By John Schaffner

After years of negotiating with the PATH Foundation, the city’s parks department and Atlanta BeltLine Inc. over Tanyard-Atlanta Memorial Trail plans, the Friends of Tanyard Creek Park and representatives of surrounding south Buckhead neighborhoods have declared an impasse in those negotiations.

Community leader Katharine Montgomery, a key organizer and spokeswoman for the citizen groups in the negotiations, is spearheading a last-ditch e-mail campaign to Atlanta City Council members to halt what she and other neighborhood representatives call “a disastrous outcome of the trail and surrounding park.”

The Friends of Tanyard Creek Park, along with the Atlanta Battlefield Association, Ardmore Park Neighborhood Association, Brookwood Alliance, Collier Hills Civic Association and Collier Hills North, reached a compromise last year with BeltLine planners on a trail route through Tanyard Creek Park.

Throughout the past year, Montgomery said, “the various community groups tried, in good faith, to work in conjunction with the PATH Foundation, the city of Atlanta parks department and Atlanta BeltLine Inc. to ensure that the trail is built in compliance with all ordinances and regulations and to minimize the impact on the trees and environment — especially during construction.”

Montgomery said that after a final walk-through of the trail plan in Tanyard Creek Park on July 30, it became apparent that “suggestions from community members and arboreal professionals have been mostly ignored or marginalized at best.”

In an e-mail Montgomery sent July 31 to City Council members Clair Muller, Mary Norwood and Howard Shook, all of Buckhead, she said the walk-through of the park was “to work towards fulfillment of the Tree Conservation Commission rulings and hopefully have the advice of an independent arborist taken into consideration to truly minimize the impact of the trail construction on the trees in Tanyard Creek Park, the Howard Park (on the other side of Collier Road) and Atlanta Memorial Park/Cathedral Woods.”

Spence Rosenfield, an Arborguard arborist, and David Deschamps, a construction arborist who works with Arborguard, joined the community leaders on the walk-through and provided an oral report that Montgomery declared was “sobering to say the least.”

She said both independent arborists said the “current standard construction plan that has been submitted to the city and approved by every part of the planning process can be significantly improved in many places.” In one area of the trail along the creek in Howard Park, “the design plan as it stands now will have disastrous consequences to the trees, one of which has been designated a historic tree as it is the largest of its kind within the perimeter of I-285,” Montgomery said the arborists reported.

Montgomery wrote to the three council members that representatives of the PATH Foundation, the parks department and the BeltLine said they couldn’t make changes because the plans are completed and they are too far along in the process.

“Just because so much has been invested into an inappropriate plan doesn’t mean it should go forward,” Montgomery wrote.

The community leaders are consulting with a lawyer, Brian Daughdrill, who has successfully worked with DeKalb County community leaders in litigation against the PATH Foundation related to similar issues with the standard construction plan for the South Peachtree Creek Trail.