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DeKalb County, PATH, and CSX Railroad are negotiating an agreement that would allow PATH and the County to complete the missing segment of the Stone Mountain Trail between Glendale Road and Clarkston. The discussions are preliminary at press time but all parties are at the table attempting to reach an accord.
In 1992, The old Decatur to Stone Mountain trolley right-of-way was ‘discovered’ by the PATH Foundation founders during their search for a suitable trail corridor that would connect the Olympic venue in Atlanta to the cycle venue at Stone Mountain Park. This lovely, tree-lined corridor stretching from downtown Clarkston to Stone Mountain Village, had been deeded to DeKalb County by Georgia Power Company after being abandoned decades before. Needless to say it was just what the doctor ordered: a continuous, publicly owned corridor that was level and virtually free of obstacles.
The first foot of trail PATH ever poured was on the trolley corridor near the corner of Country Address, just east of Clarkston. A mile of trail was completed at this location and used as the ‘model mile’ to convince potential donors that trails were good and PATH was the real deal.
PATH went on to complete a majority of the trail between Freedom Park and Stone Mountain before the 1996 Olympics. One glaring exception was the half-mile segment west of Clarkston including the bridge over I-285. There were too many issues involved with crossing I-285 and encroaching onto railroad right-of-way for a young, inexperienced nonprofit to resolve in a timely fashion.
The recent negotiations were encouraged by the fact that DeKalb County condemned the edge of the CSX right-of-way for trail development late last year. Rather than continuing the court case, the parties have agreed to pursue a settlement that will allow a trail bridge across I-285 into Clarkston but would exit CSX right-of-way east of I-285. The PATH design team is altering plans to reflect terms of the agreement in hopes the project will move forward. Stay tuned.
The partnership between the Friends of the Greenbelt, the City of Carrollton, and PATH recently opened another two miles of the Carrollton Greenbelt near Sunset Hills Country Club. The new segment begins at the Hays Mill Trailhead and ends at Maple Street, just south of the University of West Georgia campus.
The highlight of the new trail is a 2000 foot-long boardwalk that allows trail users to glide along 8-12 feet above the vegetation in the marshy, natural area along Buffalo Creek. The trail parallels the Sunset Hills Golf Course before turning ninety degrees to parallel State Route 166 (The Carrollton Bypass). The project would not have been possible without extraordinary cooperation from both Sunset Hills Country Club and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Over ten miles of the proposed sixteen mile-long Greenbelt is open to the public. Three more segments of the trail will be constructed beginning this Spring. The partnership has a goal of completing the sixteen mile loop in a total of five years (by the end of 2016).
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has agreed to review a proposal presented by PATH and other bicycle and pedestrian advocates to make provisions for the PATH400 Trail through the new I-285/Georgia 400 interchange project. PATH met with GDOT and representatives from Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, the Federal Highway Administration, Livable Buckhead, and the Perimeter CID, twice in March to discuss altering the design of the interchange to accommodate trail connections to all four corners.
Mike Lobdell, manager of the project, promised his team would review the options suggested by the PATH design team and reconvene the group in about thirty days. Although GDOT is prohibited from building separated trails by state charter, they can make it easier for us to follow their construction with a trail. PATH has benefited from GDOT ‘prep work’ on numerous projects in the past. Assisting with the extension of PATH400 through this interchange would be taking collaboration to a whole new level. Thanks to all who wrote letters and signed petitions asking for GDOT assistance. There will be more to report later this spring.
A group of neighbors near Freedom Park have rejuvenated the idea of building a bridge over Moreland Avenue for the PATH in Freedom Park. Ken Edelstein, chairman of the Candler Park Civic Association says his neighborhood is very interested in having the bridge built.
When the trail bridge was first introduced back in the early 1990’s, The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the citizen’s group, Citizens Against Unnecessary Thoroughfares in Older Neighborhoods (CAUTION) were at odds over plans to build a limited access highway from the downtown connector through Candler Park and other east Atlanta neighborhoods to Stone Mountain. CAUTION succeeded in preventing construction of the highway through their neighborhood. Since GDOT had already assembled the right-of-way, and a road of some kind was needed, a compromise was reached to build a heavily landscaped parkway and trail through what is now known as Freedom Park.
GDOT built the asphalt trail between Boulevard and Moreland Avenue and offered to build a trail bridge over Moreland Avenue similar to the one drawn by Todd Hill, a landscape architect working at EDAW, (now at DTJ Design). Unfortunately, the bridge idea was rejected by the adjoining neighbors who felt the bridge would visually divide the neighborhoods. Many who opposed the trail bridge were skeptical of anything GDOT proposed that resembled a road.
No one in 1993 could have predicted the popularity of the Freedom Park Trail and the issues trail users would face trying to safely cross Moreland Avenue. The City and GDOT have made some improvements to assist trail users at the intersection but a bridge would be the ultimate solution to ensure a safe crossing for the trail.
PATH will help keep the idea alive and likely participate in the effort to build the bridge if the City and local interests support the project.Thanks to Ken and the folks in Candler Park for reviving the idea. We hope to be part of a coalition that gets it built.
PATH crews continue to make progress with construction of the South River Trail between Gresham Park and Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) on Panthersville Road. Wet weather has hampered progress, but completion of this 3.1 mile extension of the South River Trail is still planned for mid-summer.
During February, crews demolished the bridge over Doolittle Creek between the Georgia Perimeter College campus and the soccer fields to install a new, handicap accessible bridge. Soon, the hundreds of trail-starved walkers who visit the campus every day to exercise will be able to cross this bridge and walk as much as five miles one-way on the South River Trail.
The South River Trail will ultimately become the longest of the Atlanta BeltLine Connector Trails. When completed, it will connect the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Rockdale County to the southeast quadrant of the Atlanta BeltLine.
By summer’s end, over 75% of the South River BeltLine Connector will be completed. PATH is working with DeKalb County to establish an alignment west of Martin Luther King Jr. High School and with the City of Atlanta to identify a corridor east of the BeltLine near the National Guard Armory.
The segment presently under construction is funded by the Transportation Enhancement Program administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation, DeKalb County Homestead Optional Sales Tax (HOST), and by your generous donations to PATH.
PATH crews are less than a month away from finishing the trail between the existing Atlanta BeltLine Trail in Tanyard Park and the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center on Northside Drive. The one-third mile-long trail will give neighborhoods on the west side of Northside Drive access to the existing Tanyard Park Trail and destinations such as Piedmont Hospital, Colonial Homes, and Ardmore Park.
The trail segment being constructed is Phase I of a longer BeltLine Connector Trail that will link Peachtree Battle Road to the BeltLine Trail in Tanyard Park. Phase II, paralleling Northside Drive, is being constructed by a partnership between PATH and the Georgia Department of Transpotation (GDOT). Phase III, over Peachtree Creek, will be incorporated into the new Northside Drive bridge being planned by GDOT.
The connection between the existing trail and the tennis center is a very complex project with five bridges and limited accessibility for construction. PATH crews had to thread the needle to slip the trail between private property along Overbrook Drive, the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, and Bobby Jones Golf Course. The bridges were delivered in small pieces and assembled on site to minimize the size of equipment needed to maneuver and place each bridge on its foundation. The existing trail along Golfview Drive was used for construction access to the east side of the creek rather than creating a new access through the forest.
The City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation contributed staff time to meet with adjacent neighbors and address their concerns. PATH coordinated alignment and design features with Bitsy Grant Tennis Center and the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy. The cost of designing and building the trail was paid entirely with your generous donations to PATH.
Phases II along Northside Drive is being constructed in conjunction with the sewer and road project between Collier Road and Peachtree Creek. Phase III is being designed at GDOT. It will likely be constructed near the end of Phase II development. The existing PATH trail between Sagamore Drive and Peachtree Battle Road will join Phase III to complete the connection between Peachtree Battle and Tanyard Park. The popular jogging route around Atlanta Memorial Park will also intersect the PATH trail at Sagamore and Northside Drive.
The trail through Tanyard Park is branded as the Atlanta BeltLine Trail since the active CSX line in this part of the city is not a likely venue for the BeltLine Trail. Extensions to the trail in Tanyard Park through Peachtree Hills and south of I-75 are not part of Atlanta BeltLine’s five year development plan.
I recently attended a fabulous Park Pride Conference at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens where I ran into scores of former colleagues who have helped me build trails during the past twenty-four years. After a handshake or a hug, several of them began recalling their favorite story of the struggles we shared while building a path in their neighborhood.
Honestly, I had forgotten many of the extraordinary reactions we received from nearby neighbors during our campaign to retrofit Atlanta with trails. Some of the comments they remembered are so entertaining, I decided to share them with you.
We were proposing to build the trail around North Fulton Golf Course in Chastain Park back in 1994 when I attended a standing room only meeting of ‘concerned neighbors’ on Lake Forest Drive. In their defense, there were no trails in metro Atlanta and I was planning the very first one across the street from their homes.
One of the concerned neighbors asked me “who’s gonna pick up all the beer cans and stop people from peeing in my front yard?” Looking back, I guess if cyclists on the trail drank enough beer, a pit stop in her front yard might have been an option. To her credit, she wrote me a note six months after the trail was open saying she was wrong about the trail (I haven’t gotten many of those over the years).
During a public meeting in Dallas, Georgia when we were proposing to convert the abandoned railroad into the Silver Comet Trail, a lady said, “I’ve been trying to get the road in front of my house paved for forty years; now you’re gonna pave the railroad track behind me.” (I think the county paved her road the next year.)
During the battle to build a trail between Medlock Park and Mason Mill Park, a woman approached me at a contentious public meeting, sat on the floor in front of me, and proceeded to tell me that it ‘hurt’ trees to run equipment across their roots and it hurt the earth when we tore it. (She was barefooted so I guess she hurt the earth a little less when she walked on it than I do. She showed up in a belly-dancing outfit when we started construction and proceeded to dance in front of the bulldozer until the police arrived to escort her away.
One of my old friends at the Conference had been on the walk through Tanyard Park with the representative from the Audubon Society when we proposed the trail through the park. Neighbors opposing the trail claimed the destruction of the forest to build the trail would drive all the birds away. We summoned the Audubon Society expert to make the call. I was naïve enough then to think we would win neighborhood support if we could show them the birds would stay.
The concerned neighbors and the bird expert moseyed along, chatting about birds until they reached the road. The nice lady said, “It will actually attract MORE birds to the forest if these gentlemen build the trail. It will create two new edges to the forest where birds like to feed.” One concerned neighbor told the expert she didn’t know squat about birds and huffed away. Everyone else huddled to decide on their next concern. (one lady still shows me her favorite bird every time I walk by her house).
We had a neighbor with a big imagination tell us the South River Trail would be so covered up with snakes people would be running for their lives. Another lady sent an Op-Ed to the AJC saying our trail would be a conduit for Coyotes to enter her neighborhood and eat her pets. (Maybe the Coyotes can be trained to eat the snakes and solve two problems at once.)
We encountered some very interesting elected officials while building the Silver Comet Trail through northwest Georgia. One of them told me, “There are a lotta folk out here that don’t want those queers in spandex zooming behind their houses.” He subsequently voted in favor of the trail and became one of our biggest advocates. I suppose they’ve all gotten use to spandex-clad folks from the city by now.
Every now and then crazy things happened; the stars aligned; and I decided someone, somewhere was looking out for us. We had a man on one side of the Silver Comet who was absolutely opposed to the trail and a lady living on the other side of the corridor who was similarly inclined. The county commissioners were not keen on letting us build the trail at his location because their constituents were so opposed.
One afternoon the gentlman decided to “call” on the lady across the tracks His advances were (permanently) shunned with an iron skillet. She was carted off to prison and voila, the commissioners agreed since there was no longer opposition, to let us build the trail.
So there are lessons to be learned from my encounters with concerned neighbors: when you are walking or biking on your favorite trail, remember to watch for coyotes, dodge the snakes, pick up the beer cans, listen for the missing songbirds, and don’t be surprised by the stares you get in your spandex.
The partnership of Georgia Tech, the City of Atlanta, Coca-Cola, and PATH have now agreed on the conceptual design to build a separated bike and pedestrian facility on the Georgia Tech Parkway and Luckie Street into Centennial Olympic Park. If all goes as planned, construction will begin around the beginning of next year and be completed during the summer. This will be an impressive change!!
After a decade of delays, PATH crews are finally under construction on the South River Trail, Phase 1B between the Gresham Park Recreation Center and the Decatur campus of Georgia Perimeter College (GPC). The trail will be an extension of the existing South River Trail between Intrenchment Creek and Gresham Park built in 2010.
The three mile-long trail will weave through Sugar Creek Golf Course, cross under I-285, connect into Cedar Grove Middle School and the Georgia State University baseball practice field before ending at GPC. Future phases already being designed will extend the trail to Waldrop Road. The completed South River Trail will connect the 33 mile-long Arabia Mountain PATH system to the Atlanta BeltLine at Boulevard Crossing.
Phase 1B was funded by the Transportation Enhancement Program administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation, DeKalb County HOST, and your donations to PATH. This segment of the trail is costing $2,100,000 to build. Construction began November 15th with an anticipated completion date of May 1, 2015.