The first-draft design of the new Peachtree Creek Greenway at Brookhaven park and trail had a big surprise: not just one creek-side path, but up to four paths of different types and uses.
The creek, largely hidden behind buildings along Buford Highway and I-85, has a surprising “opportunity to create multiple experiences in the corridor,” said lead planner Carlos Perez, unveiling the draft design at an Oct. 22 meeting at Brookhaven’s Briarwood Park.
The Greenway was conceived as a BeltLine-style linear park with a paved multi-use trail running roughly 3 miles through Brookhaven’s section of the creek. That multi-use trail is still the core concept. But in some sections, it could run parallel to an unpaved “nature trail” and a “creek trail” where hikers would be “actually jumping from rock to rock when the water is low,” Perez said.
In addition, if the Greenway triggers commercial redevelopment facing the creek, there’s also an opportunity for them to feature “urban promenades”—a kind of combo trail and patio overlooking the other trails.
Cross-sections of various areas of the creek showed a surprising amount of potential open space that could be filled with such amenities as boardwalks and pedestrian bridges.
The big challenge for the plan is property ownership. Aside from a small parcel the city acquired from the Pink Pony strip club in a lawsuit settlement, all the land along the creek is privately owned. It remains to be see if and how the city can gain access or ownership, but the plan itself is intended to create momentum and economic incentive.
Despite the potentially transformative impact of the Greenway, the meeting was lightly attended, with about 20 people viewing the presentation. While the affected section of Buford Highway is known as a metro Atlanta hub of Latino immigrant residents, all of the Greenway materials are currently available only in English.
Marian Liou, a Brookhaven resident who recently founded the community organization We Love BuHi, said the project could improve transportation options and health for the local Latino community. But, she said, the process needs better engagement with those local residents, who also could be displaced by redevelopment, among other impacts.
“I want to make sure the immigrant minority communities are at the table when these decisions happen,” Liou said.
Perez, noting that he is Hispanic, said he has heard that concern and is working with Brookhaven’s Latin American Association on Spanish-language workshops about the Greenway.
Regional connectivity is a larger goal of the plan. While the Greenway is getting a start in Brookhaven, the ultimate goal is a park and trail along the entire north fork of the Peachtree Creek, which runs from Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County to near the PATH400 trail in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood.
The Greenway concept was spearheaded by a nonprofit called North Fork Connectors, which is in the process of changing its name to Peachtree Creek Greenway, Inc., according to board chair Betsy Eggers.
Brookhaven’s draft Greenway plan is the result of input from a previous town hall meeting; two meetings of a stakeholders committee; and meetings with some neighborhood groups. The next step is to update the plan based on input from the Oct. 22 meeting and present a new draft to the City Council and the public.
A final draft should be done around December and a final plan in place early next year. That would only be a start, with the land access and funding questions to be answered in the future.
The Oct. 22 meeting materials are not yet online, but will be posted soon on the city’s website alongside presentations from earlier meetings.