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Buckhead trail results from GDOT, Atlanta agreement on green space

By David Pendered

The first segment of the PATH400 trail is officially open, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony that recognized an historic city-state agreement to create green space in Buckhead.

PATH400 ribbon cutting

The wind chill took temperatures to 24 degrees at the ribbon cutting of the first segment of PATH400. Sissors holders include Jim Durrett, Buckhead CID, in gold coat to left; former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell in red hat; Atlanta coucilmember Howard Shook and Mary Norwood in overcoats. Credit: David Pendered

Eventually, the trail will wind beneath and alongside Ga. 400 because the Georgia Department of Transportation granted unprecedented access to unused right of way. The trail will begin near a cemetery and is to connect near Piedmont Hospital with the Atlanta BeltLine.

Livable Buckhead, Inc. is overseeing development of the 5.2-mile multiuse trail named PATH400. Denise Starling serves as executive director of the organization, which is charged with improving sustainability and quality of life in Buckhead.

Livable Buckhead, PATH Foundation, and other advocates have worked on the project even as the BeltLine has consumed most of the bandwidth about parks in Atlanta.

Their job isn’t easy, largely because land in Buckhead is so expensive – upwards of $500 a square foot at the peak of the real estate boom in 2009, by some accounts.

Five partners are instrumental in PATH400, according to a statement from Livable Buckhead:

  • Livable Buckhead, the master developer;
  • PATH Foundation, overseeing construction and maintenance;
  • Buckhead Community Improvement District, providing funding and other forms of support;
  • GDOT, providing right of way;
  • Atlanta, providing funding for the initial project design and is a land holder for the project.

PATH400 traces its roots to a report produced in 2010 that was intended to address the paucity of green space and parks in Buckhead. The report followed a decision by the Buckhead Community Improvement District to pursue open space as part of its mission.

Atlanta Councilman Howard Shook, who represents Buckhead, put the weight of his office behind the parks effort. Over time, Shook has led efforts by the city to add a parcel here, a parcel there. The route of PATH400 was cobbled together from a number of landowners.

Shook and Councilmember Mary Norwood were the only elected city officials to participate in the Jan. 9 ceremonial opening of the first half-mile of PATH400.

“This is the most rewarding thing I’m involved with these days,” Shook said at a brief presentation before the ribbon was cut.

The list of speakers included Doug Hooker, of the ARC, and GDOT Deputy Commissioner Todd Long, who filled in for Commissioner Keith Golden. Long said Golden was attending the funeral of a former chief highway engineer.

Norwood did not make public comments. Amy Phuong, the city’s recently named parks commissioner, attended but did not make public remarks.

The event began in the offices of Atlanta Tech Village, which provides office and meeting space to budding tech entrepreneurs. Village President David Lightburn serves on the board of Livable Buckhead.

The ribbon-cutting event on Jan. 9 is to be followed Jan. 24 with a public celebration of the new trail segment.

Folks of all ages are invited to decorate their non-motorized bike or scooter and join a parade. Prizes will be awarded for best decorations. Krispy Kreme is to donate hot chocolate, coffee and donuts for the event.

In addition, the winning entries are to be unveiled in the art contest for decorative metal panels that are to be installed along the trails. The competition was open to pupils of elementary schools in Buckhead.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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