Construction of the “model mile” of the Peachtree Creek Greenway in Brookhaven is now underway with plans to complete the first link of the planned 12-mile regional trail within nine months. City officials are also set to invest $200,000 in a future bridge in Buckhead to ensure the Greenway connects to the Atlanta BeltLine.

A ceremonial groundbreaking of the first 1.2-mile section of the Greenway between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road was held Dec. 12.

Peachtree Creek Greenway supporters tossed shovels of dirt at a Dec. 12 groundbreaking ceremony for the first ‘model mile’ of the multiuse path in Brookhaven. From left are U.S. Rep.-elect Lucy McBath; City Manager Christian Sigman; Peachtree Creek Greenway Inc. Chair Betsy Eggers; Project Managers Patty Hansen and Moe Trebuchon; DeKalb County Commissioners Gregory Douglas and Jeff Rader; state Sen. Elena Parent; Mayor John Ernst, Councilmember Joe Gebbia; state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver; Councilmember Linley Jones; state Sen. Fran Millar, and Councilmembers John Park and Bates Mattison. (Dyana Bagby)

Officials from Atlanta, Chamblee, Doraville, DeKalb County as well as state lawmakers and federal officials were on hand for the ceremony held on a portion of the 19-acre Briarwood Road property the city purchased for a future trailhead.

“To me, the Peachtree Creek Greenway is synonymous with people collaborating to achieve goals,” Mayor John Ernst said.

The dream of the Peachtree Creek Greenway has been around for nearly 20 years when it was included in a DeKalb County multiuse trail master plan. But work to make the trail a reality ramped up after Brookhaven was incorporated in 2012.

Councilmember Joe Gebbia, who has served on the City Council since the city’s founding, represents District 4 where the Peachtree Creek Greenway is being built along Buford Highway. He said at the Dec. 12 ceremony he envisioned a path along the North Fork Peachtree Creek while standing on the overpass on North Druid Hills Road and looking down on the water. That’s when a “seed was planted,” Gebbia said.

A new illustration of the bridge to be built as part of the first phase of the Greenway across Peachtree Creek behind the Corporate Square office park. (City of Brookhaven)

But the city needed a nonprofit, he said, and the volunteer Peachtree Creek Greenway organization headed up by Betsy Eggers stepped up to advocate for its creation.

“This [Greenway] has always been an impetus for how we handle redevelopment along Buford Highway,” Gebbia said. “And this will be a statement park for the region.”

Once considered a linear park, the Greenway has evolved over the years to become part of a regional trail plan for all of metro Atlanta. The Greenway master plan includes a 12-mile multiuse trail connecting Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County and eventually the Atlanta BeltLine. Those are the “A, B, C, D’s” of the Greenway, Ernst said at the Dec. 12 groundbreaking event.

To ensure the Greenway connects to the BeltLine, the City Council last month approved a resolution to invest $200,000 on a “confluence bridge” that would be at least 10-feet wide and designed by the South Fork Conservancy.

The bridge is planned to be constructed north of I-85 and between Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive, where PATH400, the BeltLine and Greenway meet, at an expected cost of $2.38 million.

The Buckhead Community Improvement District earlier this year approved $200,000 to fund widening the bridge that was originally expected to be 8 feet wide. But as more trails connect to the bridge to get to the BeltLine, the BCID, Brookhaven and the South Fork Conservancy want the bridge to be at least 10 feet wide to handle the expected foot and bike traffic.

Brookhaven’s funding of the bridge is dependent on the city of Atlanta’s support of the completion of the Peachtree Creek Greenway from the Brookhaven city line to the planned Buford Spring Connector to the bridge, said Greenway Project Manager Patty Hansen.

A 14-foot-wide concrete path is to be built where a dirt road now runs along the north fork of Peachtree Creek behind Northeast Plaza. (Dyana Bagby)

“This is a trail of regional significance and this is a critical gap [between Brookhaven and Buford Spring Connector],” she said. “We feel positive with the cooperation of groups working on this that we can move forward.”

But if Atlanta does not step in to help fund that link to the bridge, the city would not invest $200,000 in the bridge, she added. “There’s no reason to help with the bridge if we can’t get there,” she said.

From concept to groundbreaking

In 2016, the City Council approved a $36 million Greenway master plan. Since that time, city officials have been acquiring land along the North Fork Peachtree Creek to make way for the a paved 14-foot-wide path to be used by walkers and cyclists.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta last year purchased Tullie Road and Tullie Circle for $10 million from the city as part of its buildout of a private medical campus at North Druid Hills Road and I-85. That $10 million is being used for the Greenway. The Salvation Army also donated 2 acres of its property on the Northeast Expressway along the creek for the Greenway.

The city worked with state legislators last year to get a bill passed in the General Assembly to raise the city’s hotel-motel tax. The new revenue from the hotel-motel tax increase is expected to fund construction of the city’s entire 3-mile portion of the Greenway that will extend to the Atlanta and Chamblee borders. In October, the City Council awarded a $7.99 million contract to Lewallen Construction.

But before all that, there were “community champions” who helped with cleanups, fundraising and political support, said Eggers, chair of the nonprofit Peachtree Creek Greenway organization.

“This is 1.2 miles of a 12-mile and growing trail that will connect to the BeltLine and to I-285, and beyond to Spaghetti Junction,” she said at the Dec. 12 groundbreaking. “Now, onward.”

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