A new kind of greenspace has come to PATH400: community gardens. When construction on the segment of PATH400 between Sidney Marcus Boulevard and Miami Circle began about 18 months ago, crews discovered that residents of the Atlanta Housing Authority’s nearby Marian Road highrise had been using a tucked-away piece of land to grow vegetables. PATH400’s leaders were inspired to take this “guerilla gardening” to the next level and made plans to create a community garden space on the trail.

“In the same way that PATH400 is being built in the ‘found’ right-of-way space along the highway, these gardeners took an unused space and turned it into something worthwhile,” said Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit organization spearheading PATH400 in Buckhead. “We love that spirit, and we wanted to bring it into the project in a way that engages the local community and creates a unique amenity for this area.”

On April 28, more than 30 volunteers from Livable Buckhead, the City of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability, Atlanta Housing Authority, Rubicon, Integral, Lockton and Jones, Lang, LaSalle completed installation of planter beds that spell out “PATH400.” The beds, filled with vegetable plants, were then dedicated to the residents of the Marian Road highrise who will tend them.

“AHA appreciates Livable Buckhead, the cohort of Atlanta citizens and our AHA staff volunteers who showed up today for the installation and initial planting of the PATH400 community gardens,” says Catherine Buell, president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority. “The outcome is beautiful, but more important for the Marian Road highrise residents, the gardens represent access to healthy produce and an opportunity to get outdoors for exercise as part of AHA’s aging well strategy.”

The planter beds were crafted by designer Chris McDowell who works with reclaimed lumber to create his works of garden art. McDowell created the beds in his Athens shop and transported them to Buckhead for the installation. He was brought into the project by Mario Cambardella, urban agriculture director for the City of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability.

“When Livable Buckhead approached us about building a community garden on PATH400 that would also be a design feature, I knew Chris was the perfect person for the project,” said Cambardella. “These beds are a great example of why urban agriculture is so beneficial and why the Office of Sustainability wants to encourage it citywide. We’re glad to have played a part in helping the Marian Road highrise residents take their community garden to the next level, and are thankful to Livable Buckhead for bringing us in on the project.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.