By Sally Sears

A dozen adults wielding blue-handled swing blades caught drivers’ eyes on Lindbergh Drive on a recent Sunday morning.

Honks and cheers joined the crackle of yanking honeysuckle vines and kudzu as volunteers cleared a new hiking trail along a meadow at the foot of Midtown Atlanta. A whining chain saw bit into privet and mimosa. And a special, hush- hush secret weapon in a Pepsi bottle should keep them from coming back.

I dropped an armload of invasive mimosa branches long enough to show a neighbor and her two dogs where the trail head leads to the creek and a good half mile loop of gentle walking. She couldn’t believe it. Neither could the Green Team from the Georgia Conservancy.

“I can’t believe this is right here, in plain sight, and I’ve never noticed it,” said from Leah Barnett, the conservancy’s community outreach coordinator. That admission cost her a nickel. I’m collecting from everybody who says they had no idea Atlanta had so much gorgeous creek land in hiding.

The neighborhood and the South Fork Conservancy won a grant from Atlanta’s Sustainability Office to reveal the beauty hidden by decades of inattention to this parcel of land. The Love Your Block folks liked our idea of sprucing up the view from Lindbergh Drive, near the I-85 overpass, and encouraging people to walk along the public land through the meadow.

First we parked on the street at Armand Road, and walked across the bridge over the North Fork of Peachtree Creek. The creek bubbled clear that morning, and we all took in the view of the Midtown skyline. It shone like Oz. Below us, a line of green marked the creek bank. The open meadow is full of native grasses. It’s easy to ignore the sound of the I-85 traffic, especially when we dropped down into the meadow itself.

We tugged mulch out of a giant pile, crafted trails and created a 25 foot circle at the head of a circular route around the meadow and creek. One day, a bench and signs here will help direct walkers along the trail, and show how this creek meets the South Fork and forms Peachtree Creek itself, Atlanta’s most important waterway.

The Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association says more public green space is their first priority. Environmental Chairman Rich Sussman pulls volunteers from three nearby neighborhoods to help. This day, though, he followed the chain saw. South Fork Conservancy Chairman Bob Kerr aimed at privet in the trail. One was chewed to a point by beavers from the creek. Carefully, Bob sliced. Then Rich Sussman took the Pepsi bottle and gently daubed its sponge-topped contents on the stump. It won’t unduly harm creeks, but it’s potent against invasives. I drove all over Atlanta looking for that particular 20 ounce plastic bottle. Not in a million years would I put poison in a Coke bottle.

Who owns it? The City of Atlanta and Georgia DOT. Officials with both are intrigued by the idea of trails connecting green space along the creeks, and working hard on the details. More information at the website southforkconservancy.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.