The first mile of the planned 12-mile Peachtree Creek Greenway is slated to open in Brookhaven by the end of this year. Walkers and cyclists will soon be able to traverse a 14-foot-wide concrete path now under construction between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road, including crossing a pedestrian bridge behind Corporate Square.
But what about the remaining 11 miles of the planned multi-use path that will cross borders into Atlanta, Chamblee, Doraville and further north into unincorporated DeKalb County near Mercer University? While Brookhaven has already planned its second and third phase of the project to the Atlanta and Chamblee borders, the other municipalities have yet to firm up final plans on how they plan to connect.
Betsy Eggers, chairperson of the Peachtree Creek Greenway advocacy nonprofit, said she and her board have focused heavily on ensuring the trail is built in Brookhaven. Now with the first mile nearly complete, it is time to start recruiting Greenway supporters in the other municipalities to ensure the plan is on their radars, and on future planning maps, she said.
Planning and advocacy must start now if the Greenway is to become a true regional trail plan that will connect to the Atlanta BeltLine and more than just sketches and lines drawn on maps, Eggers said.
“We are looking for good people who have time and can commit,” she said. “There are several challenges to this plan because it will be incremental and over an indeterminate amount of time.”
Eggers and her board hosted a March 7 recruitment meeting in Chamblee at the Century Center Office Park. More than a dozen people showed up, including two Chamblee City Council members.
The meeting followed a social media dust-up Eggers and Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson had over Eggers’ concern the city was not including plans for the Greenway in its multi-modal transportation plan expected to be completed by next month. The Chamblee portion stretches about one mile through the Century Center office park along the city’s southernmost tip from the Brookhaven border to the Doraville border.
Chamblee City Councilmembers Thomas Hogan and John Mesa reiterated at the March 7 meeting the city’s commitment to making the Greenway a reality in its city. But, they said, the city’s focus right now is on its popular Rail Trail multi-use paths in its downtown area. And, Hogan said, the Greenway slices through private property in his city.
“There’s a lack of understanding that almost all of area is entirely on private property,” Hogan said. “This is not something the city can necessitate unilaterally even if we wanted to.”
Eggers noted that all of Brookhaven’s portion of the Greenway is located on private land but that did not stop the City Council from funding and approving a master plan and then buying the private property for the project.
Brookhaven was able to purchase the property for the first mile of the Greenway using $9.3 million of the $10 million that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta paid to the city for the abandonment of the right-of-way of Tullie Road and Tullie Circle. CHOA is building out a 70-acre medical campus at North Druid Hills Road and I-85 and those roads will be private roads when the campus is complete.
If the Greenway – which is located a significant distance from the city’s downtown area — can be promoted as a connection to Chamblee’s Rail Trail extension, then it could get the support of local residents, Mesa said. “If you look at the Greenway by itself, you lose 75 percent of the citizens of Chamblee,” he said.
“This is a tiny little piece down at the south of city and is just one mile of the Greenway,” Eggers said. “But for rest of the community it is really important to provide connectivity. It is a priority to the rest of us interested in connecting this whole long trail.”
The A, B, C, Ds of the Greenway
Once considered a linear park, the Greenway has evolved over the years to become part of a regional trail plan for all of metro Atlanta. The Greenway master plan includes a 12-mile multiuse trail connecting Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County and eventually the Atlanta BeltLine. Those are the “A, B, C, Ds” of the Greenway.
The Greenway has been on the books in some form since 2000 when it was included in a “DeKalb’s Greenway Trails” master plan for multi-use trails throughout the county. The master plan was prepared by the PATH Foundation and included public input to finalize the 74-page document.
The map included in the master plan shows the Greenway traversing the North Fork of Peachtree Creek behind Northeast Plaza in what is now Brookhaven, to Mercer University and up to the Doraville MARTA station. The current plan remains on essentially the same path.
DeKalb County Commission Presiding Officer Jeff Rader the county currently has no definitive plans for building and connecting to the Peachtree Creek Greenway. He said he expects as the Greenway takes shape in Brookhaven and Chamblee, users will begin to appreciate it and at that time informed discussions can begin on building and funding.
“Segments in nonresidential areas may be easier to build consensus around, and every improvement will generate awareness and support for extensions,” he said.
Doraville Mayor Donna Pittman said no adopted design or funding plan has been established in the city for the Greenway, but the city envisions it starting at the Doraville MARTA station and including a trail or path going along Park Avenue as part of the city’s downtown redevelopment.
“Most likely, we will start with a bicycle path, with future enhancements later that include a walking path,” she said in an email. “We will have to identify how we cross Buford Highway as well as I-85.”
In Brookhaven, the Greenway became a priority for the City Council more than three years ago when it approved a $36 million master plan for the city’s approximate 3-mile stretch.
The nearly $8 million in construction costs for the first mile of the Greenway is being paid for with the Brookhaven’s hotel-motel tax revenue generated when the city raised the tax from five to eight percent two years ago.
Brookhaven’s second mile of the Greenway is being built between North Druid Hills Road to the North Fork Creekside Trail in Buckhead, a mile-long paved trail from Lindbergh Drive to Cheshire Bridge Road. It will be from this planned path, currently in the study phase by the city of Atlanta, that cyclists and pedestrians would reach the planned northern edge of the Atlanta BeltLine.
A request for proposal for planning and engineering services for the second phase of the Greenway is expected to begin later this year, according to Greenway Project Manager Moe Trebuchon.
This portion of the Greenway is included in the Atlanta Regional Transportation Improvement Plan, with 80 percent funded via federal funding, according to Brookhaven Fund Development Director Patty Hansen. The 2017 estimate of building out the second mile is $7.5 million. The ARC has already granted the city a $2.7 million grant for this phase.
The city plans to begin acquiring property next year for the second phase and complete construction of the second mile by 2021. Trebuchon said right now it looks like the local match of the second mile will be paid for using hotel-motel money.
The final phase of Brookhaven’s portion of the Greenway extends about a mile from Briarwood Road to the Chamblee border. Nothing beyond what was approved as part of the Greenway’s $36 million master plan has been planned for this section, Trebuchon said.
The city hopes to be included in the ARC’s Transportation Improvement Plan to receive 80 percent funding, Hansen said. Getting that approved within the next two years would be needed if construction is to start in 2023, she said.