Walking, jogging and exploring Downtown’s neighborhoods

More than 1.3 million people have walked, jogged, biked or skated along the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail in 2016. The Eastside Trail is part of the historic 22-mile railroad corridor that circles Downtown, which is being reborn as a network of public parks, multi-use trails, transit and affordable housing that connects 45 neighborhoods.

Photo by Collin Kelley

Portions of the northside arc of the BeltLine are complete, while a 3-mile segment of the Westside Trail will be completed later this year. But it’s the Eastside Trail, which extends for two miles from 10th Street and Monroe Drive to Irwin Street, that has become the jewel of the project.

Connecting Piedmont Park, shopping/food mecca Ponce City Market, Historic Fourth Ward Park and the Freedom Park trail, the Eastside Trail was completed in 2012, cleared 100 acres of kudzu, overgrowth and debris, removed 1,700 tons of contaminated soil and now has more than 600 trees in an arboretum thanks to Trees Atlanta. Art on the BeltLine turns the Eastside Trail into an outdoor art gallery every fall and its kick-off event, The Lantern Parade, draws thousands of participants carrying lights in the city’s answer to Mardi Gras.

The Eastside Trail extension, projected to open in late summer 2017, will add another 1.25 miles from Irwin Street to Kirkwood Avenue in Reynoldstown.

The BeltLine offers a series free exercise and fitness classes including aerobics, yoga, bike tours, walking tours, hiking with dogs, group runs, FitWit classes, nuitrition walks, and Walk with a Doc, where a Piedmont Hospital physician answers questions during a 1.5 mile stroll.

Moving forward, a November 2016 referendum added a half penny sales tax, which will support constructing and operating extensions of the Atlanta Streetcar along the BeltLine. An additional four-tenths sales tax increase is expected to generate $66 million for the BeltLine to purchase the remaining right of way for the 22-mile loop and provide lighting for its multi-use trails.

—by Clare S. Richie and Collin Kelley

Photos courtesy of Atlanta Beltline, Inc.

Kathy Dean is a freelance writer and editor based in metro Atlanta.