By John Schaffner

Construction is well underway on the controversial trail through Tanyard Creek Park and a portion of Atlanta Memorial Park—a trail which has been alternately described by city and BeltLine officials as “a PATH toward connectivity” and by many surrounding neighbors as “a PATH of destruction.”

The issue with surrounding neighborhoods, Friends of Tanyard Creek Park and the Georgia Battlefield Association, is the same as it has been for several years of fighting with the Atlanta Parks Department, the PATH Foundation and Atlanta BeltLine Inc.

The neighborhoods say it’s an invasion of a beautiful active park and one of Atlanta’s only remaining Civil War battlefields with a trail they claim few people want or will use.

But just as the Confederate forces lost the Battle of Peachtree Creek in the meadow of Tanyard Creek Park — where 6,500 Confederate and Union soldiers died in battle — the neighborhood leaders finally acknowledged a defeat of sorts and accepted what concessions they could muster to minimize the impact of a wide concrete walking, running and cycling path through their park areas.

There never was a question of whether the trail was going to be built. The Parks Department, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and the PATH Foundation were determined that the trail would be built — at least through Tanyard Creek Park on the south side of Collier Road, through the former Howard Property on the north side of Collier Road and on through the Cathedral Woods area south of the Bobby Jones Golf Course at Atlanta Memorial Park.

After all, the connection of the PATH Foundation’s trail from the Ardmore Park neighborhood through the Howard property was a condition placed on the purchase of that property for a city park.

That is not to say the neighboring residents have totally given up their fight over the PATH.

They still monitor the work being done through the watchful eyes of arborist Spence Rosenfeld, president of Arborguard, to see that it conforms to a plan worked out over years of long, hard negotiations. Rosenfeld has volunteered his time to work on behalf of the neighborhoods and even drew up some of the plans to save trees that finally were accepted by the Parks Department, PATH and BeltLine Inc.

Katharine Caesar Montgomery, president of the Collier Hills Civic Association, has been one of the principal negotiators for the concerned citizen groups over the past several years and credits Rosenfeld for coming up with many of the negotiating points that finally led to compromises between the PATH Foundation and those groups.

One of the major changes brought about through Rosenfeld’s involvement dealt with protecting the trees along the trail route. Specifically, instead of digging into the grade where there are tree roots, PATH will be using a root-bridging technique through two of the spans of wooded areas — one along the edge of Tanyard Creek and the other along the back of the woods on the former Howard property.

PATH plans to have work going on simultaneously on various sections of the trail and PATH’s Executive Director Ed McBrayer estimates the project should take four to five months to complete, barring anymore major interruptions, such as the recent heavy rains and flooding of Tanyard Creek and any lurking legal action by the citizen groups.

PATH has weekly construction plans on its website:

For instance, for the week of Oct. 12, PATH said construction would include: “Installing root bridging between the playground and Collier Road and through the Howard property, re-arranging rock beneath Collier Road to accept underpass, complete the construction entrance off Walthall [rain prohibited completion the week of Oct 5], and possibly beginning work on bridge abutments near the [CSX railroad] trestle.”

Rosenfeld visits the construction site regularly and meets routinely with Pete Pelligrini, the construction supervisor for the PATH Foundation, city arborist Jason Johns, who was recently assigned to the project, and representatives from Lewellan Construction to review recommendations from a cooperative arboricultural report.

On Oct. 1 Rosenfeld reported he inspected the site with Pete Pellegrini on Sept. 30 “to evaluate impact to the trees from recent flooding and to review tree protection measures and construction procedures. Although recent flooding was of record-breaking proportions, there appeared to be minimal relative impact to any of the trees along the PATH or adjacent areas,” he said. One tree did fall across the creek at the creek bank of Cathedral Woods. He also reported that the silt fence and tree protection fence are installed and secure and that installation of the construction road at Walthall Road has begun.

Montgomery said Atlanta BeltLine has asked the neighborhoods and Friends of Tanyard Creek Park to inform the neighborhood about the construction plans “so that people don’t go down and interfere with the progress.” However, she asked that if park neighbors notice something different from what they understand was accepted as the compromise plan by all parties involved, “let us know so that we can contact the arborists to find out what is going on.”