By Maria Saporta
The grand opening of a one-mile trail in Northwest Atlanta on Saturday marked the continued progress of the Atlanta BeltLine.
Idyllic weather, warm thoughts and celebratory statements set the mood as a host of leaders spoke of the wonderful asset the trail will be for Atlantans and those who live around Tanyard Creek Park, located near the intersection of Northside Drive and Collier Road.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Atlanta BeltLine’s Brian Leary, the city’s acting Parks and Recreation Commissioner Paul Taylor, the BeltLine Partnership’s John Somerhalder, PATH’s Ed McBrayer, Arborguard’s Spence Rosenfeld, the Trust of Public Land’s Victoria Talley and members of the Brookwood Alliance neighborhood group all spoke about what can happen when there’s partnership and cooperation.
But this project has been a long time coming. TPL’s Talley said the efforts to secure the land for part of the trail and Tanyard Creek Park date back 11 years, long before there was a plan for the BeltLine.
Much of the credit was given to the family of Louise Howard for their desire to make sure their property was preserved as green space rather than sold for development.
Saturday’s grand opening showed little of the wear and tear that neighborhood leaders, planners, PATH officials and others had to go through to find that common vision. In many ways, this could end up being one of the happiest outcomes of one of the most contentious green-oriented projects the city and its partners have taken on.
There were arguments over the possible alignment of trail, on how many trees might have to be cut down, on the potential damage to the trees left standing, the negative impact of water runoff into the creek. In short, there was no shortage of tension along the way.
“The most successful projects benefit from great partnerships,” said PATH executive director Ed McBrayer. “We learned a lot from this trail on how to be vigilant and not get too close to the stream.”
The trail was built with great sensitivity to the trees along its corridor. “They really didn’t feel it,” McBrayer said because of all the steps PATH and the city took in building the trail. Also, the trail was built so that the water would runoff away from the creek so it could go through the natural filtration process through the soil before finding its way back to the creek bed.
“I want to thank the community,” Mayor Reed told the hundred or so people who had gathered for the opening. “It was arduous, almost seven years of tough negotiations.”
The Atlanta Memorial Trail, as it is called, is the second finished mile of the 22-mile pedestrian/bicycle trail in the BeltLine plan. Another one-mile segment has been opened on the southwest quadrant.
Mayor Reed also reassured the crowd of his ongoing commitment to the transformative redevelopment initiative.
“We will absolutely finish the BeltLine,” he said. “I don’t want you to have one second of hesitation of my administration’s commitment to the BeltLine.”
And then the mayor made an announcement that brought cheers from those at the grand opening.
“In my 2011 budget, we will have $1 million just for the maintenance of the BeltLine park,” the mayor said, adding that “we are going to put our dollars where our mouth is.”
After the grand opening, the mayor spent at least 30 minutes walking the trail as it wound its way from the CSX railroad trestle through the park and underneath Collier Road.
“It’s amazing,” said Reed, who clearly was enjoying the beautiful Spring day in Atlanta and the ability to celebrate one of the real positive developments in our city.
May there be many more.