Shovels of dirt were tossed to mark the official beginning of Peachtree Creek Greenway construction at a ceremonial groundbreaking event Dec. 12 in Brookhaven. The “model mile” between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road is slated to be completed within nine months.

The city of Brookhaven celebrated start of construction of the Peachtree Creek Greenway with a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony on Dec. 12. (Dyana Bagby)

The Greenway is part of a growing regional trail network in metro Atlanta. Brookhaven’s portion of the full 12 miles is nearly three miles. The city is paving a 14-foot wide multi-use trail with concrete that will run beside the creek that mostly follows the length of Buford Highway.

“This is very exciting,” said Angel Poventud, who lives in Adair Park in southwest Atlanta. Poventud is well-known in Atlanta for his BeltLine advocacy and activism, his support of trail connections and for promoting cycling and transit. The Greenway is another part of an expanding series of links throughout the region that will connect communities, he said.

“The connections we have and create are vital and this is another one of the pieces,” he said. “One day I will be able to ride my bike from my home to REI [off Briarwood Road near I-85] in a very safe manner.”

Mayor John Ernst during a formal part of the event praised the work by grassroots activists to sell the idea to elected officials of the multi-use path that, when completed, would extend 12 miles and connect the Atlanta BeltLine to Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville and to Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County. These are the “A, B, C, D’s” of the Greenway, he said.

Councilmember Joe Gebbia spoke of the “fairy tale” of bringing the Greenway to life. “Oh, could such a thing happen?” he said, recalling a day in January 2013 when he stood on the overpass on North Druid Hills looking over Peachtree Creek.

“As with most fairy tales, there is a happy ending,” Gebbia said of the groundbreaking.

Also speaking were state Sens. Elena Parent and Fran Millar. The two carried the bill in the General Assembly that enabled the Brookhaven City Council to raise its hotel-motel tax last year. Extra revenue from the tax hike is being used to fund construction of the Greenway.

Officials from Atlanta, Chamblee, Doraville, DeKalb County as well as state legislators and federal officials attended the Dec. 12 groundbreaking of the Peachtree Creek Greenway. (Dyana Bagby)

More and more people are moving to metro Atlanta, Parent said, so it is important to preserve infrastructure and the quality of life people want. “This is a wonderful example of that vision,” she said.

Millar noted the bill to enable the hotel-motel tax increase to fund the Greenway passed at five minutes before midnight on the last day of the General Assembly last year. The money is being put to good use, he said.

“You all have every right to be proud of what you’ve done,” Millar said.

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader said the Greenway is part of strong trail movement in the county that stretches south to Arabia Mountain and to the newly-opened Zonolite Park near Emory University.

“What trail systems do is reopen us to our natural environment,” Rader said.

Betsy Eggers, chair of the nonprofit Peachtree Creek Greenway advocacy group, speaks at the Dec. 12 groundbreaking event. With her is Councilmember Joe Gebbia. (Dyana Bagby)

Betsy Eggers, chair of the nonprofit Peachtree Creek Greenway advocacy group, rode her bike with many other members in their green T-shirts to the groundbreaking event. The multi-use trail is expected to be a linear park but also a provide a route for cyclists wanting to commute to their jobs at nearby office parks along Buford Highway or ride safely to other trails in neighboring cities.

The work of volunteers and “community champions” over the past several years are making the Greenway a reality, she said. “Thank you for making the ‘model mile’ possible,” she said.

Mayor John Ernst, center, with Councilmembers Bates Mattison, far left, John Park, Linley Jones and Joe Gebbia. (Dyana Bagby)
New illustrations of the new bridge to be built as part of the first phase across Peachtree Creek behind the Corporate Square office park were also unveiled at the groundbreaking. (City of Brookhaven)

Angel Poventud is an avid volunteer who utilizes his grassroots network to advocate environmental movements and inspire others to become involved. His weekends are spent working on BeltLine clean-up projects and helping the group convert abandoned rail corridors into parks. When not volunteering for the BeltLine, he can be found planting and mulching with Trees Atlanta. His nonprofit of choice is Trees Atlanta.

Shots of where the Peachtree Creek Greenway is being built. This land is off Briarwood Road, behind Northeast Plaza, where a trailhead is planned.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.