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A concrete trail wends through the woods alongside a creek, at left.
The trail’s initial stretch near North Druid Hills Road, as seen in September.

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Photos: Peachtree Creek Greenway, a planned link between the Beltline and Brookhaven, is happening

What to know about the creekside, $10-million “model mile” as it readies for a December debut

With nearly 300 miles of trails completed by his agency in the past three decades, PATH Foundation director Ed McBrayer knows a complex project when he sees it—but also a trail unique enough to stand out in the region’s growing network.

In Brookhaven’s so-called “model mile,” the initial stretch the Peachtree Creek Greenway, McBrayer’s agency contended with a Georgia Power easement, numerous abutting home and condo properties, invasive plant species, and a waterway he calls notoriously “violent,” prone to flooding and erosion.

One solution to avoiding the creek while embracing its bucolic qualities: building a huge, complex bridge that required the Big Kahuna of construction cranes.

“The trail follows the creek bed, and whatever we were presented with, we fit the trail into it,” says McBrayer. “It’s engineered and designed to withstand all of that [creek disturbance], but nature’s tough.”

The project’s arduous nature helps explain the relatively high cost—roughly $10 million, funded with Brookhaven hotel/motel tax revenues—for what stretches about a mile and doesn't yet link with other regional paths.

But when the greenway’s first phase opens in a few weeks, it’s expected to offer Brookhaven residents and visitors a destination-worthy option for recreation and transportation between job centers and home.

A ribbon-cutting is scheduled December 12 to coincide with Brookhaven’s seventh anniversary as a city and the one-year mark since the trail’s groundbreaking.

Beyond the multipurpose path, the initial segment features “several green space areas that will be ideal for spinning a Frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, spreading a blanket, having a picnic lunch, reading a book, or most any activity where greenery and nature against an urban backdrop enhances the sensory experience,” says Brookhaven spokesperson Burke Brennan.

Brookhaven’s new trail has actually been percolating since 1999 as part of the DeKalb Greenway Trail Masterplan, but only in the past five years have advocacy groups put forth the effort to make it happen, says McBrayer.

Stairs leading down to a multiuser trail under construction near trees.
The main trailhead for Peachtree Creek Greenway will be adjacent to the Salvation Army headquarters off North Druid Hills Road.
A worker sands down a long wall beside a multiuser trail.
A wave-themed retaining wall is sanded down by a worker last month.

The trail represents about the middle one-third of what’s expected to be a three-mile linear park in Brookhaven.

And it’s just a fraction of the 12.3-mile North Fork Peachtree Creek Trail, envisioned as a major component of a regional network that links the Atlanta Beltline through Brookhaven to Chamblee, Doraville, and beyond.

A trail splits and rises up to a bank of trees on a hill.
The trail splits and rises to a smaller Corporate Boulevard trailhead. The middle-lane markers had yet to be sandblasted in.
The trail beside a brown creek, with trees between.
The trail accompanies the creek, heading toward Corporate Boulevard. Plans call for it to generally follow the wending, creekside route up to Chamblee and Doraville.
A trail beneath a green bridge.
Ducking beneath Corporate Boulevard.

But about that bridge.

With more than 500 feet total, including a 120-foot-long section swooping over the water, the customized bridge required 66 beams for support, including nearly a dozen that are 60 feet long.

Along the expanse, a couple of bump-outs will serve as scenic viewing platforms. Lighting is included.

A bridge is seen in the middle near a bank of trees.
Approaching phase one’s main bridge, which almost resembles an interstate flyover lane.

“Probably 80 percent of bridges we do are off-the-shelf from bridge manufacturers, who have pre-made solutions to specific spans, grades, and widths,” says McBrayer. “This one was built from scratch onsite. It’s just a special bridge—very expensive, but it’s one-of-a-kind.”

A long concrete, unfinished bridge with trees all around it.
The bridge rises over the creek.
a long bridge of concrete bending right into some trees last month.
And bends right.
A bridge section of steel that stretches over a creek.
An unfinished, scenic overlook in September.
A long bridge structure beside some trees.
The bridge’s descent back into the creek bed.
A bank of trees with a field at left and the trail between.
The shaded area at right will become a pocket park, just after the bridge.
Lighting and handrails along a trail creek.
An example of PCG lighting and handrails.
A section of the trail beside a creek where invasive plants were killed.
A section where invasive species were removed, just past the Villas at Druid Hills.
A large blueish bird in a creek beside the trail.
A great blue heron preps to take flight.
A section of the trail with a piece missing.
The creek buffer widens near a final turn.
A swooping trail bends to the right, still under construction.
The trail gains elevation near the Briarwood Road trailhead, the end point for now.

Future outlook

After a series of meetings to gather public input, Brookhaven approved a greenway masterplan that calls for—beyond the multipurpose trails—nine parks or green spaces, a system of nature trails, urban promenades, and four major trailheads (plus four minor ones), as outlined in the two graphics below.

Retaining or building new affordable housing has been a point of emphasis, per the city. The goal is to keep “one-for-one affordable housing opportunities wherever affordable older housing units are redeveloped,” as outlined in an initiative called the Buford Highway Improvement Plan and Economic Development Strategy.

The greenway’s second phase is planned to extend southward from North Druid Hills Road to Atlanta city limits at Lenox Road.

“From there,” says Brennan, “we’ll focus on the connection to the Atlanta Beltline.”

A rendering overview of a long snaking bike trail.
How another trail phase would extended to Atlanta, near Lenox Road and Interstate 85, as seen at left.
An overview rendering of a long multiuser bike path beside a creak.
How the rest of the trail would meander along the creek to Chamblee city limits, at right.

McBrayer notes that three developing ITP trail systems—the Beltline, Buckhead’s PATH400, and the greenway—would all converge within a few hundred yards of each other, according to plans. The meeting point would be near Piedmont Road and Interstate 85, where a section of Peachtree Creek wends through.

Brennan says Atlanta Regional Commission grant funding for greenway sections two and three seems likely to happen, to be accompanied by local matching. The latter funds would be a combination of hotel/motel revenue and cash received from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as part of a community investment agreement the hospital network inked with Brookhaven.

But future phases are very much TBD right now.

“The timing,” Brennan notes, “cannot be predicted at this time.”

Nonetheless, McBrayer extends kudos to Brookhaven and trail initiative leaders for devoting the time and resources to get the network started.

“I think Brookhaven is to be commended for committing this much money to build a special trail,” says McBrayer. “This one is going to have every amenity imaginable, and will be at least as noteworthy as the Eastside Beltline, which a lot of people think is the ultimate trail. This one’s going to be just as great, I think.”

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