By Michael Thompson and John Schaffner
After months of opposition to a concrete trail bisecting a historic Civil War battlefield and park meadow, neighborhood activists and Friends of Tanyard Creek Park may finally have caught the attention of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and the PATH Foundation.
Following a BeltLine study group meeting Sept. 25 and meetings in Tanyard Creek Park with BeltLine executives and consultants, PATH representatives and neighborhood representatives, all parties may be coming to common position for routing a trail through the park.
And, there may even be some agreement forthcoming to use materials other than poured concrete for at least part of the trail when it is built.
Following a much smaller and more restricted Beltline Steering Committee meeting on Sept. 27, Lee Richardson, a professional landscape architect who attended the meeting for the Friends of Tanyard Creek Park, indicated the plan showed by Glatting Jackson, the consultants for Atlanta BeltLine Inc., leans toward routing the PATH on the west side of the park—away from the meadow the neighborhood groups sought to protect.
In an email to Friends of Tanyard Creek Park members, Richardson wrote: “The proposed plan that Glatting is showing for the park is consistent with the route that you walked with Ed McBrayer (executive director of PATH). I think the position is currently very strong to save the green park,” he concluded.
Richardson said there was discussion about the east side routing “and I reaffirmed your position which is that FOTCP doesn’t want to support the east side routing.”
One of the considerations was recompense for tree removal. “It was stated that the east side routing, due to the bridge at Collier Road would require significantly more tree loss, and recompense would be as high or higher,” Richardson reported.
After one of the park walk-throughs, PATH had reviewed how a trail might be built on the west side of the park and concluded it might be part concrete and part wooden boardwalk. It was pointed out the trail could be elevated with a boardwalk where necessary to protect tree roots.
At the end of that meeting in the park, PATH’s McBrayer apparently conceded that the west side trail would be less expensive and therefore more attractive to PATH.
He indicated he would move forward with permitting and applications for approval of the west side trail if the community groups would assist in moving past potential roadblocks and would be prepared to consider an east side route if the roadblocks end up being insurmountable.
At the Sept. 25 public meeting of the Northside-Peachtree-Piedmont Study Group at the Peachtree Hills Recreation Center, more than 80 residents from neighborhoods surrounding Tanyard Creek Park showed up to get answers about the proposed PATH and to have their suggestions heard.
John Petrow and George Petrandis, who live at 910 Dellwood Drive, were two who attended the study group session to provide input and suggestions to Ed McKinney, of the Glatting Jackson consulting firm that is working on the Beltline Master Plan, and Jonathan Lewis, a liason to the city for the Atlanta Beltline community.
“We came here tonight to voice our displeasure with the Beltline Planning team for keeping us in the dark for so long about the planned changes in Tanyard Creek and the PATH trail,” said Petrow.
They purchased their tri-plex home within the past two years, moving to the area because they fell in love with the park.
“I’m opposed to an 18-foot concrete path going through the park, but I’m not opposed to an eco-friendly path and to the Beltline in general,” said Petrow.
Petrow and Petrandis were among the many at the study group that don’t want to see the PATH trail cut through the Tanyard Creek Park and meadow where some 6,500 soldiers lost their lives in the Battle of Peachtree Creek during the Battle of Atlanta.
“The purpose of this meeting is to confirm our goals and objectives for the master plan for the Beltline and also give you here the chance to provide your feedback on these plans, that we will then analyze and present back to you at a meeting next month,” said Lewis.
As Lewis spoke, more curious citizens poured into the recreation center, until it was standing room only by the time McKinney started talking.
“The importance of Tanyard Creek is profound as it represents one of the more untouched pieces of landscape in Atlanta that exists from the Civil War and we want to ensure the integrity of the park as best as we can,” said McKinney.
Before the study group broke up into 10 smaller groups to look over the existing conditions of the park and to come up with suggestions to improve the planned PATH, McKinney spoke about where the Beltline will cross I-75, MARTA, Buford Highway and the CSX line. This is an important issue because the Northern portion of the Beltline must connect and cross over these impediments.
McKinney said they were under the assumption that CSX would work to improve and rebuild a portion of a bridge that must be rebuilt for the Beltline to move forward and help with connecting the trestle that runs along the border of Ardmore Park and Tanyard Creek Park.
“We are under the assumption that CSX will continue to operate and fix the portion of the rail the Beltline will use,” he said.
When asked why he continues to assume that CSX will fix this, even though representatives with CSX have stated otherwise, McKinney assured the growingly hostile audience that “we’re under the assumption that that (rebuilding of the bridge) will take place.”
After McKinney asserted the goals of the study group, the residents were instructed to go to various tables that had the Northside Beltline map laid out, so they could offer suggestions and improvements to the plan.
Martha King, who lives near Tanyard Creek Park, was enthusiastic by the turnout and vocal opposition to the plan for the PATH at her beloved park.
“I’ve been going to the park since 1967 and have lived near it for 10 years and having concrete in the park would have a negative impact on my life,” she said.
“The meadow at the park looks like it could be in Scotland, and the beauty of it really speaks for itself.
“My main problem with this whole movement for the Beltline is that they say it will help alleviate traffic, but that is what the officials said about MARTA,” she said.
The Northside Study Area represents the largest residential segment of the Beltline. With several single-family neighborhoods and with fewer high-rise buildings, this segment of the proposed Beltline will be the most impacted community by any construction that will take place in the building of the line.
After the small study groups had broken up, McKinney assured the crowd that they would take their suggestions into account and present the analyzed material back to them next month.