Now that first section of the Peachtree Creek Greenway is under construction in Brookhaven, the nonprofit group advocating for the 12-mile multiuse trail is pushing the neighboring city of Chamblee to work on its segment.
The Peachtree Creek Greenway advocacy organization is holding a Thursday, March 7 meeting at 7 p.m. at 2635 Century Parkway in Chamblee’s Century Center office park. The meeting aims to boost advocacy for the Greenway in Chamblee and follows a misunderstanding that the city was leaving the trail out of a new transportation plan, including social-media spat that the mayor called inflammatory.
Betsy Eggers, board chair of the group, said the meeting will include an update on the Greenway, which is proposed to connect Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County and the Atlanta BeltLine. There will be break-out groups for people to brainstorm ideas on how to promote the Greenway in Chamblee, she said.
“We’re hoping people from the Chamblee community who want to see the Greenway in their community will attend, but also any others who are interested are invited,” Eggers said. “We are looking for good people who have time and can commit.”
Chamblee city officials say the Greenway is included in its 2019 comprehensive mobility plan that could be voted on by May. But the Greenway was not included in Chamblee’s 2016 comprehensive transportation plan and concerns it was not going to be in the current one prompted the organization to issue a Feb. 27 “call to action” to urge people to attend the March 7 meeting.
The call to action was sent in an email to supporters and posted to social media and notably expressed concern the Greenway was not being considered a priority by Chamblee officials. The map attached to the message was drawn up by a Peachtree Creek Greenway volunteer, Eggers said, and showed no designation for the Greenway. Eggers said the map was based on Chamblee’s 2016 transportation plan which did not include the Greenway.
But Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson said the Greenway is included in the 2019 comprehensive transportation now underway and chastised Eggers on social media for trying to “shame” the city and its officials. He said a phone call to him from Eggers of any member of the Peachtree Creek Greenway group could have cleared any concerns up deciding to take the “unfortunate” post public.
“For this organization to suggest that we are doing anything less is just not true. And quite frankly it comes across as an effort to somehow shame our great city leaders with outright lies. Come on, Betsy, you are better than this,” Clarkson stated on social media.
Eggers later apologized on social media, saying it was not the group’s intent to offend anyone with its post and their map. In an interview, she said she now convinced the Greenway is included in the city’s future transportation plans after reviewing maps with Chamblee officials on March 1 that are to be included in the comprehensive transportation plan.
“Things [the Greenway] weren’t there. It’s there now. We’re happy,” she said.
Clarkson said the Greenway was always part of the city’s plans despite not being included on some city maps.
“Sure, yes, obviously,” he said, “absolutely [the Greenway] is in the city’s plans.”
“We’re focused on a lot of things right now,” he added, including expanding the city’s Rail Trail system, also known as the Kenswick Park extension, a half-mile paved trail that connects the park to the Chamblee MARTA station.
“We can walk and chew gum at the same time … we’re not focused just on the Greenway,” Clarkson said. “I believe their message led others to believe we are not interested in trails, period. And there is nothing further from the truth.”
Chamblee Mayor Pro-Tem Darron Kusman also expressed disappointment with the Feb. 27 social media post by the Peachtree Creek Greenway group. “My reaction is I was surprised and shocked. We’ve been collaborative … [T]his came out of left field,” he said.
Kusman said he understood the Greenway was to be included in this year’s comprehensive transportation plan, also being called the multimodal transportation plan, and said there is talk of perhaps expanding a fork of the Greenway to Chamblee’s Rail Trail system.
Eggers said her organization’s group is to advocate for the Greenway that has been talked about since 1999 when it was included in a DeKalb County multiuse trail plan. She said the Peachtree Creek Greenway organization needs more participation from residents living in Chamblee, Doraville, DeKalb County and Atlanta to ensure it becomes a reality to create what she calls the “A, B, C and D” of a regional trail system.
Once considered a linear park, the Greenway has evolved over the years to become part of a regional trail plan.
An approximately 1-mile first section of the Greenway is now under construction in Brookhaven between Briarwood Road and North Druid Hills Road and is slated to be finished by next year. The 14-foot wide cement multiuse path is being will include a pedestrian bridge crossing the creek behind Corporate Square and a trail head on Briarwood Road.
The second phase, which has already received a $2.7 million Atlanta Regional Commission grant, is slated to be built from North Druid Hills Road to the Atlanta border in Buckhead; the third phase is to be built from Briarwood Road to the Chamblee border. Brookhaven has committed to build all three sections as part of a $35 million Peachtree Creek Greenway master plan approved in 2016.
Brookhaven has acquired much of the private property for its first mile of the Greenway by purchasing it from private property owners and also using eminent domain. The Salvation Army has donated some property as well.
In Chamblee, most of the Greenway would run through the Century Center office park along I-85 and Clairmont Road. The park is owned by Highwoods Properties and includes a Marriott hotel on Century Boulevard and the former FBI office tower on Century Parkway.
Jim Bacchetta, vice president of Highwoods in Atlanta, said his company is dedicated to bringing the Greenway to fruition. A redevelopment of the central area of the Century Center complex where 50-year-old, one-story office buildings are located yards away from the North Fork of Peachtree Creek is in the preliminary stages, he said.
The plan would redevelop the area into a “town center” to include restaurants and retail along with outdoor seating and greenspace to attract people wanting to get off the Greenway for a break or a meal, Bacchetta said. The Greenway would also serve the residential tenants living in the Gables Century Center apartments and approximately 6,000 office park’s employees, he said.
“Our plan is to connect the Greenway to the town center,” he said. Plans are very preliminary, he added, but there could be a path from the Greenway under the bridge that crosses the creek on Century Boulevard, he added.
“We think the [Greenway and town center] will enhance each other,” he said. “We appreciate the municipalities and private citizens who are driving this effort … all of these trails are going to be really great for Atlanta and the next generation of folks.”