By John Schaffner

A compromise has been worked out on the BeltLine/PATH Foundation trail through Tanyard Creek Park that apparently satisfies all factions, after almost a year of very contentious meetings and charges the city and BeltLine management were ignoring citizen input.

The trail route agreed to is a compromise amongst the stakeholder group — the adjacent neighborhoods that were mostly favorable to a trail somewhere in the park and the Friends of Tanyard Creek Park and Georgia Battlefield Association that opposed any trail in the park — but addresses the concerns of raised by BeltLine planners (Atlanta BeltLine Inc., the PATH Foundation and Atlanta Parks Department).

The neighborhood groups involved in the final negotiations were Collier Hills Civic Association, North Collier Hills Civic Association and Ardmore Park.

The compromise was finalized at a meeting April 8, following a process of bringing technical advisors for each side to the table, doing walking tours of the park and having extended discussions of the various options.

The compromise route will meander under the CSX railroad trestle on the south end of the park and hug the creek bank outside the 25-foot stream bank buffer. A new PATH bridge will cross the creek near the area where there is an existing natural rock bridge that leads to the playground area.

From that point, the trail will follow the creek north, outside the 25-foot stream bank buffer until it gets to the more constricted area near the existing footbridge. The trail will then hug the creek and cross the drainage ditch that feeds into Tanyard Creek before crossing under Collier Rd and into the Howard Property.

After analyzing the information, it appears to the Buckhead Reporter that the compromise bridge crossing of the creek lies between two crossing points previously recommended by representatives of the adjacent neighborhoods during the past six to nine months.

In the end, the neighborhood representatives credit Atlanta BeltLine Inc. President and CEO Terri Montague for bringing in Al Bartell, an impartial moderator who led the discussion for over two hours through rain and lightning storms, kept people civil and charged them to provide technical information to support all their positions, according to Katharine Montgomery, president of the Collier Hills Civic Association.

“This kept the group focused on the technical constraints and merits of the various options under discussion,” Montgomery said.

The park stakeholders expressed they were “fortunate to have expert advice volunteered by Lee Richardson (landscape architect) and Spence Rosenfeld (president of Arborguard), who provided creative suggestions for overcoming some of the challenges posed by the trail route.” Richardson will also provide design assistance around the bridge area, and Rosenfeld has recommended a root-bridging trail construction method to significantly reduce the trail’s impact on the critical root zone of the trees.

“By reaching agreement on this compromise trail route,” a neighborhood stakeholder statement reads, “we will avoid removing trees and paving a trail in the stream bank restoration area that was constructed in 2003. The trail will also be kept out of most of the historic battlefield and the frequent flood zones on the meadow side of the park, and will minimize tree, soil and stream bank impacts.”

As part of the compromise agreement, the neighborhood groups have agreed to raise up to $60,000 for replacement trees along the trail and to support the city and BeltLine negotiations with CSX for access under its railroad trestle and with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding a variance on the stream buffer requirements.

If the project stays on schedule, the PATH Foundation plans to begin construction in September 2008.

“The compromise that was reached this month can be attributed in part to a plan crafted by Montague to address the greatest concerns of all parties and provide an opportunity to creatively reach a compromise solution,” according to a statement issued by the park stakeholder group. “The Brookwood Alliance also played a vital role as a public process watchdog to ensure the park stakeholder concerns were being taken seriously and the process laid out by Montague was being followed.”

“Everybody contributed so much to this in different ways,” Montague told the Buckhead Reporter. “Both teams worked extremely hard and everybody is very pleased and satisfied at where we got to.”

The BeltLine CEO said, “Everyone was premature at some level in declaring it done when it was presumed done. Our commitment has always been to meaningfully engage the community in dialogue and try to get to win-win solutions. We have a lot of competing priorities and multiple priorities we are trying to balance.”

“It was a win on a lot of levels,” said Montague. “The way things were left didn’t bode well for anybody. It helped us get to a different place of dialogue and a constructive engagement as to how we have these conversations going forward.”

She emphasized that, “There was a lot of history coming to the table — a lot of skepticism whether we are able to change behaviors and partner in a different kind of way with a new project that is going to stretch us all in the way we engage.

“I think Tanyard, though highly imperfect, is an example of staying at it and letting that commitment really work through. We got to a solution and everybody felt respected by the way we brought this resolution about.”