After two years of effort, the Peachtree Creek Greenway at Brookhaven park is moving quickly from an idea to a plan.
Brookhaven City Council on Sept. 8 formally declared its intent to create the park and paved trail along the north fork of the Peachtree Creek, which legally sets the stage for making deals to assemble the park from land now largely held by private owners.
“It’s going to be a statement park,” said Councilman Joe Gebbia, a champion of the Greenway, which he and others liken to the Atlanta BeltLine.
The first public meeting called by consultants who aim to have a Greenway master plan completed by the new year is likely to be scheduled by early October. The park would connect to a portion of the creek that runs through Buckhead.
Brookhaven plans on taking the lead on what could become a 12-mile Greenway along the entire north fork of Peachtree Creek, which runs from Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County to near the new PATH400 trail in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood.
“Our commitment is not just to the [Brookhaven] city limits,” said Betsy Eggers, board chair of the North Fork Connectors, a nonprofit group that first envisioned the Greenway. The Brookhaven council’s declaration to establish the park on its 2.7-mile segment of the creek allows her group to “spread the word upstream and downstream” to advocate for other, local plans, Eggers said.
Eggers said she has already had some of those discussions, including talks with Mercer and a recent meeting with leaders of organizations on the Atlanta end, including Livable Buckhead. The creek’s south fork has its own advocacy group, the South Fork Conservancy, that created unpaved trails, and the Greenway group is in touch with its leadership.
A small segment of the Greenway in Chamblee could be done even sooner than the Brookhaven piece, Eggers said, because it all flows through a single property, the Century Center office complex, whose owner expressed support for the project at a 2013 Brookhaven council meeting.
In Brookhaven, the creek largely flows between Buford Highway and I-85. Masked by buildings and overgrowth, it can be hard to see even from bridges spanning it.
“It’s so inaccessible. That’s the problem,” Eggers said. “The creek is being damaged by washout and erosion and people throwing garbage in.”
A parking deck off Clairmont Road actually straddles the creek, a fact that Eggers said advocates only became aware of during a kayak trip a couple of years ago. “All of sudden, we went through this huge concrete cave,” she recalled.
The idea of the Greenway is to improve the environment while encouraging commercial development facing the creek instead of simply hiding it.
“We’re going to rescue this creek that has a long, great history,” said Brookhaven Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams at the meeting where the council declared its intent to create the park. “We’re going to revive it and make it live.”
Earlier this year, the city of Brookhaven hired the firm Heath & Lineback Engineers to create a master plan for the Greenway’s Brookhaven segment. That firm has been meeting with area stakeholders and will hold a public meeting later this month or in early October, according to Richard Meehan of the city’s Public Works Department.
A big challenge the consultants will address is “strategies for land acquisition,” Meehan said. The vast majority of land around the creek is privately owned. In recent discussions, council members indicated they are not interested in using eminent domain powers and likely will seek conservation easements or other forms of access.
The city of Brookhaven does own one parcel along the creek. It was granted by the Pink Pony strip club as part of a lawsuit settlement last year. That land has been conveyed to the city, according to Aubrey Villines, an attorney for the club.
In addition, the city is still in the process of acquiring several formerly flooded properties through a Federal Emergency Management Agency process, City Manager Marie Garrett previously has said.