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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”