PATH Foundation founders and friends celebrate 20 years, 170 miles of trails in Georgia

By Maria Saporta

Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday night at the Mason Murer Gallery to celebrate the PATH Foundation’s 20th year anniversary.

The “cocktail buffet” was hosted by Cindy and Bill Fowler, who is chairman of the PATH Foundation; and Sarah and Jim Kennedy, who have been the most generous donors to the organization.

“It’s amazing that a small group of cyclists got together and said: ‘Let’s build a few trails before the 1996 Olympics,’” Jim Kennedy said at the event. “Today we have 170 miles of multiuse trails around the City of Atlanta and Georgia.”

Most of PATH’s original group — the founders — were present for the celebration. In addition to Fowler and Kennedy, the group included Doug Ellis, Sam Friedman, Harvey Hill, Warren Jobe and Cody Laird. Those founding members continue to serve on PATH’s board, along with the new generation which includes Sam Bacote, Jennifer Dorian and Alex Taylor.

Kennedy said his wife, Sarah, had the idea to just throw a party for their 20th birthday. “Why not have a party where you don’t ask anybody for anything; don’t ask for money; don’t have a raffle,” Kennedy quoted his wife.

Saying PATH has had great partners over the years, Kennedy then ask Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to the stage.

“Look at where you’ve gotten in 20 years,” said Reed, who also was celebrating the fact that the Atlanta BeltLine was able secure $600 million for transit as part of the proposed list of regional transportation projects. “We believe we are moving forward with a vision for our community that’s special.”

Reed said PATH was yet one more Atlanta story of reaching for a big vision and then making it a reality — stories like the Atlanta airport, MARTA and Georgia 400.

“Every time we stretch; every time we decide to do more, we are all improved and the city is improved,” Reed said.

Kennedy described PATH as a “small organization of very few employees.” The staff of less than five people consists of Ed McBrayer, PATH’s executive director who has been on board from the beginning. McBrayer credited the Kennedys for helping the organization be a success over the past two decades.

“I’m really proud of my small involvement with PATH for the past 20 years,” Kennedy said.

To that, Fowler laughed. “I love that quote — ‘my small involvement.’ Without Jim Kennedy, we would not have built 170 miles, maybe 17 miles,” Fowler said. “He’s led all of our capital campaigns.”

So far, PATH has raised $25 million from the private sector, which has been leveraged to get $75 million from the public sector. In all, PATH has developed 250 different projects.

Fowler said that once a month, the board gets together at 7:30 a.m., and more than half of the board members have served for the entire 20 years.

Fowler summed up their gathering this way: “We get together to try to figure out how we can build more trails.”

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.

4 replies
  1. Atlantian says:

    We do owe the PATH foundation a debt of gratitude for what they’ve done so far. Given the dearth of city-funded bike transporatation projects, without PATH, it’d be much more difficult than it already is to get around Atlanta by bike. Thanks.

    But that said, I hope that PATH will focus more on making their paths functional as transportation corridors. Too many of the current paths seem to be designed with little regard for how bike traffic will interact with car traffic. Plus, many sections meander needlessly, or end suddenly without so much as a sign to suggest how to proceed. Case in point: the approximately 1 mile stretch of PATH between Boulevard and downtown is fraught with dangerous road and freeway-onramp crossings (without signs warning motorists that cyclists might be crossing), and ends suddenly on the wrong side of Baker street at the edge of downtown. The details of traffic flow seem to have been completely ignored in favor of simply laying down as much path concrete as possible. Worse yet, much safer bike lanes were eliminated on Highland to make way for a portion of this project.

    Another case in point: 10+ miles of path at Arabia mountain that, being nearly 20 miles from downtown Atlanta, is useful only as a weekend recreation trail for most.

    The new Beltline path, exciting as it is, could turn out to be troublesome for commuting cyclists if proper thought isn’t put into the crossings of Dekalb, Irwin and Monroe. Hopefully PATH will consider spending their limited dollars on making a smaller number of trails more useful, not just on racking up the mile count.

    So, thanks PATH. As you grow and mature as an organization, I hope you’ll sharpen your focus on making your paths into true alternatives to driving in Atlanta.Report

    Reply
  2. JoeSeconder says:

    Nice for recreational riders. I hope they do start collaborating and partnering with groups like Georgia Bikes, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Atlanta Regional Commission and transportation planners, recognizing commuters and helping connect people to get from point A to B on a bicycle or as a pedestrian. It has been proven that “Side paths” in built-up urban areas with many curb cuts, driveways and intersections are MORE DANGEROUS for bicyclists than riding on the street in the same direction as motor vehicles. I also agree with “Atlantian” regarding sign markings. I attempted to ride my bike from Decatur to Stone Mountain. I got lost at least 3 times by not seeing any markings or signage. In several places, the trail is little more than a sidewalk. Definitely need safety improvements at crossings. Checkout http://nacto.org/ for the new National Association of City Transportation Officials NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide which the City of Atlanta has adopted to develop their bicycle facilities.Report

    Reply
  3. JoeSeconder says:

    Nice for recreational riders. I hope they do start collaborating and partnering with groups like Georgia Bikes, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Atlanta Regional Commission and transportation planners, recognizing commuters and helping connect people to get from point A to B on a bicycle or as a pedestrian. It has been proven that “Side paths” in built-up urban areas with many curb cuts, driveways and intersections are MORE DANGEROUS for bicyclists than riding on the street in the same direction as motor vehicles. I also agree with “Atlantian” regarding sign markings. I attempted to ride my bike from Decatur to Stone Mountain. I got lost at least 3 times by not seeing any markings or signage. In several places, the trail is little more than a sidewalk. Definitely need safety improvements at crossings. Checkout http://nacto.org/ for the new National Association of City Transportation Officials NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide which the City of Atlanta has adopted to develop their bicycle facilities.Report

    Reply
  4. JoeSeconder says:

    Nice for recreational riders. I hope they do start collaborating and partnering with groups like Georgia Bikes, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Atlanta Regional Commission and transportation planners, recognizing commuters and helping connect people to get from point A to B on a bicycle or as a pedestrian. It has been proven that “Side paths” in built-up urban areas with many curb cuts, driveways and intersections are MORE DANGEROUS for bicyclists than riding on the street in the same direction as motor vehicles. I also agree with “Atlantian” regarding sign markings. I attempted to ride my bike from Decatur to Stone Mountain. I got lost at least 3 times by not seeing any markings or signage. In several places, the trail is little more than a sidewalk. Definitely need safety improvements at crossings. Checkout http://nacto.org/ for the new National Association of City Transportation Officials NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide which the City of Atlanta has adopted to develop their bicycle facilities.Report

    Reply

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