Residents helped provide early design ideas for a piece of the Atlanta BeltLine’s Northeast Trail in Buckhead at a Nov. 8 meeting, pitching connections to key neighborhoods and parks in an area with many obstacles.
Meanwhile, some of those connections are already being made, as a network of related multiuse paths is constructed. The latest addition is the Northwest BeltLine Connector Trail along the northeastern edge of Bobby Jones Golf Course, which had a ribbon-cutting Nov. 16. With that segment in place, people can bike or walk on paths almost all the way around Atlanta Memorial Park.
The Northeast Trail would run from Monroe Drive, where the Eastside Trail ends, to the Lindbergh Center MARTA Station. The path for the section between Monroe Drive and I-85 is expected to follow an existing railroad corridor. But north of I-85, there isn’t a clear corridor to follow and it comes with a number of challenges, so Atlanta BeltLine Inc. wants feedback on where the trail should go.
Residents at the meeting, held in Rock Springs Presbyterian Church near I-85, pitched several ideas. They included running the trail through the Armour Yards development; following a small stream that runs from Peachtree Hills Park to the Lindbergh station; and elevating part of the trail near Peachtree Creek. About 100 people attended the meeting.
Building the trail is still a few years away. Atlanta BeltLine Inc. expects to finish the trail design and have construction documents by 2022, the presentation said.
The Northeast Trail is part of the larger BeltLine plan, which proposes 33 miles of multiuse trails, a 22-mile streetcar route and 2,000 acres of parks.
The Northeast Trail would be the second BeltLine trail to be built in Buckhead. The Northside Trail, which opened in 2010, runs through Tanyard Creek Park between Ardmore Park and Atlanta Memorial Park and the Bobby Jones Golf Course.
The new Northwest Connector Trail segment links to the Northside Trail. It will eventually make its way to the Northeast Trail, too. For now, the path ends on Bobby Jones Golf Course at Peachtree Creek before Woodward Way, forcing walkers who want to continue to cross Northside Drive twice to continue around the park. That situation will last for some time until the state replaces the Northside Drive bridge, possibly in 2020.
Atlanta BeltLine Inc. is still in negotiations with Georgia Power to facilitate some work for the section from Westminster Drive to Mayson Street while it replaces power infrastructure parallel to the segment, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. engineer Shaun Green said. It would pass through an existing tunnel under I-85 and enter Buckhead. Green said he doesn’t know where those negotiations stand or what the trail will look like when Georgia Power leaves the area.
Other complicating factors include being sure not to preclude future transit along the trail, needing to connect to other area trails and working around active rail lines, Peachtree Creek and a conservation easement, Green said.
The piece of the trail in Buckhead is expected to eventually connect to PATH400, South Fork Conservancy trails and Brookhaven’s Peachtree Creek Greenway.
“There is a ton of stuff in the way, and we’re coming last to the party,” Green said. “There’s a lot of wiggling we’re going to have to do to get through here.”
The design team for the trail includes an environmental consultant; a historian; engineers from Heath and Lineback; and Carlos Perez, who has helped design previous BeltLine segments and parts of PATH400.
Atlanta BeltLine Inc. has for years presented a map that shows a basic route for the entire loop, but for the Lindbergh area, that has never been the ultimate plan like other, more clear pieces, Green said.
“[The map] implies a precision that isn’t there,” Green said. “Don’t think about the map as a given, even though it has been published that way for quite some time. It never was a given. It just didn’t make sense to not have all the lines on the map,” he said.
Before breaking off into the open house section of the meeting, Green reiterated several times that any trail options cannot prevent future transit or connecting to MARTA’s existing Red and Gold lines. The trail and transit may split off in some sections and not be parallel to each other as they are on other parts of the BeltLine, Green said.
He said how the BeltLine will work with MARTA on installing transit along the trails is still being worked out and likely won’t be decided until the transit agency’s next board meeting in the spring.
In questions before breaking out into the open house, one person expressed doubt the BeltLine was even necessary in Buckhead.
“Do you think the people in northern Atlanta want the BeltLine entering their neighborhoods?” he asked. “Is extending the BeltLine into north Atlanta relevant to achieving the goals of the BeltLine?”
Several people, including Green, responded emphatically yes, saying the BeltLine is needed to provide connectivity.
Several people pushed for the trail design to connect to Peachtree Hills Park and its Centers of Hope recreation center while staying out of the interior neighborhood roads.
A few residents proposed the trail follow a small tributary that runs from Peachtree Creek north to the Lindbergh MARTA Station, a key connection point.
Several argued the trail should connect to the Armour Yards development, which includes a brewery, whiskey distillery and the Atlanta Track Club, among other businesses. One person who said he owned a business in the development said the BeltLine would likely receive no pushback if it proposed running the trail through the development.
“It may be easier to deal with commercial property owners than the railroad,” one person said.
Another resident proposed elevating part of the trail as it leaves Armour Yards to avoid complications with running through the protected conservation area north of the development.
A member of the design said it could be considered, but building bridges can easily be a “budget-buster.”
The meeting presentation is available at beltline.org.
– John Ruch contributed