John F. Schaffner
It is always refreshing to encounter residents in a community who are passionate about trying to preserve the assets of that community while recognizing that there are some compromises that may have to be made in the name of progress as the city grows and matures.
I had the opportunity on Nov. 3 to join a group of about 30 such people on a walking tour of Tanyard Creek Park for a discussion of options—some already on the table and at least one new one brought forward that sunny but chilly Saturday morning—for a proposed PATH Foundation trail connection through the park as part of the BeltLine trail system.
The trail has created a great deal of discussion for months and brought forth the passion among residents in the area for their park because it initially was slated to be a 15-foot-wide concrete path through an open meadow area of the park that is used regularly for youth sports and walking dogs, but is also where 4,500 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the Civil War Battle of Peachtree Creek.
After months of haggling with both the BeltLine leadership and the PATH Foundation, there recently had been some compromises worked out to move the trail route mostly out of the meadow. Then the PATH Foundation wanted to make another change that would keep the alignment of the trail in part of the meadow for a longer distance before crossing Tanyard Creek to a western route outside of the meadow.
The tour was organized to explain these two options to any interested parties, to view the rest of the route as the trail passes under Collier Road and heads toward Bobby Jones Golf Club and to discuss other items such as the trees that would be affected with each of the options, protecting a children’s playground from trail traffic and the use of a pervious path surface rather than an imperious one for most of the trail.
The tour guide was Steve Hart, a local resident who has been an official liaison between the BeltLine officials and consultants and concerned residents and members of Friends of Tanyard Creek Park. His efforts have led to many of the compromises that have come forth. And, he was responsible for setting up the tour.
Hart did a remarkable job of guiding the discussion among the group, while keeping his personal feelings pretty much to himself. He wanted to gather input that he then would report back to the BeltLine officials and their consultants.
He also did a good job of letting those on the tour know that not having the trail through the park at all was not an option on the table.
As the group walked, Hart would stop and explain why a beautiful old tree likely would have to be removed to make way for the trail and what the arborist had said about each of the trees. He explained that a less attractive tree might have to be saved because its root system was supporting the creek bank.
Nothing seemed too controversial to the group until Hart got to the two different options where the trail could cross the creek—one that had been preferred by the area residents and Friends of Tanyard Creek Park and the most recent proposed crossing site from the PATH Foundation, which would cause the trail to run 175 feet longer in the meadow.
It was at this point that landscape architect Lee Richardson told the group he had a third option for crossing the creek from meadow area to the western side. He called it the “diagonal bridge” because it would cross the creek on an angle rather than at right angles and doing so eliminated sharp left and right angle turns of the path at the ends of the two other bridge options.
This new option also reduced by a significant amount the length of the trail that would even touch the meadow area of the park, providing a direct route hugging the creek and tree line from the bridge to where it would hook up with the PATH trail at Ardmore Park under the CSX railroad trestle.
This new option gained immediate approval from all of those on the walking tour, but Hart told them the straw poll was not enough. He asked them to email him their impressions of everything that had been discussed on the tour so that he could include it in a report he was to send to the BeltLine planners.
Hart’s report, based on the input from the group and presented in his words, appears with this column.
When the day was over, there was no doubt what the area residents and Friends of Tanyard Creek Park wanted to see in terms of the trail’s path. The big remaining question was: Will the BeltLine planners and the PATH Foundation listen to this very sensible new option and adopt it?