Business Chronicle-Officials work to extend trails beyond municipal borders-Oct.7
by Karen Cohen
Avid cyclist Ed McBrayer lived in Denver before moving back in the 1980s to Atlanta, where he saw a big need for connected trails.
“There was no place to cycle and very few places to walk,” he said.
Together with Atlanta influencers and philanthropists, McBrayer developed a master city plan for trails and co-founded the PATH Foundation, a nonprofit working to create a connected system of greenway trails.
The nonprofit was instrumental in developing the Silver Comet Trail, a 63-mile-long trail from northwest Atlanta to Alabama. “Our trails are off-road and away from streets,” said McBrayer, executive director at PATH. “They take you away from traffic and instead let you enjoy nature.”
Now, PATH is working to connect even more communities into the heart of Atlanta from the west side. The Ivan Allen Jr. Gateway project will involve alterations and beautification to Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard between Marietta Street and Northside Drive.
The Gateway will also contain a segment of the PATH trail connecting Centennial Olympic Park to the west side Beltline. This will include connecting the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center to the PATH trail system. This project is scheduled for completion in September 2017.
“This will help bring pedestrians and cyclists over from the west side and into the city and its venues,” said McBrayer.
Several DeKalb County cities also understand the importance of bringing together neighboring communities to plan for connected trails. Government leaders and private businesses in Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville and Dunwoody formed the Peachtree Gateway Partnership to discuss ways to better connect the cities, including network trails.
“People don’t care where your city borders begin and end, they just want to keep walking on the trail,” said Adam Causey, economic development manager at the city of Chamblee. “The Peachtree Gateway Partnership enables us to have conversations and coordination with our border neighbors to create a sense of connectivity among cities.”
Chamblee itself is going through a transition from industrial to a mixed-use community. It is turning once-vacant lots into businesses, shops and residential buildings and using trails to connect them.
For example, the Parkview on Peachtree project located on Peachtree Boulevard is taking a vacant area and constructing 300 multifamily units and 30,000 square feet of retail and office space. An enhancement to the existing Chamblee Rail Trail that connects to the Chamblee MARTA station was an essential piece to this project. “This improves our access. People can now walk from Parkview to the MARTA station and get on the Gold Line easily.”
The Chamblee Rail Trail could eventually link to other trails in the cities of Brookhaven, Chamblee, Dunwoody and Doraville.
The Peachtree Corners Livable Center Initiative received a grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission to study network trail connectivity at Technology Park. The goal is to develop a trail network connecting residential neighborhoods to job centers and retail destinations. The network will connect to existing trails, future trails, and even sidewalks as part of an integrated network of pedestrian and bicycle paths.
Peachtree Corners has two segments of the trail under design, a section in Technology Park and another section along Peachtree Corners Circle.
“Our objective is to connect housing to jobs and thereby give people other options for transportation,” said Diana Wheeler, community development director at the City of Peachtree Corners. “Right now the suburbs are reliant on automobiles. However, through our trail network plan, we are providing another safe transportation option and making our area more accessible.”
And, trail connectivity does more than just provide recreational opportunities: it is also vital to a city’s economy.
“In order for economic viability, our market needs to meet the public’s expectations, and a walkable, bikeable and connected environment retains employees and residents,” said Jennifer Harper, chief program officer at Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.
In addition, the I-285 at Georgia 400 interchange project will include a piece of the PATH400 Trail along the east side of Georgia 400 between the Glenridge Connector and I-285 at Peachtree Dunwoody Road. This one mile of trail will one day connect south to PATH400 in Buckhead. “We are making it a walkable connection from residential, medical, MARTA and to corporate campuses,” said Harper.
The Perimeter CIDs work with Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Brookhaven to connect its trail plans that come through the dense Perimeter area.
“It just makes sense to get the trails that touch our market connected across jurisdictions,” said Harper. This includes trails between Cox Enterprises Inc., Perimeter Mall, the State Farm campus, Lake Hearn Drive and three MARTA stations. All of this will connect, in the future, to the Atlanta Beltline via PATH400.
2015 Atlanta region
- 1.4 percent of workers commute by walking
- 16 percent of people live within a 5-minute walk of a transit stop
- 397 miles of existing paved multi-used trails
- 5 percent of people live within a 5-minute walk of a trail
- 10 percent of people work within a 5-minute walk of a trail
Annual Benefits of existing trails:
- Total transportation
- benefits – $7,527,000
- Total vehicle emission costs
- reduced – $237,000
- Health-care cost savings – $644,000
Source: Atlanta Regional Commission “Walk Bike Thrive!” (2016)