Over a decade ago when PATH was building the trail from the City of Lithonia and the Mall at Stonecrest to Arabia Mountain Park, we were asked how far east we were going to go. Rockdale County and the City of Conyers had emerged as viable partners with trail building aspirations of their own. It was during our Arabia Mountain Trail building days that we also formed a partnership with the Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance and decided the Monastery of the Holy Spirit would make a great eastern terminus for the PATH trail system in metro Atlanta. Since that time, the Arabia Alliance fostered formation and designation of a National Heritage Area encompassing over 40,000 acres, and PATH has built almost twenty miles of new trail between Lithonia and Rockdale County.
Earlier this summer, PATH crews began construction of the trail from the South River near Lorraine School and the Monastery. A covered bridge was installed over State Route 212 (Brown’s Mill Road) just west of the Monastery entrance to provide safe passage from the trailhead being constructed near the new visitor’s center. Trail construction includes a new 520 ft. long bridge PATH is building over the South River. The entire route between the City of Lithonia, the Mall at Stonecrest, and the Monastery should be completed in the Spring of 2014.
Many Atlantans have visited the Monastery over the years, touring their gardens and bringing home edibles and bonsai trees purchased from the monks. In 2010, the Monastery opened a new $6+million Heritage Center where the public can view the history of this Monastery, as well as monasticism through the ages, shop in the store, and even grab a bite to eat in the café.
PATH has had the pleasure of working with the monks and the Monastery staff to make certain the trail was respectful of the grounds and the Trappist/Cistercian traditions while encouraging visitation to their Heritage Center, and Abbey Store. The Monastery offers an exciting destination for trail travelers coming from as far away as the City of Lithonia, the Mall at Stonecrest and Panola Shoals. Local trail users will be able to park at the Monastery and travel westward through Panola Mountain State Park and up to Lithonia. We anticipate the trailhead at the Monastery will be a popular spot for accessing the trail.
While visiting the Monastery, guests can visit the Abbey Church, an extraordinary concrete structure with hundreds of stained glass windows, all made by the monks, or even stay overnight in their Retreat Center. The Monastery also has festivals, performances, and special sales during the year. Visit their website at trappist.net for details.