From left, Buckhead residents Josiah Ruth, 13, his mom Kathleen, father Cory, and four-month-old Kinsley, take a stroll along PATH400 on Jan. 17. The one-half mile trail officially opened for public use on Jan. 9.
From left, Buckhead residents Josiah Ruth, 13, his mom Kathleen, father Cory, and four-month-old Kinsley, take a stroll along PATH400 on Jan. 17. The one-half mile trail officially opened for public use on Jan. 9.

Michael and Staci Anderson watched the construction of PATH400 eagerly. They’re runners and like the idea of a convenient trail through their Buckhead neighborhood that they can use for a bit of exercise or to take the dog for a walk.

“I’ve been running it since they knocked down the trees,” Michael Anderson said. “It’s great. It’s really exciting.”

One recent sunny Saturday, the Andersons put their 9-month-old daughter, Abigail, in her stroller and took her and their Labradoodle, Cosmo, to check out the first segment of PATH400 formally open for public use.

They were part of a steady stream of walkers, joggers pushing strollers, and bicyclists who tried out the new trail as construction workers continued installing railings, plantings and other last-minute items on the trail’s punch list.

Jason Coleman and his family stopped by after checking on construction work on a new home they’re building nearby. He and his wife, Theresa, and their 19-year-old daughter, Amanda, brought along their family dog and “thought we’d come by for a walk,” Coleman said. “I think it’s great,” Coleman said. “We’ve looking forward to it opening. It’s nice to have something like this nearby.”

Just eight days earlier, on Jan. 9, more than 80 business and government leaders gathered to formally open PATH400. Scores of them donned bright green, hand-made scarves and braved chilly winter weather to witness a ribbon cutting for the half-mile-long segment of the path that begins at the “Buckhead wall” alongside Lenox Road near its intersection with Tower Place Drive.

“This is one of the most remarkable adaptive re-use programs in America,” Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook said of the trail, which is being built alongside Ga. 400, with much of the trail in Georgia Department of Transportation right-of-way.

PATH400’s first segment stretches about one-half mile to connect Lenox Road to Old Ivy Road. It cost about $2.5 million to build, according to Livable Buckhead, a nonprofit working with the PATH Foundation, the Buckhead Community Improvement District, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the city of Atlanta on the trail.

A second half-mile-long segment of PATH400 is scheduled to open in 2015. No final cost has been set for that piece of the trail, Livable Buckhead officials said. When complete, PATH400 is to run a total of about 5.2 miles and is projected to cost $10 million to $12 million.

The final path is expected to connect 27 neighborhoods spread from the northern edge of Buckhead to the north end of Morningside, Livable Buckhead says. More than 8,000 people live within a 10-minute walk of the trail, the nonprofit says.

A public opening for the trail was scheduled for Jan. 24. The community event was to include a bicycle parade, a bike-decorating contest and the unveiling of the 10 winning entries from among artwork submitted by elementary school students to decorate the trail.

Pete Pellegrini, the PATH Foundation’s project manager, said the winning artwork will be portrayed on 6-foot-tall metal panels along the trail. The artwork will be reproduced in colored Plexiglass panels that will be part of the panels. “When sunlight hits it, it’ll cast colored shadows along the trail,” he said.

The Andersons say the promise of PATH400 was one of the things that attracted them to the neighborhood in the first place. “It’s one of the things that got us to move in,” Michael Anderson said.

Now that part of the trail has opened, Michael Anderson, a commercial real estate broker, thinks it will help make their house more attractive to potential buyers in the future should they decide they need a larger place. “We would want to leverage this,” he said.

But for now, they plan to stay put, he said. They expect they’ll use it regularly. Staci Anderson, in fact, said she thought she soon would be running on it daily.

Buckhead resident Danielle Ingels and her dog Eva go for a walk along the PATH400 on Jan. 17.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.