By John Schaffner
It took years of planning, a lot of haggling and some contentious meetings, but on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, the one-mile stretch of the BeltLine’s Atlanta Memorial Trail through Tanyard Creek Park and Bobby Jones Golf Course was officially opened to nothing but praise.
“This trail was an idea that made a lot sense. It was the execution that took a lot of figuring out,” BeltLine, Inc. President Brian Leary told a crowd of more than 100 gathered in Tanyard Creek Park for the ribbon cutting April 10.
“It is all about connections…That is what the BeltLine is all about, connections” Leary said. “This trail represents a connection between three neighborhoods that you could not get to before. You had to navigate down streets without sidewalks or try to get yourself across Collier Road. Now you can walk right underneath.”
Leary said he believed most people would agree “this is first-class.”
“This is the measure of quality of life that the city of Atlanta is about,” he said.
The trail is the second segment of trail on the BeltLine and the first on the north side of Atlanta. It stretches from the CSX railroad trestle at the south end of Tanyard Creek Park, through the park, under Collier Road and through Bobby Jones Golf Club to Colonial Homes. The first segment was in the West End area of the city.
Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation that was responsible for planning and building the trail, knew all about the years of contentious meetings and negotiations, primarily involving residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Tanyard Creek Park and his organization, the city and BeltLine. The park neighbors had demanded a different route for the trail through the park than the one proposed by PATH, as well as other concessions.
In his remarks to the crowd representing the neighborhoods, city government, the BeltLine and environmental organizations at the event, McBrayer acknowledged the neighborhood participation.
“I want to thank the wonderful neighbors around Tanyard Park,” McBrayer said. “We learned a lot on this trail. Had they not been so vigilant trying to protect their park, we would not be the better trail builders we are today than when we got here.”
McBrayer said, “The neighbors told us we couldn’t put the trail over there in the meadow, they wanted to dump us into the forest and then tell us we couldn’t disturb the trees, and also wanted us to go really close to the stream without damaging the water quality.”
He said those demands led to two new and interesting trail building concepts. “Sometimes the trail is tilted slightly away from the creek and the rainwater that falls on the trail flows away from the creek, drains through the pervious surface, travels underneath the trail, through the gravel and cleans itself before it flows into the creek,” he explained. “We end up with a zero impact on the infiltration in this area. It is something the EPD (Environmental Protection Division) is going to sell to all other trail builders as the way to do it.”
Trail builders also learned how to protect tree roots, McBrayer said.
“What Spence Rosenfeld (the head of ArborGuard) told us was if you will put fabric down and put six inches of gravel before you ever stick the first piece of machinery in there, the trees won’t even know we were here. The trees are in good shape.
“We were able to take the trail from the easy job over there in the meadow over here on the park side and learn a lot doing it and make a better trail,” McBrayer said. “So, I want to thank the neighbors.
Ultimately, the BeltLine will be an awesome trail, a premiere trail in the United States. And this may ultimately be the premiere mile.”
McBrayer also thanked American Golf for allowing the moving of two fairways and two greens on the Bobby Jones Golf Course to accommodate the PATH.
Rosenfeld told the group, “This trail is built differently. It was built in a way that works with the environment. It is really important that we do that moving forward.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said, “Great cities have great parks and great green spaces. We intend to make Atlanta not only a leading city in the United States, but a leading city in the world. The BeltLine is a vital part of that. We will absolutely finish the BeltLine. I don’t want you to worry about my commitment to the BeltLine.”
Summing up the importance of the day, Leary said, “The BeltLine is under construction. It is now open for people to use.”