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Column: PATH Foundation raises its fundraising goal to $14.33 million

By Maria Saporta
Published in the ABC on Friday, June 22, 2012

The PATH Foundation has done it again.

Within days of going public about its latest fundraising campaign to build more multiuse paths throughout Atlanta, the PATH Foundation had raised enough money to meet its $11.45 million goal.

That was largely due to four major gifts — $5 million from the James M. Cox Foundation/Cox Enterprises Inc.; $3 million from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation; $1 million from the Kendeda Fund and $2 million from the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation.

So the board of the PATH Foundation reconvened and decided that it should increase its campaign goal to $14.33 million — and add several other trails to its wish list.

“It’s pretty rare these days for a fundraising effort to increase its goal,” said Nancy Rigby, vice president of the Cox Foundations. “The $2 million gift from the Rollins Foundation is a wonderful endorsement of the impact PATH has had in Atlanta. Thanks to them, and the many other PATH donors, we will build more trails — including some very exciting ones that connect Centennial Olympic Park and Midtown with the Beltline and the entire PATH trail network.”

The Rollins gift is an indication of how popular PATH and its multiuse trails have become.

“The PATH Foundation is a tremendous asset to the Atlanta community and Georgia,” Gary Rollins, a trustee of the Rollins Foundation, wrote in an email. “It fosters healthy activities like walking, running and cycling, and also allows families to interact in a relaxed setting. We are proud to support something so worthwhile.”

The increased goal will permit PATH to expand its investment in the South River Trail system; its Peachtree Battle Trail; the Silver Comet Trail; the Arabia Mountain Trail; the SouthTowne Trail as well as a 10th Street Bikeway that will be built alongside Piedmont Park on the northern lane of 10th Street — connecting the Eastside Beltline Trail to Piedmont Avenue.

The campaign also will establish a $500,000 planning and engineering reserve fund that will allow PATH to conduct studies for future trails on an ongoing basis. The fund will be replenished as new trails are built.

“The fact that Cox, Rollins and the Woodruff Foundation have shown such overwhelming support is very gratifying to me,” said Ed McBrayer, PATH’s executive director. “We want to make them all as proud of the trails as we are.”

A big part of the campaign will be creating a metro hub for multiuse trails at Centennial Olympic Park. The long-term vision will be to have a trail system that will seamlessly stretch from Conyers to the Alabama line as well as having paths connecting the most popular parks in the region.

“PATH has been remarkable — building trails regularly and continuously,” said Harvey Hill, a retired partner with Alston & Bird LLP who is one of PATH’s founding board members and currently serves as its vice chairman.

Contributing to BeltLine

AGL Resources Inc. CEO John Somerhalder has taken off one Beltline hat and put on another.

At the request of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Somerhalder, who had been chairing the private sector’s Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, has become chairman of the public sector’s Atlanta BeltLine Inc.’s board.

“The mayor asked me to consider the role of chair of ABI, and I agreed to be considered,” Somerhalder said. “With my background related to infrastructure projects in the energy industry, I believe I can contribute in this role.”

Somerhalder said that ever since he took a tour of the Beltline several years ago, he has been dedicated to the project.

“From trails, parks and green space to transit, affordable housing and job creation, the project has so many interesting aspects and opportunities,” Somerhalder said.

There has been “much tangible progress” on the Beltline “in a relatively short period” of time, but Somerhalder added that it’s time to take it to a higher level by passing the 1 percent regional sales tax, which includes funds to build transit along the corridor.

New role for Schufeldt

When John Somerhalder became chair of Atlanta BeltLine Inc., Charlie Schufeldt stepped in as chair of Atlanta BeltLine Partnership.

Schufeldt retired from SunTrust Banks as the corporate executive vice president in charge of corporate and investment banking in 2010.

“I’ve always looked at the Beltline as the most exciting development going on in the city,” said Schufeldt, who also serves on the boards of the PATH Foundation and Trees Atlanta — complementary organizations. “It seemed like a good move for me.”

The BeltLine Partnership has had a $60 million campaign goal for the past several years, and so far it has raised about $40 million.

Although the organization has fallen short of its goal, it has been able to fund all the projects that it had set out in its campaign goal.

“I think the economy really undermined our ability to get to the $60 million,” Schufeldt said, adding that the partnership still has some “active solicitations in the works.”

But Schufeldt said the partnership likely will launch its next fundraising push after the next five-year Beltline plan is released. It is easier to get donors to support specific projects rather than to give money to a general campaign.

“The campaign is not over,” Schufeldt said. “We are actively out there talking to donors even before we get to that next five-year plan.”

Brian Leary, president of Atlanta BeltLine Inc., said the fundraising task may get easier as projects come out of the ground.

“We feel really confident that when we deliver the Eastside corridor from Piedmont Park to Freedom Park, it will be a new day,” he said.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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