The Chastain Park Conservancy is looking for new ways to study and pay for the expansion of a popular walking trail. Without improvements, park advocates fear the trail is an accident waiting to happen.
Voters on July 31 overwhelmingly rejected a penny sales tax for regional transportation projects. Within the billions set aside for regional improvements, there was a sliver dedicated to Chastain’s trail.
Joggers, bikers and walkers along the 3-mile PATH Foundation trail know the area’s problems well. The trail, 10 feet wide in most places, narrows to 4 feet along Powers Ferry Road. Users sometimes become the innocent targets of errant golf balls from the nearby North Fulton Golf Course.
Jim King, president of the Chastain Park Civic Association, said he supports efforts to widen the trail, calling it “the most dangerous part of the park.”
“I know some dogs have been hit,” King said. “Thank God, I don’t think there’s ever been a pedestrian hit. It’s so unsafe, it’s ridiculous.”
The PATH Foundation estimates that “250 joggers, dog walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers use the trail each hour.”
People walking on the trail usually step into the road to make room for other trail users. Drivers often zip through Powers Ferry, according to Rosa McHugh, director of development at Chastain Park Conservancy. The conservancy maintains the trails as part of an agreement with the city of Atlanta.
If voters had approved the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in July, it would have provided up to $1 million get the project off the ground, McHugh said.
“There are too many people and a lot of children walking to school at Sutton Middle and Galloway,” McHugh said. “You see people having to get on the road to pass other people. … [Powers Ferry] is a 35 mph road and people drive 50 mph to 60 mph. It’s surprising that nothing terrible has happened.”
She said the conservancy is seeking donations to raise the $80,000 it will need to conduct the initial study. It has most of what it needs. McHugh said the money will finance an initial survey, which will study issues like managing water runoff.
With improvements, she said, “there’d be more of a setback.”