Atlanta is in the early stages of creating what may be the world’s longest linear arboretum as part of the BeltLine project.

As planned, it would be an arboretum for the entire city, connecting 14 natural neighborhoods—but in reality all of the 45 neighborhoods ringing the central core of the city will be connected by the BeltLine and will benefit from the arboretum—with what is being termed an outdoor, living “tree museum.”

Greg Levine, program director for Trees Atlanta which is coordinating the arboretum project, displayed his enthusiasm for the project as he explained the arboretum concept to those attending the BeltLine quarterly update Oct. 11 at the Atlanta Board of Education building in downtown Atlanta.

Levine told the some 100 people attending the meeting that Portico Designs had been hired to plan and design the concept. He said preparations are being made now for implementing the first two miles of the arboretum.

So, what is an arboretum? Levine explained that “it is a collection of trees that is designed and planted for aesthetic, research and educational purposes.” It is similar to a botanical garden, but focused on trees and woody plants.

The city has the opportunity to create “one of the most unusual arboretums in the world,” Levine said.

The implementation of the first two miles of the arboretum concept will be initially funded from the Trees Atlanta Capital Campaign and that implementation will cost an estimated $350,000.

The two areas involved with the initial two miles will be on the west side of Atlanta and are the BeltLine gateway to the planned quarry park and the warehouse row gateway in southwest Atlanta.

Levine said this also is unique in that “it is being planned as a forethought, rather than an afterthought. We see this, and hope the entire community sees it, as an important component of creating a layer to make the BeltLine a greater project.”

He said $360,000 has already been raised to do a lot of the planting in these two west side areas.

As a matter of fact, the arboretum dream received a major boost in September when the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation gave $350,000 to Trees Atlanta to help build the first model mile of the eventual 22-mile arboretum.

The Blank grant also will help pay for the conceptual master plan for the entire arboretum, giving each section of the BeltLine its own green identity.

Trees Atlanta is working in concert with the PATH Foundation, the entity that plans and develops the bicycle and pedestrian trails, to build the first leg of the arboretum.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.