Atlanta Trail Master Plan Turns 25!

Where were you in 1992?  For a walk down memory lane, see the 1992 City of Atlanta Greenway Trail Master Plan as drafted by PATH volunteers.  We're featuring the 25 year old map on the cover of our December newsletter.  The map may be old, but we're still adding trail miles along these same routes.

Some Things Take 26 Years to Happen

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In 1991, Atlanta had no trails, no bike lanes, and no plans to build them. A small group of dedicated volunteers and a forward thinking city planning staff set out to change that.

On Saturday mornings, PATH volunteers would meet at Ansley Mall around 9AM with Alycen Whiddon, the Atlanta city planner assigned to help us with our cause. Alycen would have six or eight clipboards with maps of potential trail corridors highlighted for teams to investigate. Each team of four volunteers would spend three hours assessing Alycen’s ideas before returning to the Mall with notes, pictures, and a marked up version of the map. We would all have lunch at the Picadilly and debrief.

After six months, with help from Roy Ashley’s group, we drafted the City of Atlanta Greenway Trail Master Plan which was subsequently incorporated into the 1994 City of Atlanta Comprehensive Plan. Since 1994, we have been building trails based largely on the plan. Until recently, several key components just weren’t happening for various reasons. NOW THEY ARE!

PATH Parkway at Georgia Tech – The 1991 volunteer team recognized the opportunity to convert all or part of the Georgia Tech Parkway into linear park. The Parkway was an underutilized, serpentine road with a magnificent tree canopy and lots of greenspace on either side.

A couple of years ago, with encouragement from Jim and Sarah Kennedy and Mayor Reed, Georgia Tech agreed to partner with PATH to convert half of the Parkway to a linear park and trail. PATH Parkway will be officially dedicated on December 5th, twenty-six years after the volunteers mapped it out over comfort food at the Ansley Picadilly.

Stone Mountain Trail at I-285 – During the time when the volunteers were meeting, Atlanta was awarded the 1996 summer Olympics. Suddenly our grass-roots effort was elevated to mainstream. When the Olympic venues were announced, PATH decided connecting the Olympic venue with trails would be a vision everyone could embrace.  We added DeKalb County to our plan so we could reach the proposed cycling venue at Stone Mountain Park. Our goal was to connect Georgia Tech to Stone Mountain Park so visitors from around the world could travel by foot or on a bike between the venues. It was a lofty goal but everyone was helping us now so the goal appeared to be achievable.

Between 1993 and 1996 we were able to build the trail through Freedom Park,

 

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designate on-street connections through Atlanta, and build a trail on the old Decatur-Stone mountain trolley right-of-way from Clarkston to Stone Mountain. The one noticeable gap was at I-285.

One of our best partners through the years, the Georgia DOT, would not allow us to build the trail within 1000 feet of I-285 and the exit ramps at Church Street. They did not want to encourage pedestrians and cyclists over I-285 on the Church Street Bridge. For years our efforts to avoid the bridge by building a separate trail bridge between Church Street and the CSX railroad have been stymied. NOT ANYMORE!

In October, PATH crews began construction of the Stone Mountain PATH bridge over I-285 and the trail along Church Street. It has been 21 years since we first proposed a trail across I-285 for the Stone Mountain Trail. Sometime next summer it will be reality.

PATH Paralleling Georgia 400 – the group of volunteers that mapped Atlanta’s trail system in 1991 came on the scene a few years too late to have Georgia DOT make room for a trail within the yet-to-be-constructed Georgia 400 corridor. All the fussing and fighting about whether or not to build the highway and the width of the right-of-way was dying down when we approached GDOT about making the corridor truly intermodal. GDOT was not in the right frame of mind to go back to the lion’s den and ask for more right-of-way for our trail.

In 2014 Livable Buckhead’s Denise Starling approached PATH to form a partnership to build the trail that volunteers envisioned in 1991. Denise had convinced GDOT that a trail might fit behind the sound wall to create a linear park and trail through Buckhead.  She came to us to see if we were interested in partnering with the Buckhead CID to retrofit a trail into the corridor.

Fast forward to 2017. The partnership between Denise’s group, the City of Atlanta, GDOT, and PATH have built four segments of the PATH400 trail, which will soon connect the Atlanta Beltline to Perimeter Center. Twenty-six years and a lot more money to retrofit, but it’s happening!

I guess the moral to this story is never give up. If it’s a good idea, eventually it will happen. Now if we could only get CSX to let us connect the Silver Comet to Atlanta. WAIT! That’s only been brewing for 19 years. Maybe in another seven years?