By Maria Saporta
Friday, April 6, 2012
Key donors are increasing their investment in the PATH Foundation, a metro Atlanta developer of multiuse trails for more than 20 years.
Topping the list is the James M. Cox Foundation, which is donating $5 million towards the PATH Foundation’s current $11.45 million campaign. It is the largest gift that the Cox Foundation has made to the organization. The Cox Foundation, and Sarah and Jim Kennedy, chairman of Cox Enterprises, have supported PATH since its earliest days.
“From a local perspective, it’s my favorite charity,” Kennedy said in a telephone interview. “I believe so strongly in what PATH does. Not only are we willing to write a check, we are willing to work for PATH. And it’s so rewarding. Once we get the trails built, they are self-supporting.”
For this campaign, the PATH Foundation also has secured a $1 million grant from the Kendeda Fund. And on April 3, the board of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation approved a $3 million gift to the organization.
“From our standpoint, we feel very good about our previous investments in PATH,” said Russ Hardin, president of the Woodruff Foundation. “PATH has made good on every investment we have made.”
In its 20-year history, PATH has built 170 miles of multiuse trails in the greater Atlanta region. Some of its signature projects include the Silver Comet Trail, the Chastain Park Trail and the Arabia Mountain Trail. The trails have become destinations for people to ride bicycles, walk, skateboard or run.
To meet the goal of this current campaign, PATH needs to raise another $1.8 million by the end of the year.
Ed McBrayer, PATH’s executive director, said this current campaign will result in the development of another 34 miles of multiuse trails. The $11.45 million campaign is expected to leverage $24 million in public funds, of which $17 million already has been “secured.”
A centerpiece of this three-year campaign will be to extend trails on the west side of downtown and the east side of downtown so that they will meet at Centennial Olympic Park as part of a plan to stitch the various trails into a regional system. Plans also exist to develop a “Bicycle Depot” at the park across from the World of Coke so cyclists can get all they need.
“This campaign will really try to tie all of it together,” said Kennedy, who serves on PATH’s board along with his wife, Sarah. “We have built so many stand-alone trails, and now we are working harder to make them all connect. The heart of the PATH system will be Centennial Olympic Park with all the trails radiating from there.”
PATH has been trying to secure off-road routes through downtown for years. Now the plan is to use a lane of the recently renamed John Portman Boulevard to create a buffered trail from Highland Avenue into Centennial Olympic Park.
That trail will connect with the Freedom Park trail and the Eastside BeltLine trail currently under construction between Piedmont Park and DeKalb Avenue.
On the west side, PATH is planning to connect its current trail ending at Ashy Street into the heart of downtown. PATH also is planning to connect the Lionel Hampton Trail with the existing Westside BeltLine trail.
McBrayer said that by the end of 2013, people should be able to travel seamlessly between the Carter Center, the World of Coke, the Atlanta University Center, Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Beltline.
The campaign also will include the development of the new Georgia 400 trail, a connection between the existing Tanyard Creek Trail and Bobby Jones Golf Course, a path connecting to the Silver Comet Trail and the South River Trail System as well as improvements to the Stone Mountain Trail.
“PATH may be the most efficient nonprofit I know,” Hardin said. “Ed and PATH are best in class. It only has three staff members operating in donated space. It’s remarkable what Ed and his tiny staff have accomplished.”
Kennedy said that what has made PATH so successful is that its private dollars have been able to be leveraged at least three times with public dollars.
“The vision has always been to build trails where we can,” Kennedy said. “It’s just wonderful the approach we have taken. We have an active board, and we get things done. Ed really deserves national recognition for what he’s done.”
Even McBrayer, in reflecting back on PATH’s 20-year history, is pleased with what has been accomplished.
“It’s becoming a rewarding career,” McBrayer said. “I wasn’t sure in the first 10 to 15 years where this was going to end up. Now the trails all have a life of their own. I felt like they were all my babies. Now it’s like they have grown up and gone to college and have a life of their own. It’s an awesome experience. I really like to bike on trails that we have built.”