By John Schaffner

In the five years that I have been a community newspaper editor in Atlanta, I have realized that there are two major issues that can easily result in pitting neighbor vs. neighbor and even friend vs. friend. Both involve the environment of neighborhoods and the community.

Those two issues are whether homeowners have the right to cut trees on their own property without having to get a government permit (permission) to do it and whether or not the PATH Foundation should be allowed to run 12-foot-wide concrete trails right at the back of homeowners’ properties without them being able to stop it.

In terms of the PATH issue, however, there is at least one neighborhood leader in north Atlanta, and another leader of a park support group, that might be willing to wage a Civil War-type battle with the city of Atlanta and the PATH Foundation to stop a 12-20-foot concrete PATH from being run through the middle of serene and historic Tanyard Creek Park and up Tanyard Creek along the backs of neighbors properties to the Bobby Jones Golf Course in Memorial Park.

The two women are Katharine Caesar Montgomery, president of the Collier Hills Civic Association, and attorney Maggie Garrett, head of the Friends of Tanyard Creek Park organization.

This issue is not new. I first became involved with PATH in this Northside Drive corridor when, at a former newspaper, I got a call from attorney John Sacha, who was furious that PATH had put this concrete trail practically at the back door of his house on Peachtree Battle Avenue. It may have ended up doing just what he feared: Opened up his property to criminals.

In July 2004, his house was broken into from the rear door and he and his wife were robbed of $50,000 worth of jewelry, cameras and other goods. The police officer who investigated it, Sacha said, told him that PATH “is a robber’s best dream.”

PATH has put in some wonderful recreational trails throughout Metro Atlanta—ones that are not right up against people’s homes and ones that use materials that don’t tremendously disturb the environment of the neighborhoods through which they pass. The PATH trail in northwest Atlanta that runs from Marietta Road to Marietta Boulevard and then to the wetlands along Bolton Road is a good example of what I am talking about.

But that is not what apparently is in store for the residents of Collier Hills.

They claim they have been told directly that when the Trust for Public Land buys the Howard property on Collier Road—to make it into a neighborhood park and create connectivity between Tanyard Creek Park and Memorial Park—the plans call for a “12-foot-wide or wider concrete PATH trail, possibly connecting the present concrete PATH in neighboring Ardmore Park, through Tanyard Creek Park , possibly through a large culvert under Collier Road, and up Tanyard Creek along the back property lines of Collier Hills residents.

Residents who live away from the creek probably don’t mind. They might even look forward to having the amenity nearby. But those who face having that concrete trail at their back doorstep mostly do care.

We understand that concern and realize that is the type thing that ends up pitting neighbor vs. neighbor.. It is too bad that something that is planned to do so much good can cause so much trouble.