By John Schaffner

The Friends of Tanyard Creek Park and residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the park wonder if city and BeltlLine officials are so beholden to the PATH Foundation that they will allow it to do what residents claim will destroy their park, destroy their property and their lifestyles all in the name of BeltLine progress.

These concerned citizens claim that the dye has been cast—that BeltLine Inc., the city and the PATH Foundation will cut a 15-foot-plus concrete trail through the center of Tanyard Creek Park and through the back yards of residents who have lived along Tanyard Creek for decades and have vehemently fought this PATH concept for years.

The planned PATH trail will dissect the meadow in Tanyard Creek Park, cross over the historic site of the former Collier Mill and travel up the side of Tanyard Creek to the Bobby Jones Golf Club and Bitsy Grant tennis facility. It will eventually connect with a small section of PATH between Sycamore and Peachtree Battle off Northside Drive—a section that caused a furor among homeowners five years ago.

Many claim it will destroy the only remaining natural site of the battle of Peachtree Creek during the Battle of Atlanta, which was fought at Collier Mill and Tanyard Creek Park. Some 6,500 soldiers lost their lives in that battle.

All this is happening, according to concerned residents, despite the promise of Atlanta City Councilwoman Clair Muller almost five years ago that this PATH would not happen unless all the neighborhoods agreed to the trail alignment. After more than two years of neighborhood meetings, the neighborhoods did not agree to it.

Now, PATH seems to have found a new ally in BeltLine Inc. to help it get the trail the way it wanted it all along, according to Tanyard Creek Park supporters.

The real sticking point is that this now is being done behind closed doors, without widespread community input or even notice, according to those close to the process.

For instance, Steven Hart serves as a public meeting coordinator for the BeltLine project and is on the BeltLine steering committee for this area of north Atlanta along Collier Road between Northside Drive and Peachtree Road. He was part of Muller’s PATH community involvement project.

Hart was called to a recent meeting with BeltLine Inc. representative Tina Arbus, representatives of PATH and Tony Casadonte, who represents the Collier Hills North Association. (Casadonte has traditionally been a supporter of the proposed PATH along Tanyard Creek past his home on the way to the golf course.)

Hart told the Buckhead Reporter that the meeting with Arbus and representatives of PATH did not go well. Hart favors paths for walking and biking. He just doesn’t feel this one is beneficial.

“All the other areas around the BeltLine will benefit from development and transportation opportunities,” Hart said. “This area of Atlanta is simply going to be a victim, paying the price with a PATH that will destroy an active linear park in terms of its present uses and mar a historic site that was part of the Battle of Peachtree Creek during the Civil War.”

After attending the recent meeting, Hart says he believes the PATH Foundation will begin this leg of the PATH as soon as it receives funding it has applied for from the Georgia Department of Transportation. He expects that will be in October or November.

There was to have been an alternative route study done by PATH, which Hart is not sure was ever done. He said he and Casadonte were asked during the meeting to suggest alternative routes. “When we suggested alternatives, we were told each time ‘we can’t do that’.”

He said the route planned for the PATH is through the “meadow” area of Tanyard Creek Park, continuing from where the PATH presently ends at the railroad trestle in Ardmore Park, It proceeds through Tanyard Creek Park to the passive park land where the Howard home formerly sat (corner of Dellwood and Collier Road) and proceeds up Tanyard Creek to the Bobby Jones Golf Course. He said the PATH trail would split into two legs–one proceeding on to Atlanta Memorial Park off Northside Drive and the other proceeding to near the Colonial Homes development and running along Peachtree Creek.

Hart said he had suggested an alternative route through Tanyard Creek Park “that would proceed up the west side of the park, rather than through the meadow that is used by families and students to play games, but that was rejected.” Another alternative would have continued up Ardmore Avenue to behind Piedmont Hospital and to the Colonial Homes area. It too was rejected, he said.

When asked to recommend alternative surfaces, rather than a 15-foot-wide concrete pad, he said they were given “excuses rather than reasons” why they could not be used. Two alternatives offered were a rubberized asphalt type surface and a raised wood walkway, such as PATH used on a trail in northwest Atlanta off Marietta Boulevard to protect the natural woods and marsh areas. He said both were rejected.

Hart said they were told “it is important to maintain the continuity of the look and materials for the PATH” and there is no room for “local character” in the trail.

BeltLine Inc. CEO Terri Montague was asked about the private meeting between Arbus, PATH representatives and just two community representatives during a meeting of the Northwest Community Alliance July 18 at which she was the speaker. She said the Atlanta BeltLine had pre-existing partners. “Our job is to help them to think about their pre-existing mission in a broader context.

“A project this large that is so many things to so many people, we are going to have problems,” Montague said to the representative of Friends of Tanyard Creek Park at the meeting. “I can assure you at this point, the final decision about exactly where the trail will be, the dimensions and the design features have not been made. There have been a lot of positions asserted, but there is a conversation going on now to try to alleviate that and come to a solution.”

Montague said the BeltLine is already perceived as being a year behind because of the funding being tied up in legal battles. “We have to seize the moment and get as much done as we can before Mayor (Shirley) Franklin leaves office. To PATH Foundation’s credit, they are out there trying to lay that first trail to preserve the good will and enthusiasm of the community who’s funding right now is carrying the burden of the green space parks and trails.”

Montague added, “The city of Atlanta needs to see something tangible.”

She did state, however, that BeltLine Inc. has less control over efforts that are funded through outside sources than by those handled through her organization. Obtaining the Howard property was funded with outside revenue sources.