News Stories

Stone Mountain Trail Gap Update

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 Wooden Wonder

Phase11 bypass

A young cyclist enjoying his first time ride on the wooden wonder in Carrollton.

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).

Wouldn’t This be Cool?

PATH 400 logo finalThe 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.

Bridging Moreland Avenue

A 1992 conceptual drawing by Todd Hill

A 1992 conceptual drawing by Todd Hill

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.