By John Schaffner

Some 30 neighboring residents, friends of the park and interested parties—some with their dogs—gathered at Tanyard Creek Park on a nippy but sunny morning, Saturday, Nov. 3, to walk the park as Steve Hart reviewed the most recent BeltLine and PATH Foundation plans for a trail through the park.

But more significantly, a new plan emerged from one member of the group that was almost unanimously accepted as a better option than both of the previous routes proposed.

The trail has created a great deal of discussion and passion among residents in the area, as well as Jim Crawford, the president of the Georgia Battlefield Association, because it initially was slated to be a 15-foot concrete trail through an open meadow area of the park that is used regularly for youth sports and walking animals, but is also where 4,500 Union and Confederate troops died in the Civil War Battle of Peachtree Creek.

After months of haggling with both the BeltLine leadership and the PATH Foundation, there recently has been some compromises worked out—much of it due to Hart’s efforts as a liaison between the BeltLine group and residents and members of Friends of Tanyard Creek Park.

After meeting at the park’s entrance off Collier Road—where several plaques speak to the battle that was fought on that ground—Hart began the two-plus-hour walking tour of the proposed PATH routes on the table by explaining how the trail would pass under the Collier Road bridge and parallel Tanyard Creek as it progressed north toward Bobby Jones Golf Course.

But most of those attending that morning were much more interested in the alternatives on the table for getting from the CSX railroad trestle on the south end of the park to the point where it crosses under the Collier Road Bridge—the part of the trail that has been the most contentious.

More specifically, they wanted to know about a new change the PATH Foundation wanted to make in what almost everyone had thought was an agreed-to alternative to take the trail along the west side of Tanyard Creek rather than PATH’s preferred east-side route that would have encroached on the meadow part of the park.

PATH, neighborhood residents, Friends of Tanyard Creek Park and the BeltLine consultants had all agreed to that west side route if the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) would agree to it. And, the EPD did agree to it.

But now PATH had come back and wanted to move the bridge—which would be required to get the trail from the east side of the creek in the park meadow across to the west side—approximately 175 feet further north along the east side and meadow before crossing the creek to the west side.

Among those who walked the west side route and saw two bridge crossing areas—the one the citizens had preferred and the new positioning that PATH wanted them to accept—there was consensus: they would not accept the new PATH-proposed creek crossing.

But a new option for the bridge over the creek was offered by Lee Richardson, a landscape architect and urban designer who has been actively involved in the discussions about this PATH route and was part of the walking tour.

Richardson proposed a site even further south along the west bank of the creek to have the bridge cross from the east to the west side and suggested rather than have the bridge cross perpendicular to the creek—which causes sharp turns in the trail—to instead run it on an angle across the creek.

Richardson’s plan would eliminate the sharp turns at either ends of the bridge, allow for the trail to stay out of the meadow on the east side for a longer distance, and would allow the trail to hug the side of the meadow virtually all the way to the railroad trestle, where it would connect to the Ardmore Park PATH.

Hart asked those attending to forward him their opinions and observations about what they saw and heard on the walking tour and he reported that Richardson’s option was almost universally favored by everyone who emailed or wrote to him.

The biggest remaining issue with some of those on the Saturday tour was the number of trees that will be lost in order to run the PATH trail along the west side of the creek. But the majority of those who saw the trees that are being considered for removal agreed there would still be a substantial tree canopy remaining and PATH could replace those trees with smaller trees that would grow tall for future generations.

Another issue was the trail running alongside of the children’s playground in the park. However, both Hart and Richardson said a separation could be achieved between the two elements either with plantings or with a sitting wall or maybe both.

At the end of the walking tour, Richardson offered to have his firm further study the diagonal bridge across the creek and actually draw up representations of how that bridge would work in relation to how the other two options—the initial neighborhood compromise positioning and the new PATH request to move the bridge 175 feet further north along the meadow on the east side before crossing to the west side.

Richardson put his recommendation, along with justifications, into a letter that he addressed to Ed McBrayer, executive director of PATH, Jonathan Lewis with Atlanta BeltLine Inc., Ken Gillet of the city’s

Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Ed McKinney, AICP, with the BeltLine hired consulting firm of Glatting Jackson, and Hart, Northside Study Group Coordinator for the BeltLine project.

The other major note that Hart explained to those attending the walking tour is that EPD will not approve of using a boardwalk structure for the trail in Tanyard Creek Park because of the close proximity to the creek. However, it also will not allow regular impervious concrete in the areas close to the creek. It will require the use of a pervious concrete-type product.

Hart was scheduled to pass on his report based on the input from the walking to the BeltLine leadership and PATH by Nov. 16.