impacts resulting from these features are a 77% decrease in water use; 51% reduction in electricity use; 83% of natural daylight in interior spaces; and keeping 80% of construction waste from going into a landfill.

Written by Mia.